Tex Mex Tastes

It’s a warm Friday night in South End and on the sidewalk outside the new Superica restaurant electric scooters and Lime bikes are tossed in the grass. The wait for a table tonight is close to an hour and so people mingle beneath the restaurant’s exterior neon sign with a red arrow pointing to “Tex Mex,” as well as inside around its long bar featuring shelves of spirits along a tall exposed brick wall. They sip icy margaritas ($9) made with fresh-squeezed lime juice and Paloma cocktails ($12) served alongside bright green glass bottles of Squirt soda.

This is James Beard-nominated Atlanta chef and restaurateur Ford Fry’s first venture into Charlotte and it has quickly become clear that he chose the right place and the right concept for this city. Smack in the middle of booming South End, the restaurant has become a fast favorite for the area’s younger crowd who can catch the light rail or even walk to it, but it’s drawing diners from all over town. “Charlotte had been on our radar for a while,” says executive chef Kevin Maxey. “It’s a fantastic city and we saw a love for Tex Mex—and an opportunity.”

After selecting the 7,000-square-foot space in South End’s trendy Design Center, Fry’s team hired Atlanta’s Smith Hanes Studio for its design. The result? A space that’s a mix of Texas ranch, Mexican hacienda, and South End industrial chic—and somehow all works perfectly. If you can, snag a seat beneath the string lights and old water tower on the outdoor patio though. Tucked into a courtyard of the Design Center, it’s the ideal spot for indulging in the Tex Mex fare whether you visit for brunch, lunch, or dinner.

And this is definitely the kind of place where you’re going to want to indulge. Start with the Queso Fundido ($10), a gooey Monterey Jack and Chihuahua cheese dish served with warm flour tortillas and salsa cremosa. Try it alongside the Campechana de Mariscos ($16), a shrimp, octopus, and lump crab served in a spicy tomato salsa with chunks of fresh avocado. “This offers the same kind of cool and refreshing flavor profile of guacamole,” says Maxey. “But it’s a totally different take on a seafood cocktail.”

Among the larger plates, the Gulf Red Snapper (market price) comes on the bone, topped with sliced avocado, and served with a stack of warm tortillas for an especially fresh version of make-your-own fish tacos. The slow-braised short rib ($34) offers a similar option for pulling the tender meat off the bone for tacos. The Camarones Brochetas ($24) may be the most decadent option on the menu though, featuring juicy shrimp stuffed with jack cheese and jalapeno before being wrapped in thick pieces of bacon and grilled. Maxey suggests the Tacos al Carbon ($15-$16) for first-time diners. “These are firmly Tex Mex—not Mexican,” he says of the tacos, which are essentially grilled fajitas that have already been rolled with smoked onions and salsa cremosa.

Superica offers a variety of desserts to end the meal including fried plantains drizzled in powdered sugar and chocolate flan in a cinnamon sauce. But its Dulce de Leche is simple, creamy, and incredibly good. In many ways its simplicity and flavor epitomize what Fry and his team are doing at Superica. “We try to elevate the experience, but not make it too chef-y,” says Maxey. “I think sometimes when people try to make this kind of food nicer, they take it somewhere that doesn’t feel like Tex Mex. We just wanted it to be super yummy.” superica.com

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