Jonathan Swope is a little frustrated right now. One of the most eye-catching parts inside Zeppelin, the new restaurant on West Tremont that he co-owns, is supposed to be a big zeppelin that will hang from the ceiling.
Trouble is, it’s not hanging yet. The zeppelin is built and waiting in storage, but there’s been a holdup in getting it hung. Swope admitted he feels like a kid at Christmas, waiting to open his biggest present.
‘It’s like, I know that’s an Xbox, but I can’t play with it yet,” he says. Swope was at the doors Thursday night when Zeppelin invited in Charlotte’s writing and blogging crowd for a media preview of the restaurant, which officially opens for dinner at 5 p.m. Dec. 26, with a grand opening expected in early January.
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The small space is mostly ready, though, with three rows of tables and banquettes and a steam-punk/early industrial vibe. Outside, there’s an elevated patio space with outdoor seating that will come into play when the weather warms up. They also expect to add a Sunday brunch later.
While chef Vince Giancarlo was able to show off some of the food Thursday night, including his lacquered take on Peking duck, the real action was at the cocktail bar.
Larry Suggs of Southbound and Dilworth Tasting Room was on hand as Zeppelin’s cocktail consultant, but the real star is Ryan Hart. Serious cocktail followers will remember Hart from his time at Leroy Fox, where he was known for a mean Sazerac.
Hart says he plans to have Zeppelin’s cocktail lineup complete Giancarlo’s food as much as he can. When Giancarlo puts in his produce order, Hart is already sourcing from that.
Example: The lightly pink and floral Fogle Fizz features Hendrinks gin, a yuzu-lemongrass cordial and a deep purple infusion from made from an obscure plant called butterfly tea flower. The acidity in the drink reacts with the butterfly tea flower, turning the drink a light pink, while the yuzu gets combined with preserved lemon in the dressing under Giancarlo’s flash-fried peppadew peppers stuffed with Goat Lady Dairy chevre.
The drink that is already breaking Instagram feeds though is the Pen Pals: Queen Charlotte rum, mint, kaffir lime and fresh lime juice, with a “Z” carefully tapped out into the top.
What to expect on the food side of the menu: A mix of small plates ($8 to $20) from butternut squash hummus to lobster mac & cheese, and “biggies” (full plates, $16 to $36), from honey-drizzled fried chicken to Giancarlo’s dry-aged crispy duck. Desserts will vary, although with a cocktail menu like that, your best play will probably be after-dinner drinks.
Zepplin: 235 W. Tremont Ave., 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Tuesday-Sunday after Dec. 26.