Café Confidential It was a homecoming of sorts for Hickory native Daron Whitley when he returned to North Carolina this summer to open Café Confidential. Whitley describes the new Cornelius restaurant as a gastropub and lounge with upscale but affordable food, including signature dishes such as shrimp and grits and gourmet burgers with smoked brie and Jack Daniels caramelized onions. Whitley, 33, got his start in the restaurant business after moving to Charleston. While attending college there, he and his father bought a local Sharkey’s Pizza location, and were soon turning a healthy profit catering to local students. In 2005, looking for a change of scenery, Whitley moved to the West Coast to manage the Sculpture Court Café at The San Diego Museum of Art. But after eight years in California, Whitley began missing the South. “I just felt it would be cool to be back in North Carolina near my family,” he says. “I moved to Cornelius and dove headfirst into opening the restaurant.” Located at Shoppes on the Green in the former Paddy’s Pour House location, Whitley stresses that Café Confidential is a step up from a sports bar, although the restaurant boasts nearly 20 flat-screen TVs and features the NFL Sunday Ticket during football season. When the games aren’t on, Whitley says he’ll play old James Bond films along with the latest tunes. “I’m trying to create a unique vibe and atmosphere here you won’t find anywhere else,” he says.
Café Confidential 20930 Torrence Chapel Road, Cornelius www.facebook.com/CafeConfidential
Barbecue King Having been in the restaurant business for more than 30 years, Kevin Kourac, executive chef at Mac’s Speed Shop, is a real wizard in the kitchen—and at the barbecue smoker. His culinary skills were on full display this summer when Mac’s signature Red BBQ Sauce won first place in the Tomato Sauce category at the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest in Memphis, Tenn., beating out more than 250 other competitors. Kourac says he and Mac’s director of operations, Jeff Del Mastro, spent nearly three years developing the western N.C.-style sauce, which is sweet and tangy with a touch of vinegar. As Mac’s executive chef, Kourac oversees the restaurant’s five locations, including the one in Cornelius, where he helps prepare such favorites as hand-pulled pork, beer can chicken, and St. Louis-style ribs. While we couldn’t get Kourac to divulge the Red BBQ Sauce recipe—“that’s top secret,” he says—he did share the recipe for his favorite vinegar bbq sauce, perfect for slathering on pork or beef. Mac’s vinegar bbq sauce 16 ounces cider vinegar 1/3 cup Heinz Ketchup 2 tablespoons of Worcestishire sauce ¼ cup light brown sugar ½ cup Texas Pete hot sauce 2 teaspoons granulated garlic 2 teaspoons kosher salt 2 teaspoons black pepper ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper Mix all the ingredients to a 1-quart glass or plastic jar. Seal and shake well. Let sit for at least 24 hours and enjoy!
Mac's Speed Shop 19601 Liverpool Pkwy., Cornelius www.macspeedshop.com Eddie’s Seafood & Raw Bar Eddie Lubic was in New York when his friend, who had recently moved to Lake Norman, called about a local restaurant with a great waterfront location that was up for sale. Lubic, a longtime restaurateur, was intrigued. “I came down to take a look and immediately fell in love with the area and atmosphere,” says Lubic, who also owns Eduardo’s Restaurant & Lounge in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., and Muscoot Tavern, in Somers, N.Y. The restaurant was Vinne’s Sardine Grill & Raw Bar in Mooresville, which, along with several other Charlotte-area locations, shut down this year. Lubic and his wife, Ann-Margaret Wagner, closed the deal on the restaurant this summer, renovated the interior, including new furniture, kitchen equipment, and outside decking, and reopened as Eddie’s Seafood & Raw Bar in August. In addition to the makeover, Lubic says he’s revamped the menu, with an emphasis on fresh seafood, such as king crab legs, lobster, octopus, and shrimp, as well as some Italian delicacies. And he’s not done. Lubic says he hopes to expand the back deck overlooking the lake and possibly add boat slips in the next year or so.
Eddie's Seafood & Raw Bar 643 Williamson Road, Mooresville www.facebook.com/EddiesSeafoodRawBar