I'll Bite

What does Nashville have that Charlotte doesn’t have?

Atlanta’s Ford Fry plans to open his long-awaited Tex-Mex restaurant, Superica, on May 14 in South End.
Atlanta’s Ford Fry plans to open his long-awaited Tex-Mex restaurant, Superica, on May 14 in South End. Dustin Chambers

By now you probably know that Atlanta’s Ford Fry, builder of restaurant empires (The Optimist, Beetlecat, King & Duke, among others) is coming to Charlotte.

His Tex-Mex mini-chain Superica (say it supa-REE-kah) will be a part of the changes coming to the Design Center in South End early next year.

And yes, it’s nice for Charlotte to get that kind of attention, drawing chefs, restaurants (and food tourists) that normally aim for Charleston or the Triangle.

Still, Fry has two new restaurants opening in Nashville compared to one here. And it’s widely known that he’s been trying to find a spot to open something in Charleston, with no success yet. Nashville has gained a lot of chef attention lately. When Charleston’s Sean Brock branched out, he went to straight to Tennessee. And let’s face it: Charleston has so many hot spots, you can’t throw a fork without stabbing a three-star menu. So I had to call Fry and ask:

Which market is more attractive right now, Charlotte, Nashville or Charleston?

Trying to be as diplomatic as he could, Fry admitted that Nashville is a little more . . . adventuresome.

“I’ve gotten a good glimpse of Charlotte, the people,” he said. “Nashville is more artsy, they’re laidback, creative, they don’t let things bother them.

“But Charlotte, it feels like it’s more conservative. Like old-school Southern.” Fry has a close friend he visits here in Charlotte.

“When my friend moved there, he said, ‘it’s hard to break in. They’re all tight with each other – everyone’s grown up there.’ 

Fry pays a lot of attention to restaurant markets, though, and he thinks Charlotte is ripe for more attention from the food world.

“My gut would tell me Charlotte would be a better move,” he said.

There isn’t as much here yet, he said, and places like Nashville and Charleston are getting saturated, with more competition fighting for you and your dining wallet.

“Charleston is so, so saturated,” he says. “It’s just taking market share from whoever’s there.”

Superica, expected to be a 7,000-square-foot space in the Design Center, 101 W. Worthington Ave., is on track to open in early 2018.

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis