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Exclusive: James Beard-nominated chef to open Camp North End’s first restaurant

Exclusive-Leah & Louise will be Camp North End’s first restaurant

Greg and Subrina Collier announce Camp North End's first restaurant, named Leah & Louise.
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Greg and Subrina Collier announce Camp North End's first restaurant, named Leah & Louise.

For those watching the transformation of Camp North End, it should come as no surprise that its first restaurant will be anything but standard at the 75-acre adaptive reuse site just north of uptown.

Enter Greg and Subrina Collier, just the team to do it.

On Wednesday, the Colliers will announce their Memphis-style juke joint for Camp North End, named Leah & Louise. It will open in November, serving dinner, family-style Sunday supper and Sunday brunch. Lunch service will eventually be added. Seasonal cocktails and low- and no-alcohol specialty drinks will be on the menu. The restaurant will have seating for 58, including outdoor sidewalk dining and roll-up garage doors to bring the mild days inside.

This will be the first dinner restaurant for the couple, who are widely known in Charlotte’s culinary world. Greg Collier is a recent James Beard Foundation best chef semi-finalist — the first black chef from Charlotte to ever earn a nomination.

The Colliers are also the team behind 7th Street Public Market’s The Yolk, where they created the Soul Food Sessions program, a collaborative dinner series featuring up-and-coming black chefs who are without a brick-and-mortar space.

Flavors from Memphis

Leah & Louise will feature foods from The Colliers’ hometown of Memphis. “It’s going to be Southern food the way we like to do Southern food, but from a Memphis/Mississippi River Valley perspective (rather) than a Carolinian perspective,” Greg Collier told CharlotteFive on Monday. “The team we’re putting together is going to be all about creating a different experience.”

Menu items will include fan favorites from their other restaurants: grits with country ham bone stock, ham, field peas — even a return of Greg’s famous chicken skins. Adventurous foods will also be offered: gator, rattlesnake, frog legs and squab. Vegan and vegetarian dishes will be available.

The restaurant will be named after Greg’s late sister and grandmother. His sister passed away five years ago and his grandmother a couple of years before that. They were taken too soon, he said.

Standing just outside of the roll-up garage doors on Monday, leaning into the concrete space, Subrina Collier spoke about the women’s impact on Greg’s life and his cooking. Greg listened silently, his head dropped low, one ear turned up and to the side, eyes hidden by the brim of his ball cap. “Leah used to bake a lot. He was teaching her how to bake and she was naturally a good baker,” Subrina said.

“And Louise, your grandmother, is where you got one of your first memories of cooking, of the butter roll,” Subrina said. “We still don’t know the recipe for that.”

Juke Joint on Beale Street

If you’ve visited Beale Street in Memphis, Greg said you have a decent idea of what the restaurant’s vibe will be.

“You’re gonna walk in the restaurant, you’re gonna be in Memphis. You’re gonna eat and you’re gonna walk back out, you’re gonna be at Camp North End, then you’re gonna leave Camp North End, you’ll be in Charlotte. I don’t feel like I’m in Charlotte right now,” he said, gesturing around to the rest of the adaptive reuse space. “This feels like a whole other area of the country, this is like Pittsburgh or New York or something — something different.”

When you walk into Leah & Louise, you’ll hear the blues — “actual sad blues, not this upbeat, happy blues,” he said. “Blues blues — broke, poor, just got off the farm, sharecropper blues. It’s going to be so fun.”

Camp North End: One of the few truly diverse spaces

Leah & Louise’s location was selected deliberately, Subrina said.

“Camp North End is one of the few spaces I see in Charlotte that took effort to make the space very diverse. You have different people, different ethnicities, different jobs,” she said. “You have this little community of people that we’re building. Now, it’s scary to come in here at the beginning — it’s so new, you’re being the pioneer. But I’m excited about it, and the space is beautiful.”

Plenty of residential rooftops exist in the area — Camp North End is surrounded by longtime neighborhoods Druid Hills, Greenville, Lockwood, McCrorey Heights, Double Oaks, Oaklawn and more. Brightwalk is one of the newer neighborhoods, built several years ago across from Camp North End’s front entrance. Yet, neighbors have few walkable dining options. Leah & Louise will change that.

“People over here bring restaurants, restaurants bring businesses, businesses bring people to live and then you bring grocery stores — and all these other retail shops and people in the neighborhood will be able to come and get things they need. That’s the top one reason I’m over here,” Subrina said.

New vendors moving in

Camp North End is one of the country’s largest adaptive reuse projects in development, according to ATCO. The site is a former factory that once made Model T cars, served as a Rite Aid distribution center and assembled Hercules missiles. The first businesses moved in about two years ago, with more to come.

Evelyn Adelman of Ascent Real Estate Partners represented ownership in lease negotiations for Leah & Louise.

The restaurant will be next door to Free Range Brewing, which will open officially around the same time as Leah & Louise. In fact, the Colliers will curate a menu to pair with Free Range’s beer.

Next spring, The Gamma Goat building, along the back of the site, will become an open outdoor market with four food stalls. Nearby neighbors include Heist Brewery & Barrel Arts, which opened its new taproom in February at 1030 Woodward Ave.

Having a place to eat will change everything about the visiting crowd, said Damon Hemmerdinger, co-president of ATCO Properties & Management, the development team behind Camp North End along with with Shorenstein Properties.

Dining options will add a whole new level of attendance. “The most important thing that restaurants will do is give people a reason to come to Camp North End any time and every time,” he told CharlotteFive on Tuesday.

Continuing to leave their mark

As if opening a new restaurant isn’t time-consuming enough, it’s just one of many items filling the Colliers’ fall calendars. Greg helped organize a Community Feast Dinner that will be at Camp North End on Aug. 18. Neighbors were offered free tickets. The remaining seats have tiered pricing, allowing diners to pay what they can.

Greg will cook at the James Beard House in September in New York City as part of the Soul Food Sessions dinner. He will be the guest chef at Outstanding in the Field, a sold-out dinner event in Matthews in October.

With such a to-do list, Subrina said this is where the intensity surfaces. “It’s all this energy — and it’s good energy, but this is where that pressure comes in,” she said. “It shows you who’s going to break — and I think this is what makes us. Even though I’m super nervous, I enjoy it.”

Leah & Louise

301 Camp Road, Suite 101

This story originally appeared in CharlotteFive.

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