If I could invest in any Charlotte restaurant concept, it would be Yafo Kitchen.
Why? The team is outstanding, the food is delicious and it aligns with where food culture is going (fresh, casual, fast and healthy).
Hot take: Yafo Kitchen will be the next Chipotle.
Frank Scibelli (owner/creator), I’ll invest $100 for a 1% equity stake – please have your lawyer send the agreements to the Agenda Headquarters, thank you (it’s like Shark Tank, but you don’t have an option).
Yafo Kitchen is now open for lunch and dinner in the Morrison shopping center in SouthPark (the one anchored by Earth Fare).
I’m not in love with the location. Feels like this is one of those flagship concepts that needs to be on a street like East Boulevard in Dilworth or 7th Street in Elizabeth. Hours are Sunday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
What is Yafo Kitchen?
It’s like a more legit version of Zoe’s – much, much tastier. Think Mediterranean street food concept with a user experience very similar to a Chipotle. They describe themselves as “Simple Mediterranean fare with bold Middle-Eastern flavors.”
What should you order?
You have to get hummus and you have to get the falafel – both are the best in the city of Charlotte. For a main dish, order the Yafo Shawarma (#1 in my opinion), Sabich (the executive chef’s favorite) or the Marrakesh Lamb. Similar to Chipotle, you can choose to get these items in a Laffah Wrap or a Grain Bowl.
I had never heard the word “Laffah” before and I don’t know what it means, but it’s basically a dreamy version of a pita.
Yafo Kitchen makes them fresh and puts the baker in a glass case of emotion to prove it to you.
Dishes come with a small plastic container of a funky green sauce that you’ll love.
Forgot the name (just being honest). I thought it was some type of mint jelly to go along with the lamb, but it’s actually a cilantro and jalapeno based sauce. Don’t be scared of it.
Not your typical mediocre drink selection.
Sure, they have sodas, but spend the $2.99 and try the lemonade and teas. They’re homemade and refreshing. Yafo Kitchen also serves wine and has six local beers on draft.
Price points for an entree are going to be higher than what you want them to be ($9 – $13 range).
Ingredients are fresh and most are local – this costs money, therefore prices are higher. If you love the dollar menu at McDonald’s you’re not their customer.
You’re not going to find a more driven, talented and nicer guy than their Israeli-born executive chef, Shai Fargian.
Shai has a 9-month-old daughter and you can tell from his demeanor that he has the patience and determination of a new father. That said, this isn’t “The Notebook” and all you likely care about is the food – and the food is really freaking tasty.
The team is led by creator Frank Scibelli – the dude behind Mama Ricotta’s, Midwood Smokehouse, Paco’s Tacos & Tequila, Cantina 1511. Most recently Frank sold Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar for a cool $21 million. Rounding out the team is fast-casual dining expert Paul Plocharczyck who has opened 70+ Salsarita’s locations and formerly worked as the director of operations and eventually CEO of Yoforia.
Bottom line: Yafo Kitchen is tasty and the team has the chops to take it all the way.
Oh, and they’re finalizing construction on the patio…