For the past two and a half years, Owner and Executive Chef Nicolas Daniels has been trying to create a bar and restaurant concept that would feel different from the rest of what Uptown has to offer.
“We wanted something for an older crowd that’s not a packed bar where you have to reach over people,” he explained. But it’s not a specific age group that he’s targeting, per se, but a specific mindset. “We’re looking to cater to old souls that don’t enjoy places like the EpiCentre.”
In Loft & Cellar, opening today, the Chilean native has found it.
The vibe is prohibition-meets-bottle-shop with a twist of worldwide cuisine and topped with a little bit of nightlife in the form of live music on the weekends.
But that’s the only firm definition that Daniels will allow himself.
When it comes to food and drink, there’s no one category the restaurant, housed in a hundred-year-old building on the corner of 4th and Poplar, can fall into, but Daniels describes it as a “modern approach to world cuisine blended together to promote the best flavors within each other.”
That idea comes out in dishes featuring cuisine from over 30 countries worldwide.
Think things like a Southern Pad Thai (beer wort noodles, pork skin, chicharrons, roasted garlic, ham hock, rainbow radish, pickled quail egg, boiled peanuts and sunflower shoots), Octopus Cazuela (beer braised octopus, iberico chorizo, acorn squash broth redux, overnight tomatoes and sticky rice) and Duck Brunswick Gyoza (steamed dumplings, BBQ duck confit, potato latkes, baby corn and lima beans).
There are also three tasting menus, divided into one-, two- and three-leaf options ranging from $75 to $195, in which diners don’t get a choice in what they’re served.
If it doesn’t seem like the menu features many farm-to-table options, that’s because it doesn’t, instead relying on imported ingredients from places like Japan and Chile.
Daniels appreciates local ingredients, but finds that Charlotte is so saturated in farm-to-table heavy menus that it’s overdone.
That’s not to say he doesn’t go local at all – in fact, the noodles in the Southern Pad Thai are made from pre-fermented Unknown Brewing beer.
It took him about a year to create the exact menu, but Daniels is satisfied with it and the goal it helps him reach.
“When you come eat my menu, it’s almost like you’re getting a passport,” he described. “I just want people to come in and try something brand new.”
There will be two drink menus to peruse: One catered to the dinner menu and a more curated, late-night cocktail menu, both featuring signature cocktails of different nations.
The drink menu features lesser-known international cocktails like a Singapore Sling and Pisco Sour.
Daniels expects the Pisco Sour to be the most popular drink on the menu simply because they do it the right way, with made-from-scratch sour mix topped with frothy egg whites and sprinkled with bitters.
The three floors that the 7,500-square-foot restaurant inhabits each serve a different purpose.
The cellar will house the kitchen and a reservation-only 20-person private dining room with a special menu served by Daniels himself.
The restaurant is dark and cozy, with a poured cement bar, tables and booths.
The loft, a lighter and airier lounge space, will be home to a bar and live music.
Let’s take a look around: