A casual Cajun-inspired eatery from the owner of Café Monte
In the Weeds
In my years covering restaurants here, I’ve noticed a trend among the best chefs in Charlotte. The youngest and most ambitious create some of Charlotte’s most intricate dishes, with a nearly excessive amount of touches per plate. The best amongst them can make these layered dishes work in harmony, but the majority create menus that come across as trying too hard and doing too much. As chefs who master the art of complexity become more confident, they also become more confident in their own style of cooking. Their food becomes simpler, and more authentic.
That’s been the trajectory of The Goodyear House’s executive chef Chris Coleman, who first ran his own kitchen with a tasting menu at The McNinch House before creating a fantastic menu as chef-y as they come at The Asbury. His menu mellowed out at Stoke, where Coleman served dishes that were Southern in ingredients but international in flavor as the Marriott Center City’s opening chef. And at The Goodyear House, Coleman’s personality is clear.
It’s a menu — and chef — that has learned to appreciate simple, hearty food made with the best ingredients. That simplicity, however, is a bit misleading, as thoughtful touches borrowed from cuisines around the world work to amplify each dish.
The Goodyear House was at its best soon after opening, with a varied menu that looked to serve any style of dining — shared plates, entrées, and family-style meals. Like most places during the Covid-19 pandemic, however, The Goodyear House’s menu has undergone a significant edit to adapt. And while that edit limits diner options, it solidifies The Goodyear House’s personality of low-key — dare we say unpretentious? — and approachable food sourced from Charlotte farms.
A personal favorite is the butter bean spread, served with seasonal vegetables. The spread is a North Carolina alternative to hummus, and the creaminess of the butter beans contrasted with the snap of the fresh produce makes me wish the restaurant sold the dip by the pint. The marinated shrimp is another mainstay from the original menu that indicates Coleman’s maturity and restraint, a bright bite that belies the thoughtfulness behind the flavor.
You rarely go wrong with a vegetable in this kitchen, something we came to appreciate during Coleman’s time at Stoke. Comfort foods like broccoli and cheese get the added enjoyment of fine dining chef touches to bring layers of texture and flavor without straying too far from the memories conjured in our minds thinking of the dish.
The Goopy Burger is a craveable creation using local beef and “goopy lettuce,” drenched in a comeback sauce. The lettuce prevents the bun from becoming overly soggy, and though it’s tough to eat the burger without making a mess of your face, you’re not left holding a fall-apart bun. The vegan green monster sammie — and the smoked cashew mac-and-cheese — mean that unlike most casual spots, those preferring plant-based dishes will feel welcome, instead of being offered a simple salad. Surprisingly, the dish we’ve been least excited by is the red devil chicken, with heat that doesn’t quite live up to its name, and breading that quickly loses its crunch due to the sauce dip.
With the tagline “Built on Good Times” and a meticulously renovated interior that does justice to the historic nature of the old mill house, The Goodyear House has a cocktail menu suited well to the concept. With nothing too ambitious, the beverage options will suit those with a spirit-forward palate with drinks like the old-fashioned-inspired Highland Park Mill, as well as those who prefer something lighter, like the Farmers Delight: vodka-based with Solerno, butternut squash, spices, and bubbles. And while service can be slow — something we encourage understanding about during pandemic-related staffing shortages — the service staff is key to keeping the promise of a good time, and the front of house delivers with genuine smiles and conversation to your table. And these days, we all need a good time.