Gone are the days of waiting for What The Fries to post its weekly schedule on Instagram each Sunday. Though you’ll still feel the need to casually stalk its posts for a glimpse of your perfectly curated go-to meal, you can rest easy because the days of waiting for the popular food truck to come to your neck of the woods — and eating your Steak and Shrimp Hibachi Fries in your car — are almost over.
It’s been a long few months for fans of the food truck and the owners, chefs Jamie Barnes and Gregory “Greg” Williams. All parties are full of excitement — thanks to the restaurant updates on Instagram — and can’t wait for the doors to officially open at 11 a.m. on March 23.
“I’m excited about opening and finally closing the gap on all of this,” Barnes said. “It’s been a long process. So, we’re ready for something new. Usually people get our food and they leave. Now, it’s exciting to be able to look out, see people eating food and seeing their reaction.”
The owners — who are typically behind the scenes doing what they do best — are grateful for all of the love and support from the Queen City.
“We’re thankful for all of the people who have supported us over the years,” Williams said. “We’re just happy to finally get into this brick-and-mortar and just can’t wait to give you some of our dope creativity and just hope you enjoy.”
Charlotte’s food truck scene during COVID
It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the restaurant scene in Charlotte during the past year. Food trucks like What The Fries were ahead of the curve due to the to-go aspect of the business, however. Barnes and Williams did update their pre-order system, which meant shorter lines and it made it easier to comply with North Carolina mandates. They also shifted their focus from office buildings in the afternoon to serving neighborhoods.
“We didn’t get hit like restaurants — no one sits inside in one place at a time,” Barnes said. “We pulled up anywhere. We kind of switched to neighborhoods and evenings since a lot of the neighborhoods wanted us for dinner. It kind of took off from there. So, once the pandemic hit us, we were just booming.” In addition, Wynee Bermudez, the local blogger behind the account @wyneesworld, made the truck TikTok famous in July.
It’s been a whirlwind of a year, working and serving on the food truck while pouring time into the restaurant location. While opening a business during the COVID-19 pandemic has its challenges, the two owners can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The large former Cici’s Pizza location they’re moving into — even at 50% capacity — is sure to be a hit with its ample seating.
“It’s a lot for us to do with the pandemic as far as making sure employees are keeping the place cleaned throughout the day,” Barnes said. “Making sure people see that we’re sanitizing tables and keeping the numbers low and no one crowding by the door. So, it’s a lot we have to do right now with the pandemic going on.”
In a perfect world — and post-COVID-19 pandemic — Barnes and Williams would have their next venture be another location and having a full team so they’d be able to still operate the food truck successfully, Barnes said.
A year from now, Williams would prefer not to be in the kitchen as much.
“I think having a lot more help is a big thing for us,” he said. “So we won’t have to do as much. Just to have people who have the same drive and energy we have that want to come on with us to make it successful.”
‘Creative, tasty and fun’
Casual and fun is the vibe you’ll catch once you enter the doors of the restaurant. Hornets colors, original murals by Swych19 and Garrison Gist and other local art pieces cover the walls. Both chefs made sure their hometowns of Columbia, South Carolina, and Newport News, Virginia, were represented in art, as well. As for the menu, expect your old favorites and some new treats.
“I would say [the menu is] creative, tasty and fun,” Williams said.
You can expect to see the chefs’ fine dining experience mixed with their What The Fries flare.
“We don’t want to get too serious with stuff,” Barnes said. “People can still come in, enjoy themselves, get some good food and know we have put some creativity behind it.
More than just a restaurant
While many people may come to What The Fries for the food, they’ll stay for the experience. Taking care of the restaurant is a priority. Once it’s a bit more settled, the goal is to have dinners where they’re able to be more creative. Another goal is to support local artists. Once the back area is complete, local artists and small business owners will use the space.
“We just want to help promote other businesses, not just ours,” Williams said. “We’re trying to show love all around.”
Pro tip: Here’s a sneak peak of new menu items:
Fried Snapper Sandwich: Fried snapper, mustard green slaw and spicy Yumm Yumm on a potato bun.
Wings: Seasoned sweet and spicy or with house seasoning.
Grilled Cheesy: American, gouda and Boursin cheeses grilled on potato bread.
Chicken Salad: House recipe chicken salad served with lettuce and tomato on potato bread.
Freshcut Chips: Scratch-made potato chips with house seasoning.
Loaded Purple Potato Soup: purple potatoes, bacon, scallions and Boursin cheese.
10707 Park Road, Suite F
Opening date: 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 23.
Store hours: Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., closed Sunday and Monday