What the Fries restaurant is ready to open in Charlotte

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.

What The Fries owners Jamie Barnes and Greg Williams in front of art by Swych19 inside their new restaurant in Pineville. Alex Cason Photography CharlotteFive

“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.

The smokey Bacon Fries at What The Fries are loaded and topped with ranch, green onions and tomatoes. Alex Cason Photography CharlotteFive

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.

What The Fries’ new brick-and-mortar restaurant is on Park Road. Alex Cason Photography CharlotteFive

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.

“Everyday is Fryday” at the new What The Fries restaurant, art by Swych19 proclaims. Alex Cason Photography CharlotteFive

“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.

What The Fries’ new restaurant also features art by Garrison Gist. Alex Cason Photography CharlotteFive

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.

What The Fries Chicken Salad: House recipe chicken salad served with lettuce and tomato on potato bread. Peter Taylor
  • Freshcut Chips: Scratch-made potato chips with house seasoning.

  • Loaded Purple Potato Soup: purple potatoes, bacon, scallions and Boursin cheese.

Loaded Purple Potato Soup at What The Fries: purple potatoes, bacon, scallions and Boursin cheese. Peter Taylor Peter Taylor

What The Fries is now turning your favorite loaded fries into wraps. Alex Cason Photography CharlotteFive

What The Fries

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

Instagram: @whathefriesclt

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Ebony Morman is a freelance writer. In her free time, she loves to travel, read, write and develop Charlotte’s youth through her nonprofit. Follow her on Instagram @chitoclt.