The simple exterior of Haberdish, a bow to haberdashery (as in textile mills’ end product) that will doubtless have Googlers ending up with directions to a Chicago restaurant named Haberdash. But still ... GARY SCHWAB
The simple exterior of Haberdish, a bow to haberdashery (as in textile mills’ end product) that will doubtless have Googlers ending up with directions to a Chicago restaurant named Haberdash. But still ... GARY SCHWAB

Helen Schwab

Your guide to what's new, what's good and what's worth your dining dollar in Charlotte and beyond

Helen Schwab

New NoDa restaurant Haberdish: Chicken gets star billing, but one gutsy appetizer stunned me

December 09, 2016 11:15 AM

First Bite is a snapshot, not a full review, of a place that’s opened recently.

The food: Fried chicken is the marquee offering from Haberdish, which was slated to open tonight but threw open the doors last night instead (well, not “threw open” – it was, like, 30 below, right? – unlocked and staffed the doors, maybe). And what fine doors, and what a fine look overall the place has. But first: chicken. This, brined, battered and fried, comes by half or whole, or in two-piece white or dark portions, or – in a stroke of family-friendly genius – by the tender, at 2 bucks each. My half included a perfectly crusted breast, and a perfectly juicy thigh, and each of the four pieces (wing, leg) were enormous, for $12.

Half a fried chicken, brined, goes for $12.

Maybe even more surprising is the brined, smoked chicken, a juicy concoction glossed with Alabama-style white barbecue sauce (which, if you’ve had it before, trust me: Not like this). Very nice.

Brined, smoked chicken glossed with Alabama-style white sauce, with mini-tots in the background.

As were kale grits (flecks of kale, creamed, speckled the pebbly Anson Mills stuff) and a re-reckoning of a family gnocchi recipe, made into sweet potato dumplings. (That sage!)

Kale grits. Forgive the too-warm light; this is what you get when you’re not at a media day.
Sweet potato dumplings with brown butter, sage and parmesan.

Nice as these were, all were eclipsed by the livermush toast, which – I know. OK. Just stop making that face for a minute. Picture a bit of foie gras, except rough it up a little and add the browned edges you could never really get with that and subtract the insane price tag, and you’ve got: livermush toast. A few strands of bread-and-butter pickles and a swirl of molasses and mustard and ... Yes. Yes.

Livermush. Toast. Eight kinds of yes.

It embodies the effort here by Jeff Tonidandel and Jamie Brown: Raising up foods and techniques you’d have found in a turn-of-the-last-century Southern mill town (which, BTW for newcomers, NoDa essentially was), but not being bull-headed about it – things can be given a few modern twists. (Pretty sure “sweet tea butter” with your hush puppies wasn’t a thing then, but believe me: It’s a thing now.) A lot more on all that in a longer, later story.

Colleen Hughes has put together a rambunctious cocktail list (the house mint julep employs Old Forester Classic); eight taps range from Anderson Valley Wild Turkey bourbon barrel stout to ... Bud Light; and the wine list has nearly as many sparklers (the best with fried chicken!) as reds and whites.

The look: Rustic and open in the way of siblings Crepe Cellar and Growlers Pourhouse – long bar, backed with open shelves of brown liquor (mostly) against gorgeous white-clay brick. Banquette backs covered in selvedge denim from Cone Mills (selvedge = “self edge” = you can see the edges; take a look below). Edisonesque bulbs in the light fixtures that aren’t the simpler copper pendants. Family-style heavy crockery and linens. Soapstone bar (from Virginia); tabletops made in town from the building’s own rafters. Bar taps are spindles from an old mill. Some art by Paul Sires is coming; he’s half of the couple (with Ruth Ava Lyons) who basically got NoDa’s reinvigoration started in the wayback days.

Selvedge denim (“self edge,” see?) on the banquettes comes from Cone Mills, a nod to the milltown past of NoDa.

The service: Casually enthusiastic, jeans-wearing and warm, they work together with runners bringing drinks and plates as ready – nearly always a better approach for this kind of food. A few kinks on knowledge exist, but when ours didn’t know, she found out quickly.

The details: Appetizers $4 (smoked deviled eggs or house pickles) to $9 (pimento cheese ball!); entrees $6 (two-piece dark) to $24 (whole brined, smoked chicken); sides $3 (pickled slaw) to $12 (large kale salad). Promised: Chicken and waffles on Sundays; chicken and biscuits on Tuesdays. 3106 N. Davidson St.; and; no phone yet.

Doubleclick the link below to see the whole menu. (There’s a daily insert, too, of pickle – though Tonidandel points out “it’s hard to have a robust pickle program” when you open in mid-December); cold side and hot side.)