Longtime Charlotte chef is making a big move

Paul Verica, one of two Charlotte chefs to make the semifinalist list for the James Beard Foundation this year, released some long-awaited news today: He’s closing Heritage Food & Drink in Waxhaw and reopening in Charlotte.

Verica has been trying for months to find a good spot. He’s signed a lease for a new location in the heart of the Elizabeth neighborhood, in the former location of the salad restaurant Crisp at 7th Street and Pecan Avenue. He’ll actually take two spots, including the space at the back that used to be a barber shop. However, the owner of the building, Asana Partners, hasn’t finalized the lease, Verica says.

“We have signed a lease, but the landlord has not signed off yet due to some complications.”

Verica may keep the name Heritage or he may change it to a name that would reflect the history of the corner, an area of the city that used to be called Stanleyville.

“I got the opportunity to get in that neighborhood right now,” Verica told The Observer. “I love, love, love the space.” He plans to keep many of the building’s features, such as the pressed tin ceilings and brick.

While he’ll add a patio with outdoor seating and a cocktail lounge, Verica wants to keep the seating small and intimate, with 64 seats in the main dining room, just a little larger than his current restaurant, plus 16 more in the lounge. The kitchen will definitely be bigger than the tiny space he now uses in Waxhaw, which can barely hold three cooks.

“It’ll be so nice to have more space,” he admitted. “There’s a lot of stuff I really want to do.”

About that cocktail lounge: Bob Peters, the popular cocktail master at the Punch Room at the Ritz Carlton in Charlotte, will work with Verica as a consultant, developing new cocktail menus throughout the year. Verica will continue to work with pastry chef Ashley Bivens Boyd, who divides her time now between Heritage and 300 East. Verica’s son Alex will remain with him in the kitchen, along with a couple of other staff members who work with him now.

Verica plans to continue to work with local farms, he says.

“Our dedication to local is never going to change.”

But he says the menu will add some things he describes as “multiple sensory experiences,” such as tableside preparations with nitrogen. One example: He’s hoping to work with Sammy Koenigsberg of New Town Farms in Waxhaw to roast pasture-raised chickens on the pasture grass they were raised on.

Verica was one of the first chefs in the area to adopt the farm-to-table style. At the Club at Longview, where he was chef for eight years, he had a garden and started growing things he used in the kitchen. He continued working with area farms when he opened Heritage three years ago. He’s been looking for a space that’s closer to central Charlotte for months, with several rumors reported on different possibilities.

Verica expects the new restaurant to open late this year or early in 2018.

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis

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