Progressive Charlotte restaurant Counter (The restaurant styles its name as Counter-) opened in 2020 and gained great momentum in the culinary scene when it shut down in July 2022 to expand. The restaurant is ready to reopen at 2001 West Morehead Street anytime this month. Chef Sam Hart and his team are going from 1300 square feet at the original Thrift Road location to 5300 square feet with the new Morehead Street address of Counter and attached wine bar Bibilo.
Counter won acclaim for its ever-changing tasting menu themes and unique music pairings. With the new spot, the team will be able to be more ambitious with their offerings. “The amount of seats will stay the same despite it being a larger location,” says Hart, “I tell people that we were initially driving a Toyota Camry — a great car, no problems with it, and it’s fine. But now we’re going to be moving into a Rolls Royce, which is still a four-seater, but a lot nicer. We’re able to uncap the potential that our cooks and our staff have with all the new equipment, the space, and the physical location — everything will allow them to shine and showcase what they’ve got to bring to Charlotte.”
Customers will have a chance to watch their meals being cooked as they will be seated in front of an exposed kitchen with all of Hart’s fancy new cooking equipment. They’ve quadrupled the counter space and doubled the ovens. “They’ll see the entire process from beginning to end unfold in front of them,” says Hart.
The new Counter is designed to be a blank canvas, which the team will transform to fit the themes of each menu, from art to tableware. For the reopening, Counter will feature art from Charlotte artists Stephen Wilson and Laurie Smithwick, along with Charleston artist Amy Gordon.
The first menu for the new location of Counter is inspired by modern pop artists like Mark Rothko and Roy Lichtenstein with a soundtrack to match. Inspired by a trip to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Hart wanted to create food reflective of the pieces he saw. “The art came first for that menu,” explains Hart, “But on the flip side of that, we had a menu called Color where all of the dishes were monochromatic, and with that one, we had a couple of songs that inspired the food. It’s an evolving kind of creative process where it’s not one thing comes before the other, but they just work together.”
The pairing of food and music is certainly novel, but Hart thinks potential diners shouldn’t be wary of the experience. “Originally, we were kind of annoyed that people thought that the restaurant was just a gimmick restaurant,” says Hart, “But then it became one of our favorite things, because people would just walk in expecting a gimmick restaurant, and all of a sudden, they’re given this really well done, classy tasting menu experience.”
Reservations for Counter can be found on Tock.
Update: December 15, 2022, 2:49 p.m.: A previous version of this article stated that the opening date of Counter was Wednesday, December 14.