CHARLOTTE – In large cities, the hole-in-the-wall eateries are often the ones sought out by foodies for original and delicious fare.
Charlotte is shoring up its gastronome reputation with Pepper’s Louisiana Kitchen, which is indeed small and very unpretentious with the best Cajun and Creole food this side of New Orleans. Darrell Owens and his wife Angela have managed to create a venue teeming with good cheer and great food.
Darrell Owens, nicknamed “Pepper,” has been working in the hospitality business for years. He and his wife moved from Louisiana in 2016 with a dream of a better life for their daughter and a restaurant of their own.
“We visited here for a graduation and really liked it,” Angela Owens said. “And then, being people of faith, we kept seeing signs that this was the right move.”
It was always Darrell Owens’ dream to open up his own restaurant, and when they found the space off West W.T. Harris Boulevard, it all fell into place.
“It just felt like a natural order of things when we moved to Charlotte and opened the restaurant,” Angela Owens said. “As if everything was exactly how it should be.”
And last May, Pepper’s Louisiana Kitchen opened for business.
“We’re working hard to get the word out about our food,” Darrell Owens said. “We just need more people to find out about us.”
Pepper’s menu is a mix of Creole and Cajun cooking and sometimes a combination of the two. “You might come in here one day and get a more Creole jambalaya and the next week it might be more of a Cajun style,” Angela Owens said.
A quick and simplified primer: Creole cuisine uses tomatoes and is more citified; Cajun cooking does not use tomatoes and is considered more county. But the best way to taste the difference is to, well, actually taste the difference.
“We are authentic Louisianans cooking authentic food,” Angela Owens said. “We can help customers learn the Creole and Cajun styles.”
Of course, the Owens’ had to adjust to the Charlotte clientele a bit after they opened.
“In Louisiana we eat a ton of catfish,” she said. “But it wasn’t selling as well here. So we kept it on the menu and added flounder and now sell some of each.”
The menu is full of Louisiana homemade favorites such as: gumbo, po’boys, crawfish, red beans and rice and étouffée. Even the bread is from Louisiana.
Do not miss the sublime Shrimp and Corn Soup and the amazing jambalaya packed with chicken, sausage and shrimp. Every item on the menu is made fresh daily, and sometimes they run out. It’s best to call ahead if you really have a yen for a particular dish.
“People often assume that because the name of the restaurant is Pepper’s that our food is really spicy,” Angela Owens said. “But that’s not the case, we use big flavor and some mild heat, but try not to overwhelm people.”
There are also daily and weekly specials that can be found on the website and social media. Plus Pepper’s does catering for any type of event such as a tailgates, family reunions or office events.
Pepper’s manages to be completely unassuming with extraordinary food; a real diamond in the rough. And the people who own it are sure to become like an extended family.
“Our motto is ‘Food, Family, Love; Taste Our Story,’” Angela Owens said.
And what a marvelous taste it is.