MOORESVILLE – An array of FC Barcelona soccer jerseys drape the ceiling of The Barcelona Burger and Beer Garden. There are 15 minutes until noon, but the place is already packed with customers, whether they be alone or with family and friends. Owner Mehmet “Michael” Bay greets customers as they walk by, holding the door open for them when they leave. For him, the eatery reminds him of another place in his life.

Bay recalls the city of Barcelona being his first vacation spot years ago. Working hard for his money, Bay saved just enough to get on a train from London to Barcelona, making his way through the city’s art and architecture.

“The people were just so kind,” he said. “It just reminds me of happiness and good food and good music. The people were always willing to help you and went out of their way to make sure you were fed and OK. I took a lot of inspiration out of that.”

Bay isn’t a newcomer to business in town. He also owns Merinos Home Furnishings, one the larger furniture retailers in the area. Barcelona Burger and Beer will be Bay’s second homage to dining – his first, Alino Pizzeria, sits adjacent to the burger joint. He points to the diverse range of customers, both young and old, in a group or alone and said this is something he likes to see.

“Food brings people together,” Bay said. “When I look around and I see people laughing and smiling, it brings me a lot of happiness. I only look for happiness. My workers, first and foremost, have to be happy with me; if they’re not happy then I need to make them happy. They’re the driving force.”

Having natural, non-GMO ingredients is a priority for the restaurant, said executive chef Jennifer Brulè. The mastermind behind the menu, Brulé wants customers to know everything on the menu is intentional, especially when it comes to breaking down the details. She explained the core flavors of cooking: salty, sweet, sour and bitter. A fifth flavor was recognized in the early 2000s called umami, which translates as “yummy” in Japanese. The umami is what Brulè has worked into every item on the menu.

“The fifth flavor is umami, and it’s that flavor that makes you say, ‘What is that?’” she said. “It’s a very specific way to find the umami, and it’s done extremely intentional.”

Brulè finds inspiration for her cooking through her travels, saying she blends in the “best flavors” from the different countries.

“It’s (creating recipes) primary based on memory,” she said. “It’s really rewarding to hear someone compliment the tastes because it’s your creation. Yes, it’s rewarding to see reviews, but it’s really rewarding to have a great team work with you. I’m in good company.”

The restaurant is at 500 S. Main St. For more information, call 704-230-1753.

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