CHARLOTTE – You don’t have to drive all the way to Louisiana, or even out of the county, to get a taste of the bayou.
Popeyes just opened a new location on the border of Charlotte and Matthews, meaning jambalaya, shrimp po’boys and hand-battered bone-in chicken are closer than ever.
The restaurant, located at 1729 Sardis Road N., is owned by Emilio Busoli and Joseph Marin of Leblon Franchising Holdings LLC, a Popeye’s franchisee with exclusive development rights in areas of the Carolinas. This is their 11th Popeyes in the region.
“We know there’s huge traffic here on the road and we saw an opportunity to have a good restaurant in the community and there’s no chicken concept here,” Busoli said.
Sardis Road North runs from Sardis Road to Monroe Road to East Independence Boulevard and is home to a variety of fast-casual food chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Cook Out, Taco Bell, Steak ‘n Shake and Smoothie King. There’s also a Zaxby’s and Bojangles’ nearby that sell fried chicken, but according to Popeyes head of operations Raltacha Miller, they’re not the same.
For starters, she said, Popeyes chicken is never frozen. It’s marinated for at least 12 hours, then hand-battered and breaded right in the kitchen.
The menu includes po’boy sandwiches, “bonafide” chicken (bone-in) and tenders that come mild, spicy or blackened (batter-free and non-breaded), boneless wings and popcorn shrimp. Most orders come with a hot buttery biscuit and signature side like corn on the cob, red beans and rice, Cajun fries, green beans, jambalaya or mash potatoes with Cajun gravy.
Customers can dip their chicken or seafood in a variety of sauces that go beyond the typical ketchup and mustard. Popeyes has its own “Bayou Buffalo,” “Mardi Gras Mustard” “BoldBQ” and “Sweet Heat,” which is a sweet honey dipping sauce kicked up with Louisiana hot sauce, vinegar and a special blend of peppers.
“The thing about Louisiana is it’s a melting pot of different flavors, so we’re bringing that to Charlotte,” said Miller, who has been with the Popeyes brand for more than 20 years.
“It’s not really fast food,” Marin added. “It’s real food made quickly. It’s home cooking.”
There is only a handful of Popeyes in Mecklenburg and Union counties, but they’re spread out. For most Matthews and Mint Hill residents, the closest locations are on Albemarle Road in Charlotte and on East Independence Boulevard in Indian Trail.
Busoli and Marin said they want Popeyes to have a bigger presence in the community so it’s more convenient for customers to stop by.
“We don’t want people to have to drive far to find us,” Busoli said.
The building was originally a Burger King, but has been vacant ever since the fast-food chain closed a few years ago. Marin said crews kept the same footprint, but completely gutted the inside and refinished the façade over a 90-day period.
At roughly 3,000 square feet, Marin said it’s bigger than the average Popeyes and “greener,” too, thanks to all the LED lighting. The dining room seats 60 people and features a long community-style table in the center with outlets for laptops. There’s also free Wi-Fi throughout the restaurant.
Popeyes on Sardis Road North is open 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week and even offers delivery through apps like DoorDash and GrubHub. They don’t have a breakfast menu, but Marin said the chicken alone is enough to get people out of bed.
“We’ve seen it at our other restaurants,” he said. “People will be lining up at 10 a.m. to get their chicken.”