The “Best Beer Bar in the U.S.” is in NoDa, and it’s owned by a Dominican woman. As soon as you walk into Salud Cerveceria, you can feel the blend of styles of its owners: Dominican-raised Dairelyn and Charlotte-native Jason Glunt.
Dairelyn knows it’s not your typical brewery. And it’s not your typical restaurant. It’s not really your typical anything. Salud offers coffee, wine, pastries, and food from their kitchen. It has an outdoor patio, an indoor lounging area, a bottle shop, and a dance floor. And in this city of IPAs, Salud’s for years been a leader in making sours.
- Why it matters: Salud is a welcoming space for everyone, especially Latinos, who are the fastest-growing ethnic population in Mecklenburg County, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Data: Brookings Institution; Map: Thomas Oide/Axios
Flashback: Dairelyn moved to Statesville in 2000 from Santiago, Dominican Republic. At the time, she tells me, people were less than welcoming. It was a time when less than 5% of North Carolinians were Hispanic.
- At 13, she learned English in a single year, in order to combat bullying and racism.
Not much changed eight years later when she moved to Charlotte with her Jason, she says she didn’t know many Dominicans back then either.
- Now, the city is booming with people from different Hispanic cultures.
By the numbers: In the last decade, the Latino population in Mecklenburg County grew by 52%.
- The Black population grew by about 20%.
- The white population grew about 7%.
The big picture: Charlotte is becoming more diverse; you can see it in the numbers. Salud mirrors that diversity; it creates a melting pot of Charlotte’s many personalities. Dairelyn says she wants people to feel “comfortable.” And they do.
It’s not uncommon for the Glunts to welcome someone in the morning for coffee, and spot them several hours later having a beer, barely having moved an inch.
- At any given time, you can spot a buttoned-up businessperson typing away at their computer, next to a beer nerd, sitting across from a PBR-loving hipster, in the same space as a family enjoying a meal with their children.
Part of the reason why people feel so at home here is the food. “It’s not just bar food,” assures Dairelyn. They have a wood-fired oven that pops out top-tier Neapolitan style pizzas, and everything, including the sauce, is 100% made in-house.
- Dairelyn grew up picking fresh fruit from her trees in her family’s backyard in the D.R., and using those fresh ingredients in her grandma’s kitchen.
- “I love chinola (passion fruit), tamarindo (tamarind), and mangoes,” she says. “I want to show people what those flavors are and hopefully they’ll know more about our culture.”
Dancing is a vital part of Hispanic culture. Once a month, Salud hosts a Latin night, with a Dominican DJ, and free dance classes from Movimiento Dance Academy. It’s something Dairelyn says she thought Charlotte would never have — a physical space that’s welcoming for Latinos.
What’s next: The Glunts currently operate out of their NoDa location but brew at Heist. Dairelyn says they’re looking for a place where they can grow, so eventually, they can brew and sell all in one place.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated Wednesday, Sept. 15 through Friday, Oct. 15. You can support Charlotte’s Hispanic community by checking out some of these restaurants owned by Hispanics and Latinos.