A Colombian tapas restaurant called Muraya opens in South End on Friday, Sept. 15, in the former Hot Taco spot.
The restaurant, bar and lounge has an old-fashioned flair reminiscent of Cartagena, Colombia, combined with modern touches like the Latin-House music bumping through the speakers.
Why it matters: Co-owner Manny Pérez Ochoa, who immigrated to Charlotte from Cuba in 2015, also co-owns one of Charlotte’s best restaurants — El Puro Cuban Restaurant in Madison Park. Now, he’s embarking on a new culinary journey with his wife, Carolina Maury, who was born in Barranquilla, Colombia.
“It’s going to feel different than anything in South End right now,” Pérez Ochoa said. “I want people to feel the magic and warmth of visiting la Ciudad Amurallada de Cartagena,” Maury added.
- To accomplish this, the owners brought in Colombian chef Mariana Arango from Barranquilla.
The menu: Expect Colombian dishes with a twist. “We’re going to use Colombian flavors and ingredients to make the recipes a bit more elevated,” Arango said.
- Muraya’s menu won’t have a bandeja paisa, for example, but it will have what Arango calls a “bowl paisa,” which is her take on the traditional Colombian dish. Instead of a large platter with rice, beans, sausage and egg, the bowl paisa will have pork rinds (AKA chicharrón), rice with mandarin aioli, refried beans and topped with quail egg.
“You’re not going to find your typical Colombian food [here] because there are already places in Charlotte that serve those authentic dishes,” Maury said.
- Other notable menu items include steak tartar on arepas, mini sliders, croquetas, tuna tartar served on patacones (AKA tostones or fried plantains) and ceviche.
- There will also be vegetarian dishes like homemade butternut squash ravioli and a grilled carrot dish made with cinnamon, pistachios and cashews.
The intrigue: There are some ingredients for Colombian dishes and cocktails that you just can’t get in North Carolina. Aguardiente, for example, is Colombia’s national spirit, but Pérez Ochoa says he can’t get permission to bring it here from the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control System.
- “I found a way to make a drink that tastes like aguardiente by mixing rum with anise syrup,” he said.” So I can’t sell you aguardiente but I can make you a cocktail that tastes exactly like it.”
The space: The 5,500-square-foot space fits nearly 200 people inside. It also has outdoor seating.
- Inside, the restaurant is divided in two by velvet ropes — a cocktail lounge side with couches and a huge bar as its centerpiece, and a separate sit-down restaurant-style side.
What we’re watching: In 2020 Cousins Properties acquired the 3.4-acre property on the rail trail that includes Slate, Oak Room, All American Pub and what will now be Muraya, Axios’ Katie Peralta Soloff reported.
- The project is still in its planning stages but will eventually hold a 600,000-700,000 square-foot mixed-use development.
- “The space is temporary but the concept will move,” Maury said. “We hope to be here at least three years,” Pérez Ochoa added.
Details: Muraya is located at 200 E. Bland St., right off the light rail in South End.
- To start, it’ll be open for dinner 4-11pm Monday-Thursday and until 2am on the weekends.
What’s next: Eventually, they hope to extend their hours and menu for lunch and brunch.
Take a look inside:
Editor’s note: This interview was conducted in Spanish and quotes have been translated and edited for brevity.