If you’re looking for a chic and stylish restaurant in North Carolina, have I got the PLACE for you! Just north of Charlotte you’ll find a special, little restaurant called Hello, Sailor. Brought to you by James Beard-nominated Chef Joe Kindred, Hello, Sailor is his second offering after his namesake restaurant in Davidson. If you’re willing to explore a bit and try something different, I can say that the trip to Cornelius, NC will be worth your while. Because Hello, Sailor is doing a lot of things, differently. And I mean that in a totally great and unique way.
Heading over to Hello, Sailor, you’ll pass through some quiet neighborhoods with residential and vacation housing. Signage leading you to Lake Norman and Hello, Sailor mark the way but part of you is wondering if you’re headed in the right direction. Finally, you reach a large paved lot with a small A-frame building in white at the end. The parking lot is filled up so I’m guessing I’m in the right place but it’s hard to tell! I head on over to the door and it looks quiet inside and I’m going to find out why, shortly. I pull open the door and the young hostesses up front greet me. I don’t have reservations so I’m solo-dining at the bar. As you walk through the dining room, you get an oddly, familiar feel but can’t quite place what’s going on. I’d describe the decor at Hello, Sailor as mod 70s, a bit retro but updated for 2021. Leather slingback chairs, white glass, globe lighting, and a chartreuse green fireplace stand out in the space. It feels like the OG Brady Bunch would feel right at home in Hello, Sailor!
There are retro wicker-back seats at the bar where I plunk myself in, comfortably. The bartender drops some Hello, Sailor menus off and covers the daily specials, it looks like there are some regulars sitting over here based on the chit-chat! On the Hello, Sailor menu, I spy the amazing “skillet burger” that’s also available at their sister restaurant, Kindred. I go with a hamachi (Pacific Yellowtail fish) crudo and Italian hot beef sandwich special with giardiniera. I grab a beer to keep me entertained before the meal arrives, Hello, Sailor has some beers on tap, wine and cocktails. Not a huge beverage menu but big enough!
My hamachi crudo shows up and I’m sort of confused. Most crudos that I’ve eaten have fish in a citrusy broth but this rendition is way different! Slices of radish, micro-greens, crushed macadamia nuts, I can’t even see the fish! But a fork-full shows off the fish at the bottom in a creamy sauce and speckled with toasted black rice. Each mouthful is a taste and texture sensation! Crunchy, soft, tangy, creamy and more. While the presentation and preparation of this Hello, Sailor crudo is unconventional to me, it works really well and is a stunner of a dish. My Hot Italian Beef sandwich shows up next and it’s a solid sandwich, dressed with pickled peppers, celery and more. The bun is soaked in gravy and you can order it even wetter if you’d like. While it’s a solid sandwich, it’s not quite memorable but the side of tallow beef fat fries are excellent. There’s some umami on the outside and a satisfying texture when you bite in.
While I’m enjoying my meal at Hello, Sailor, I scan the rest of the room. The main dining room is pretty empty with most of the crowd of business professionals and families out on the multi-deck patio. It’s a HUGE space when you include this outdoor seating and people are fully taking advantage of the great weather and view of Lake Norman. Service at Hello, Sailor is excellent, a mix of hipster young and experienced hands. They definitely know how to handle a crowd of diners here!
All in all I’m pretty impressed with Hello, Sailor. The decor is stellar, the food is excellent and the scenery is awesome. While it’s certainly not an every week option, prices are within reason and I could see myself coming here every couple of months if I lived in Charlotte. The restaurant is eclectic in its menu and dabbles a bit across menus but in a good way. And while I don’t think the food is yet at the level of the namesake restaurant Kindred, it’s still pretty durn good. Enjoy Hello, Sailor for what it is: a unique restaurant with an awesome lakeside view; great for dates, special occasions and business meals, enjoy!