When we heard the news that the Rusty Rudder was closing, we were definitely bummed. The lakefront restaurant was a quick boat ride from our dad’s house, and had just about anything our wind-blown, slightly-buzzed hearts desired. Burgers, fish tacos, fries, cheap beer, even Monte Cristos if you came by for brunch. We had a couple months to mourn our old friend while we waited to hear what would come next, and when we finally did, our spirits lifted.
Along with everyone else, we’re huge fans of Kindred. The food, the vibe, the service, and every other detail (if you haven’t, take a moment to review your receipt next visit). Every trip there has been not just a meal, but an experience. We were so thrilled to hear they’d be filling the void that the Rudder (as it was affectionately called), had left.
We couldn’t help but imagine the new restaurant just like our beloved Kindred, which we admit would have been a drastic contrast from the previous resident. After all, the Rudder was a spot where you could walk straight off the boat; freshly-sunburned, clothes splotched with lake water, and be in good company. You could grab a bucket of beer and listen to live music, all while noshing on some delicious fried foods. There was a reason the Rudder was popular.
As details started to come out, it was clear that Joe and Katy Kindred are not one-note. Paper menu placemats, plastic trays and those amber, pebbled plastic drink cups you’re accustomed to seeing in cafeterias are your first clue that this place isn’t a second location of Kindred. Hello, Sailor offers food and drink options that are more hip and unique than what the Rudder had to offer (pretty sure the Rudder never served poke with sea urchin or shrimp + duck gumbo), but they also offer a lot of the same types of fresh-off-the-wakeboard food and drink that bathing-suit-clad Rudder regulars will enjoy. The Carolina Shrimp Calabash Platter or the Skillet Burger could easily have been on the menu at the Rudder. And Miller High Life? They have that too. In 40 ounce bottles.
We have a monthly (minimum) lunch date with our dad, that has taken us all over Charlotte. Today it took us up to the lake, to reminisce about the Rudder and share what Kindred’s sister had to offer. Haley had come a few weeks prior, and Dad couldn’t wait either, and made a lunch visit on Saturday. Lucky for Carly, we were more than happy to return.
The vibe is very cool and unexpected; retro, laid-back and inviting. There’s still a little bit of a wait before we’ll get to experience the deck and tiki bar, but once warmer weather rolls around you can count us in for Aperol Spritzes and Cherry Lemon Sundrop Negroni Slushies.
We went for a family-style meal, as we often do, and ordered several things to share. We started by dipping Captain’s Wafers into a toasty bowl of crab and pimiento cheese.
The next thing to reach our table, was the Hamachi Poke. Haley had this during her last visit and said we had to taste it. Don’t let the sea urchin intimidate you; it is just one of the many layers of flavor and texture in this dish make it, in our opinion, Hello, Sailor’s best. The gentle crunch of the macadamia nuts with the crisp benne seeds are an unexpected and fantastic excursion from traditional poke dishes. Our waitress suggested giving it a quick little whip with a spoon before tasting, and she was right. Along with the poke, we had the Lobster Bisque. This is one of our favorite classics and Hello, Sailor’s take on it did not disappoint.
Hamachi Poke: benne seed, sea urchin, + macadamia nut
If you’ve see any pics from Hello, Sailor on Instagram, then you’ve definitely seen the next item we tasted, the Citrus Crab Louie. Probably their most photogenic dish, this salad includes fresh crab, egg, grapefruit, brown butter saltines, avocado and fennel. This salad is light, fresh and very flavorful; we can see it being a summertime lunch favorite. We’d venture to say it tastes as good as it looks on the ‘gram (#nofilter).
Citrus Crab Louie: crab, avocado, brown butter saltines, grapefruit, fennel, eggs
Then (finally) on to the main course. By this point we had realized our eyes were definitely too big for our stomachs, but there was no way we could miss out on the Chicago-ish Fried Bologna Sandwich. If you’re like us, fried bologna was a childhood favorite, making this grown-up version super nostalgic. Rather than the fried bologna sandwiches of our youth, with grocery store bologna between two pieces of fluffy white bread, this one has much more flavor, with a thick-cut slab of meat, sport pepper, celery salt, mustard and pickles on poppy seed bun. We chose Avocado Coleslaw and Beef Fat Fries for our side.
And for our grand finale, we had to make the tough decision between the Pear + Bourbon Hand Pie (with a side of soft serve ice cream, of course), or the German Chocolate Poke Cake. The Bests almost always choose the chocolate dessert, so this one was a bit of a no-brainer. If you’re looking at this photo and wondering where the heck the traditional coconut and pecan topping is, you are not alone. Once we dug in for the first bite, though, we found it; the coconut-pecan goodness is in the middle of the extra moist, almost brownie-like cake square. Approximately 60 seconds after the photo below, that plate was bare.
As we’ve said before, the Charlotte area is changing, y’all, and it’s not always a bad thing. Joe and Katy (don’t we wish we were on a first name basis with them) didn’t try to recreate Kindred at the lake; they came up with a bold, creative, unique concept that has been buzzed about on a local and national level before it even opened (in Eater, Food & Wine, etc.).
Yes, it is different. Yes, we made some great memories at the Rudder. And yes we miss it a little. But Hello, Sailor is a welcome, refreshing, friendly, accessible, not-at-all-pretentious, new concept for the Lake Norman area. If you don’t believe us, come back with the fam on a hot, sunny summer day, grab a 40 of Miller High Life and some Beef Fat French Fries, find a seat on the deck, and enjoy the view.