Food & Drink

Customshop Team to Bring Tapas Concept to Optimist Hall

New stall set to open in summer

Customshop chef-owner Andres Kaifer and managing partner Alex Bridges pose for a photo in a dining room
Customshop chef-owner Andres Kaifer and managing partner Alex Bridges will open a new stall at Optimist Hall. (Photo courtesy of Sprouthouse Agency)

The team behind beloved Charlotte restaurant Customshop is set to open a Spanish tapas concept in Optimist Hall, joining 26 neighboring tenants within the bustling food hall this summer. 

Opened in 2007, chef-owner Andres Kaifer and managing partner Alex Bridges took over the popular Elizabeth destination in 2022. The pair’s new concept will bring the rich flavors and culinary traditions of Spain to the table, offering a taste of the country’s beloved tapas dishes and a glimpse into Spanish recipes passed down through the Kaifer family over generations, according to a press release announcing the concept.

“‘Tapas’ has become a bit overused in American culture, so we’re taking everyone back to the basics over shared bites and a sacred time to socialize with friends,” Kaifer said in the press release. 

He added that a food hall appeared to be the perfect setting for the new concept. 

“Optimist Hall is a true melting pot, and we felt it would be the perfect location to invite folks to learn about and enjoy the flavors I grew up with, and proudly share my mother’s recipes that have been passed down over the years,” Kaifer said. 

According to the press release, patrons can expect a blend of traditional and modern Spanish tapas, or small plates, such as bocadillos (sandwiches), shareables like croquetas (ham & bechamel fritters), tortilla española (Spanish omelet), and patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy sauce), as well as desserts like Kaifer’s famous flan.  

In his April 2023 review of Customshop, food critic Timothy DePeugh described Kaifer’s croquettes as “golden, Golden Snitch-sized baubles, stuffed with fluffed potatoes that are mixed through with heady lashings of ham and a lush roasted garlic bechamel seasoned with flecks of provolone.

“They share a plate with an herb aioli whose white color has the effect of making the croquettes appear to float,” DePeugh continued. “It’s a simple albeit controversial choice of condiment, as it forgoes Duke’s in favor of the far superior Kewpie for its base.” 

Read more: Under New Ownership, Customshop Becomes a True Food Destination

To be clear, it’s possible that the new establishment’s croquetas may differ from what is described above, but it’s enough to intrigue any fan of tapas regardless. 

The new concept will be tucked between the Village Juice and Boxcar Betty stalls in Optimist Hall, where Velvet Taco had previously been located. The concept’s name, imagery and menus are still in the design process.

“At Optimist Hall, one of our main goals is to support Charlotte’s food and beverage industry by investing in local, entrepreneurial businesses that serve our city,” said Erik Johnson, a partner at Optimist Hall. “When we were presented with the opportunity to welcome the Customshop team — a beloved Charlotte staple that has withstood the test of time — to the hall, it was a no-brainer. We’re excited to see them flourish here.”  

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