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The Artisan’s Palate Endures Despite Suspected Anti-LGBTQ+ Targeting

A picture of a cracked front door at The Artisan's Palate
What Christa Csoka saw upon her arrival to The Artisan’s Palate on May 20. (Photo courtesy of Christa Csoka)

When Christa Csoka showed up to her East 36th Street restaurant, The Artisan’s Palate, on the morning of May 20, it didn’t take long for her to realize that it was not going to be a regular day. The bottom half of her front door had been partially broken, spider cracks extending from what appeared to be a mallet strike. 

The door, recently reinforced with stronger glass thanks to a previous attempted break-in, appeared to have held back the would-be intruder. Upon entering, however, Csoka saw that the back patio door had not been as successful. The suspect had shattered the windows on the sliding glass door and entered the business, shattering full liquor bottles across the floor inside. 

Though not confirmed, the reason for the attack wasn’t hard to ascertain; The Artisan’s Palate was set to host one of its charitable drag brunches that day. Beloved by many and castigated publicly by right-wing critics, Artisan’s Palate’s drag brunches had raised $64,000 for local charities up to that point. That day’s event was set to benefit Carolina Breast Friends, an organization with a special place in Csoka’s heart, as her mother had battled breast cancer. 

“Showing up to the restaurant that morning and seeing the damage was devastating,” Csoka told Queen City Nerve. “There were many tears shed, but we weren’t going to let broken glass and broken bottles stop the show. Our team worked together to clean everything up, and we hosted one of our best drag brunches to date.” 

Broken glass from a window
The back patio door where entry was gained. (Photo courtesy of Christa Csoka)

Csoka took to social media to let people know what had happened with a post that showed her resilient sense of humor in the face of hatred. 

“‘Twas the night before drag brunch, and all through the Palate, not a creature was stirring…. but some dude with a mallet,” she wrote. “Seriously though, people suck sometimes. This isn’t the first time this has happened and is pretty disheartening. With all we do to support our community, local artists, musicians, and queer and women’s organizations, it would be amazing to feel some community support headed back our way. We’re about as small as small businesses get and hits like this can hit HARD. We’re not going anywhere, but could use a little love sent our way.” 

Csoka was able to replace the damaged windows, thanks in part to a GoFundMe setup by friend Marissa Barrett that raised $3,310. Messages of support poured in through social media channels. 

“The NoDa and Charlotte communities showed up for us in a way we couldn’t imagine,” Csoka told Queen City Nerve weeks later. “Not only did we raise thousands of dollars for charity, Carolina Breast Friends, we also received donations that helped us fix and replace everything broken.”

The Artisan’s Palate mission

Csoka opened The Artisan’s Palate, a hybrid art gallery and restaurant situated at the southern end of East 36th Street, in July 2019. She had scouted a handful of locations around the city before landing on the one-time laundromat that would become The Artisan’s Palate.

Inspired by all the time she spent in NoDa during the early aughts, in the days of the popular gallery crawls, her later idea for a hybrid gallery and restaurant came from a desire to provide a comfortable space where guests can enjoy well-crafted food and cocktails while supporting a talented local art community.

A full dining room inside The Artisan's Palate with a garage door providing natural light.
The Artisan’s Palate on East 36th Street. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

She also centers women and femmes in every position at her restaurant, having come up experiencing sexism at all stages of the food industry.

The staff at The Artisan’s Palate operates like a big family, each one wanting to see the other succeed. They’ve endured the strife of the pandemic, pivoting to adjust to the abrupt changes that happened less than a year after opening.

They’d just hit a stride when COVID-19 hit and had to start over. A patio was built out front, tables were moved into the gallery space to provide more space for social distancing. Music was performed through an open garage door. Csoka says the restaurant’s survival shows the power of women.

Then in 2022, a video of a baby handing cash to a drag queen at one of her renowned brunch events at Artisan’s Palate went viral among right-wing circles on social media, leading to threats against the business and Csoka. She stood behind her staff and patrons proudly. 

The vandalism of her store on May 20 has only strengthened Csoka’s resolve in that regard. 

“Creating opportunities for artists and performers to be seen and heard in a safe and welcoming place is a priority of ours,” she told Queen City Nerve. “Our next drag brunch is June 24, and we’re raising money for the Twirl to the World Foundation. We will have two seatings, and our theme is Born This Way. We’ve raised over $64,000 for charity since 2021 and don’t plan to stop anytime soon.”

Learn more: Charlotte Drag Queens and Kings Taking the Scene by Storm

As for how folks can continue to support the restaurant now that all the glass is cleaned up, the answer is simple: patronize it. 

There are plenty of reasons to stop by, even for longtime fans who think they’ve tried everything on the menu. On June 6, The Artisan’s Palate launched its first lunch menu, served from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday. The restaurant serves brunch on Sundays and is closed on Monday. 

The grilled cheese at The Artisan's Palate looking very melty and stringy
The grilled cheese at The Artisan’s Palate. (Photo by @cltfoodgirl)

The new lunch menu includes a grilled cheese sandwich that goes great with the tomato basil soup and an Argentinian choripan, a sausage sandwich with chimichurri, among other items. Full cocktail and wine menus are also available during lunch, and bar bites will be served from 2:30-5 p.m. to bridge the gap to dinner. 

The art gallery also celebrated the opening of its monthly art exhibit on June 3, showcasing the work of local artist Amanda McNeill. 

Stop by and show love at a time when love is needed over everything. 

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