A bar decorated with hundreds of pennies curves out of the wall on one end of the freshly renovated Charolais Steakhouse.
Where carpet once covered the floors of the iconic Hickory restaurant, dark wood flooring brings a modern feel. New wood tables and updated booths replaced the furniture. The salad, cheese and soup bar is in a new location.
But some things remain. Wooden beams still run along the ceiling from one end to the other. The original stained glass windows still color light as it shines in. And the brass hood still towers above the grill.
Zack and Tucker Cranford, the brothers who bought Charolais last summer, tried to keep as much of the original Charolais alive as they could while adding their own touches and bringing the decades-old restaurant to life.
“We wanted to keep the things that made the Charolais the Charolais,” Zack Cranford said.
After four months of renovation, at a cost of more than $500,000, Charolais reopened in November. They’ve been nearly fully booked every night since, Zack Cranford said.
Taking on ownership and overhaul of the restaurant where hundreds have made special memories over the years was an opportunity that fell into the Cranford brothers’ laps, he said. The pair also own three Granny’s Country Kitchen restaurants, Standard Oyster Company and Seventeen Twelve Spirits. When Zack Cranford met the son of the Charolais owners and learned they were looking to retire, he moved quickly.
Revamping and running a business with an already rich history in the area and a loyal following wasn’t always an easy path, Zack Cranford said.
“It presents a challenge,” he said. “Folks liked the place and they like what they know. So we tried to keep as much of it as we could.”
The new restaurant has gotten good reviews from longtime customers and new ones too, Tucker Cranford said.
“We’ve had folks who’ve said they haven’t been here since prom in the ’80s,” he said.
Tucker Cranford himself has a special connection — he took his now-wife to dinner at Charolais before prom there in high school.
The brothers also grew up eating at Charolais with their family, he said.
The brothers kept the restaurant’s history in mind while renovating the restaurant, but they made changes that would help the restaurant live on another 50 years, Zack Cranford said.
The bathrooms were updated, a wine cellar was added, there’s all new equipment in the kitchen and they added a bar. People can enjoy a craft cocktail or a meal at the bar. “Modern consumers want this,” Zack Cranford said.
At the bar, patrons sit in high-top seats with backs of cowhide to match wall hangings. Charolais was the first place to get a liquor-by-the-drink permit in Hickory, so the original permit will be framed and hung behind the bar, Zack Cranford said.
The main part of the Charolais menu — the steak — has stayed mostly the same, he said. They’ve added more seafood options, like crab cakes, grilled shrimp, salmon and lobster tail.
The menu also has new appetizers like calamari, shrimp cocktail and a fried green tomato caprese salad.
While the Charolais is under new owners, Zack Cranford wants people to know one thing: “The Charolais is not gone. We just want to bring some life to it.”