Sunday, April 20, 2008

Barley & Rye/Ocho Cafe

1980 exterior shot

1990 interior shot

Looking towards the solarium from across the pond

1979 shot of the lounge

Looking from above in this 1988 photo

1981 ad

1984 ad

1985 ad

Original matchbook (courtesy of Robert McEwen)

1992 ad promoting the new patio at Hayden's

1994 interior photo of Ocho Cafe

The patio at Ocho Cafe

Working the bar at Ocho Cafe in 1994

Currently occupied by Bricktops

Few restaurants in Charlotte history have the notoriety as Barley & Rye. Located across the street from Southpark Mall, Barley & Rye opened on December 5, 1979 in the Specialty Shops on the Park. It introduced Charlotte to a new type of upscale restaurant. Rather than being stuffy and elitist, Barley & Rye was sophisticated while still retaining a relaxed atmosphere. The menu offered no fried items and featured over 24 varieties of fresh fish each day (unheard of at the time in Charlotte--more fish choices than any other city restaurant). The restaurant also was famous for its "seafood" salad bar which included oysters on the half shell, cold boiled shrimp, and crab and shrimp salad (as well as the usual salad bar fare). In addition to having a large wine cellar, Barley & Rye was also popular for its own house-blended Biltmore Estate Champagne. Barley & Rye had three differently, distinctive dining rooms. The main dining room, the "Tool Room" (which featured antique farm implements on the walls), and (most popular) the solarium room (which overlooked the small pond next door).

The Barley & Rye stayed in business until 1991 when it became Hayden's. Hayden's was a sister restaurant in the Barley & Rye company and featured a more casual, bistro-style fare (similar to Bennigan's). There were also Hayden's in Pineville and in Gastonia (a location planned for the UNCC area never materialized). Unfortunately, the food was terrible and within two years, Hayden's was history.

In 1993, Ocho Cafe, a Mexican restaurant, opened in the former Hayden's location. In a town dominated by average Mexican chain restaurants, Ocho Cafe was more upscale and featured some of the best Mexican fare Charlotte had ever seen (even through today). One of the signature focal-points of Ocho Cafe was homemade tortillas made at a tortilla-making station. Ocho Cafe would continue successfully for the next few years.

From the late-'90's through 2007 several restaurants would come and go in this location (several with a then-trendy Southwestern theme). All would fail due to high prices and poorly executed menus. Bricktops currently occupies the location and appears to be a return to form in the tradition of Barley & Rye.


  1. I miss Ocho Cafe. The Observer called the renovation of Specialty Shops on the Park the "next big thing" Today

  2. I miss it too, met my wife there!

  3. Ocho Cafe was a great place to work. I enjoyed my time there immensely.

  4. i too worked there and would like to try to find others for a reunion of sorts.
    sinatra69 @ hotmail . com

  5. ~I had the pleasure of working for Barley and Rye back in the early 90's. The design of the building is really gorgeous, given its location, it should be so much more than just a mere restaurant. Imagine Charlotte's own..."Garden Of Allah".....Jack Costanzo playing Harlem Nocturne, as in 1959. The structure undoubtedly has the potential of hosting a very elegant atmosphere.~

  6. Cino Grill followed Ocho Café and was one of the top five restaurants in Charlotte in popularity and revenue. Food execution was superb. It's demise came with a hasty and unwise expansion into Atlanta and Tampa, where the Charlotte store supported those two failures until it could do so no longer.