Above two photos courtesy of David at Groceteria
1994 Hootie & The Blowfish music video
Another of Charlotte's famous institution restaurants has closed. After much speculation, the legendary Copal Grill on Wilkinson Blvd has closed its doors. There had been rumors for the last decade that the restaurant would be closed to make way for an airport entrance freeway, and now that rumor has come true.
The Copal Grill was opened in 1947 by Mike Hunter and Gene Gulledge. They ran the Copal until 1965 when they sold it to Kleomenis Balatsias (who passed away this past July) and Spero Kalevas. It would remain in the Balatsias family until its close.
The Copal Grill was initially geared towards truck drivers and people going to and from the nearby airport. Before I-85, Wilkinson Blvd served as the expressway that connected Charlotte to all points west of the city. The Copal Grill was basically a roadside diner serving everything from the traditional "meat-and-threes" (daily specials that came with a meat, two veggie sides, and bread) to their famous hand-cut steaks and chops. Their fried squash and turkey and dressing were signature items on their menu.
The Copal Grill was featured in a 1994 Hootie & The Blowfish music video (see above) and was also used as the primary location for a feature Hollywood film that is about to be released. With its classic diner interior and retro neon sign out front, it made for a great film location.
The closing of the Copal Grill adds to the growing list of Charlotte restaurants that have closed over the past few years (Anderson's, Athen's, Little Italy, Rheinland Haus). These restaurants all helped shape and build Charlotte as the city was growing and taking shape. Along with the other closed eateries, the Copal Grill will be missed.
June 1996-- Kleomenis Balatsias and Spiro Kalevas in the kitchen
3-25-09 The Copal Grill is reduced to rubble--
Video of today's demolition--