Bob and Karen Smoots - 1984
1985 ad for the side catering business
Eli's on East opened at 311 East Blvd in August of 1981 by owners Bob and Karen Smoots. Bob Smoots had worked through the late '60's and early '70's as director of food service for the Stuckey's Restaurant chain and spent the latter part of the '70's as a partner of Saucy Crepe restaurants (which had two popular locations in Charlotte) before he and his wife opened Eli's.
Located in a two-story house built in 1910, the restaurant had kept the original fireplaces, moldings, and beveled glass on the front mirror and flooring. The restaurant had three separate and intimate dining rooms, an attractive Casablanca-type bar, and a glassed-in-lattice-work porch with hanging ferns. Eli's Southern gourmet menu was famous for their Sunday brunches (an oddity in Charlotte during the '80's), steak au poivre, Cobb salads, and especially their homemade peanut butter pie.
The Smoots would own Eli's until May 1986 when they sold to Stuart Smith (who also owned Barley & Rye at the time). Eli's would eventually close in 1990.
The classic turn-of-the-century house has been to home to several restaurants since then - Rumpleman's (1991-94), Castaldi's (opened March 1994), Zanzibar Hardwood Grille (opened Aug 28, 2000), Vittorio's (opened Fall 2001), Giovanni's (opened 2003) and currently, Copper (opened June 2005).
On a side note, the house has been reported as being haunted by several spirits. Novelist Carson McCullers lived there in the late-30's and it was a boarding house for decades. WBTV ran a special on the hauntings at the house in the late-90's. Though no spirits were seen or heard on the special, restaurant workers have reported odd happenings and noises at the house for decades.