Sunday, February 10, 2008

Barclay Cafeterias/Slug's **HALL OF FAME EATERIES**

J. W. "Slug" Claiborne

1962 ad 

1963 ad

Photo of the Barclay at Amity Gardens (photo courtesy of David at Groceteria)

Current photo of the old Amity Gardens location--soon to be demolished

1988 photo of the Barclay Cafeteria at the downtown Belk

Mid-'80's ad promoting both Slug's and the Barclay Cafeterias

Mid-70's ad for the Barclay Cafeterias

1988 ad congratulating Belk's on their 100th Anniversary

1995 photo of Belk-Southpark with the Barclay dining room visible above the Belk sign
(photo courtesy of Steve at Live Malls)

1971 interior photo of Slug's Rib

Another interior shot of Slug's Rib

1971 ad

1974 ad

1975 ad

1975 ad - love the "Howdy Hour"!

1975 Wachovia cartoon map showing Southpark Mall with Slug's Choice

1975 Wachovia cartoon map showing Independence Blvd and Slug's Rib

1975 ad

1976 photo of Slug's Tower Suite (note the floor-to-ceiling windows)

1978 menu for Slug's Rib

1978 menu for Slug's Choice

1979 ad for New Year's Eve

1980 photo of Slug's Oval Office Lounge at Southpark

Mid-'80's ad

Mid-'80's ad

Late-'80's ad

1987 photo of the front of Slug's University Place

Original matchbox (courtesy of Robert McEwen)

1987 photo of the water-side of Slug's University Place

J. W. "Slug" Claiborne was Charlotte's premier restaurateur for three decades from the 1960's through the 1980's. He operated several Slug's restaurants plus the Barclay Cafeterias. 

He opened the first Barclay Cafeteria on Independence Boulevard at the Amity Gardens shopping center at the beginning of 1961. This was followed by two Barclay Cafeterias (and a snack bar) at the Belk downtown location (in the basement and on the sixth floor- "the Gold Room") and a Barclay Cafeteria at Belk-Southpark on the third floor. The Amity Gardens location would last through February 1988, the downtown locations would close at the end of 1988, and the Southpark location would close in December 2000 due to Belk remodeling their store (in spite of much protesting from their loyal customers). 

In March of 1970, he added upscale dining to his restaurants when he opened Slug's Rib on Independence Boulevard (near Albemarle Road). Modeled after the famous Lawry's Prime Rib in California, Slug's Rib specialized in Prime Rib--it was the only entree offered ("When you do one thing, you do it well" Claiborne often said). The overwhelming success of this location would lead to expansion in the '70's to a location at Southpark Mall (Slug's Choice) and a downtown location at the top of the then Jefferson-First Union building (Slug's Tower Suite--later called Slug's 30th Edition). In the late-'80's he would also add a location to the UNCC area (Slug's University Place) as well as having expanded to other parts of NC. Slug's Rib and Slug's Choice would continue through the 1980's. Slug's 30th Edition and Slug's University Place were sold off in 1993 and the new owners changed the names of both in 1994. Also in the early '90's, Claiborne opened "Slugger's Grill and Bar" in downtown as an attempt to enter the casual lunch/dinner bistro family restaurant market. It offered lower prices and early-bird specials, but was short-lived. 

REVISIONS-- 8-2-08

1976 photo of the ornate entry doors to the downtown location

1976 photo of the Independence Blvd location

REVISIONS -- 8-9-2008

1986 ad

REVISIONS-- 3-25-09

These contributions below are all courtesy of Margaret DeStefani. Margaret worked for Slug Claiborne at both the downtown location as well as Slug's University Place. Much thanks to Margaret for providing access to her amazing collection!

From a wine promo at Slug's Prime Rib

Front and back of an apron from Slug's Prime Rib

Original Barclay Cafeteria plates!


  1. I never realized the Barclay Cafeteria at Belk SouthPark was only one of the Barclay/Slug's restaurants. I remember eating there at least twice in the '90s and being impressed that Belk still had a full restaurant when so many other stores didn't.

    Of course, right after I was bragging about how unique it was, it closed. I remember the protests well. I don't know how many people swore they would never come back to Belk. Then, of course, Morrison's closed too, so I don't know how steadfast the resolution was.

    It was doomed, I guess. If it wasn't enough that Belk's nicest women's clothes were right outside its rather aromatic door, the need for space for the now massive ladies shoe department was greater than the need for rice and gravy.

    Looking back, I also never realized it was operated by a private lessee until I tried to use my Belk card there and was told I couldn't. Apparently Slug was a massive success in Charlotte, as evidenced by the half dozen restaurants he started.

    Are there any cafeterias left in Charlotte other than K&W on Independence?

  2. I like the J & K in Pineville near Carolina Place.

  3. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the J&K close within the last year or so? Or did it just move out of Tower Place Festival?

  4. I love the Barclay cafeteria building that in the recent photo is boarded up and will be demolished. A true modernist gem worth saving.

  5. Pat, until they passed away in 1993, my grandparents ate at the Amity Gardens Barclay's every day. Yes, every day but holidays and when they were out of town! I don't know how long they had been going, but I remember my sister and I went once with them. The interior was just like the outside, 60s modernist that oddly felt cathedral-like.

  6. I worked for "Slug" Claiborne for 6 years in the late 70's and early '80's. I began at the Barclay in Southpark Belk's where I brought the food from the kitchen to the serving line.
    Over the next several years, I learned every position in the cafeteria, (and learned to cook very well - as long as it's for a party of 50 or more. I was the assistant manager for about a year at the Amity Gardens location. (Steph - your grandparents weren't the only regulars at Barclay's - both Southpark and Amity Gardens had many regulars whom we saw every day.)

    In July of 1981, I was sent across Independence Bld. to learn the ropes at Slug's Rib. I had been there only a few weeks when Slug called me up to his offices in the "Slug's Tower" (formerly Independence Tower) and told me I was moving to Myrtle Beach, where his entire management team had quit and started a new restaurant (Adam's Rib).
    The next 3 years were some of my most enjoyable years as Herb Schmidt and I were the assistant managers at the Myrtle Beach Slug's Rib. We watched as Slug opened his 2nd Beach location: Slug's Choice at the Beach. What a lot of fun we had! Herb's dad was the pastry chef at Slug's 30th Edition, and Herb ended up marrying one of the waitresses from the restaurants.

    In 1984, I moved back to Charlotte to be the manager of Barclay's Gold Room - the 6th floor cafeteria in the downtown Belk's. I was there for a year, before I relaized that 80 hour weeks were not the norm for most people outside the restaurant business.

    I still have fond memories of the Barclay Cafeterias & Slug's Restaurants. I learned much about life and work. Slug Claiborne and his "silent partner" Claude Chappelear were two of the finest men I've ever worked for. I am proud to have known them and worked with and for them.
    -Chris Hughes
    Arlington TX

  7. In the summer of 1975 I became an assistant manager at Slug's Rib.A few months later the general manager.At that time managers wore a tuxedo and jackets were required for the men dining there.During the week most customers were commercial and many were from out of town doing business in Charlotte.I recall giving telephone directions from the airport...."come north on I-85 to the Northwest Freeway southeast"...usually to be interrupted by ..what!This resolved itself when the Freeway was named Brookshire.
    . The restaurant seated 160 with 45 of those seats in the Camelot Room.The size of that room was perfect for a wedding rehersal dinner and most Friday evenings found one there.At this point I have a confession.When called with inquiry for such a function I would suggest 3:30 pm for a meeting to discuss our being chosen to do the event and arrangements.You see, at about that time the rare prime rib would complete it's 1st cooking step and would be removed from the oven.Soft rolls would have been just baked and be on counter cooling.The bell,indicating the potential banquet customer had entered the front door,the kitchen exhaust fan would be turned off,flour would be applied to my apron if not already present and I would greet the guest offering warm bread.Bookings frequently followed. I think the prime rib at Slug's remains the standard.I've recently retired fom 40 years in foodservice.In these years in this industry Slug Cliborne stands special.I can think of no instance where an owner-restaurant identity was so present.Slug,Charlotte personality,man about town,great restauranteur and boss.Thank's Slug, Matthew Mims

  8. I would like the recipe of Slug's creamed spinach!
    Can anyone help

  9. Linda Bosler (Stephenson) GermanyDecember 9, 2009 at 5:47 PM

    In the early 70´s my mother and I also worked for "Slug". I worked on weekends cleaning tables in my High School times while my mother was a hostess at the Choice. Then I started waiting on tables at the Rib and also at the Choice. It was a great time and I wouldn´t want to miss it for the world.
    I learned alot and its helped me through my working years. THANKS SLUG!!!!
    (ps. Hi Matt, I remember you)

  10. My lovely wife Wendy, her father Bernie and I were at Slug's Rib on Independence and Albemarle on the night that Nixon resigned. An incredible memory.

  11. My last family dinner vacation before my parents divorced in 1987 and a week after I met my now ex-husband of 22 yrs had wonderful time thank you Slugs.

  12. My mother, was employed, by Barclays Cafeteria, in Charlotte, from 1968-1070, it was her first job, after she and my father got a divorce in 1968, she had been a full time housewife, and mother, and it was her first official job outside of the house, my little brother was in Kindergarten, and she asked my older sister to babysit for us, while she was at work, at the cafeteria, she had to walk there, from Commonwealth Road, it was not far, but it was a big hill to walk, then, we moved, and she got a new job, as a waitress.

  13. Through the better part of the '70s, my mother worked in almost all of the Barclay's locations -- starting at Amity Gardens, then moving to the basement downtown, but being loaned upstairs or to South Park as they needed help ...

    For the better part of 30+ years, i have been trying to duplicate the German Chocolate pie that they featured around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and have yet to find a recipe that is even close. :-(

  14. I started working for Slugs Rib at the Beach 1978. We I first started Louis Edgar was the GM. My career began as a dishwasher, moved to the salad bar and then to a meat carver. Mr Edgar opened Adams Rib at which point he took most of the employees with him. Mr. J Karl Becker became our new GM. I decided to stay around with Slugs. Mr C always loved people of whom was dedicated to the company. The first NCAA basketball game I had the pleasure to attend was with Mr C. It was really nice to have a mentor like Mr C. I retired with the city of N.M.B. Police Department and went on to be Chief in A.B. I just wanted to sat thanks to the family for sharing such a wonderful man. I always think of the first time he called me his Black Son. He would often correct me when I would get in trouble at the Beach. Thanks Slugs Ribs ,Cagney,s, The Crab house, Chucks Steak House. Thanks to those great restaurants for giving so many of us a chance at the beach. Hi Mr Becker ,Herb , Chris, Debbie, Ricky , Mrs Margaret, John Henry, and the list goes on. Eric C .Lewis