By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Goodbye Stelia, hello Ethos. The southern bistro and martini bar will open Thursday in the former Stelia location, 118 N. Main St.
Louie Mourouzidis, owner of DJ’s on West Innes Street, bought Stelia last year, and manager Josh Wainright renamed it Ethos.
But you won’t find Greek or Italian food on the menu.
Chef Keith Henning has created a restaurant like no other in Salisbury, giving a creative twist to southern favorites and coming up with items like lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, crawfish mashtinis, chicken waffles and slow-cooked beef short ribs with a cherry moonshine reduction and manchego grits.
They call it “redneck chic.”
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Henning said.
Henning comes to the job with a serious pedigree, however. He’s executive chef at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, a job he’ll keep while working at Ethos on the side.
Wainright also has a full-time gig as the new marketing director for Piedmont Players Theatre.
Mourouzidis will keep DJ’s.
But the trio has spent months preparing Ethos. Mourouzidis made significant changes after buying Stelia, installing a gas line and complete kitchen. The hood vents out the roof of the three-story Washington building.
The renovations cost a pretty penny, but he’s not saying how much.
Open for lunch, dinner and the late-night crowd, Ethos will feature live music, a relaxed atmosphere and its own line of infused vodkas.
The three men met in the 1990s when Wainright and Henning were students at Catawba College. Henning, originally from Indiana, played basketball and baseball for the school.
Wainright worked at DJ’s for Mourouzidis. After college, Wainright moved to Myrtle Beach and became a successful talent agent, eventually buying a theater in Las Vegas.
Stung by the cut-throat entertainment industry, Wainright said he gave it up and wanted a fresh start. A self-proclaimed “military brat,” he moved to the only city where he’d lived for more than a few years — Salisbury.
He stopped in DJ’s to see Mourouzidis and the two began planning a new restaurant. Stelia came available a few weeks later, and Wainright thought the location had “tons of potential.”
“You don’t feel like you’re in Salisbury when you’re in here,” he said.
Mourouzidis has owned DJ’s for 17 years and opened Club Zidis in 2002 on South Main Street. The nightclub changed hands several times and eventually closed.
Mourouzidis said he’s been looking for a downtown opportunity and has enough confidence in Ethos that he’s considering buying the vacant space next door to expand the dining room.
“The location is really good and fits what we’re trying to do here,” he said.
When they needed a chef, Wainright thought of Henning.
Wainright proposed Ethos as a tapas restaurant, but Henning steered clear.
“Tapas is 1990s,” he said. “Southern food is becoming the big trend.”
Henning built the menu around southern staples like okra, potatoes and seafood, with sauces incorporating southern flavors like honey, moonshine and muscadine wine. As much as possible, Henning said he plans to use local produce in the kitchen.
Wainright came up with the name “Ethos,” a Greek word he studied as a Catawba freshman meaning “character.” He plans to donate a portion of daily proceeds to various local charities and wants Ethos to play a role in the community.
The trio has a good time together, and Wainright keeps the jokes coming, often at the expense of Mourouzidis, who smiles and shakes his head.
“We don’t want to be pretentious,” Henning said. “I want a place where I can bring my 31/2-year-old daughter.”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.
Ethos Southern Bistro &
Where:?118 N. Main St.
When: Opening mid-May
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to midnight Monday through Friday. 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday. Closed Sunday.
Theme: Redneck chic
Featuring: Live music, open mic night, possible delivery
Menu: Modern twist on southern cuisine
Sandwiches and burgers (with sweet potato chips, rosemary fries or pasta salad) $6-8
Sandwiches and burgers $7-8
Seasonal entrees $14-22
Single shot oyster $1.75
Menu sneak peek
Sweet potato tots with julienned Granny Smith apples and arbol honey with yogurt dip
Memphis peanut butter and honey with banana slices and applewood smoked bacon on brioche
Braised lambshank with brown sugar balsamic reduction, brussel sprouts and quinoa
Slow-cooked beef short ribs with cherry moonshine reduction, manchego grits and braised kale
Chicken waffles with savory pecan cornmeal waffles and cranberry maple butter
Mashtinis — appetizers served in a martini glass. Mashed Yukon Gold potatoes topped with surprises like fried crawfish and applewood smoked bacon
Regional beers and wines