Share a meal, and share a story at uptown’s new global-inspired restaurant.
by Ebony L. Morman | photographs courtesy The Plaid Penguin
One of restaurateur Jill Marcus’ favorite pastimes is meeting people, going into their homes and allowing them to tell their stories. This storytelling process allows Marcus to learn about a person or group’s cultural history — what they grow, why they eat the way they do and what makes them proud.
Marcus’ latest concept, Mariposa (Spanish for “butterfly”), recently opened adjacent to Mint Museum Uptown in the space previously occupied by Halcyon. Inspired by North African and Mediterranean mezze, Mariposa serves a plethora of shareable dishes with the goal of having guests dine together, share food and tell stories.
“It’s a conglomeration of my travels,” Marcus says. “A great way to meet people and understand cultures is by their food.”
Executive chef Jonathan Moore brings a world-to-table experience with a menu of small, flavorful dishes like Elote Corn Fritters — sweet corn, serrano, cotija, crema, smoked paprika and cilantro — and Salmon Rillettes — melted shallots, dill, crème fraîche, fleur de sel, herbes de Provence, whole-grain mustard, cornichons and toasted baguette. Joining Chef Moore is Brad Grubb, the restaurant’s Level 3 sommelier and general manager, and pastry chef Sam Carrasquero-Chappelle.
While guests have raved about the Gullah Paella — crisped Carolina gold rice pilaf, andouille, chorizo, gulf shrimp, fresh daily catch, oysters, sofrito and saffron — Marcus says one of her favorite dishes is the Mariposa Mezze Board, a generous, shareable platter of tzatziki, hummus, olives, roasted eggplant and more served with roasted za’atar flatbread. The dish represents Marcus’ travel experiences and highlights flavors and ingredients unique to the Middle East. “I like dishes that tell a story,” she says.
As the owner of The Mother Earth Group, which also includes the Something Classic catering business along with Dilworth plant-based restaurant Fern, Flavors from the Garden, Marcus is passionate about the Charlotte community. Through a partnership with Sam Fleming of the nonprofit 100 Gardens, Mariposa gets its lettuce from the student-led aquaponics project at the Innovation Barn, an incubator for sustainable startups. Marcus’ hope is to create a circular economy between 100 Gardens, The Mother Earth Group and Mariposa.
The restaurant’s innovative design and aesthetic also has a local connection. After consulting with The Mint Museum executives to hear their thoughts about the restaurant’s design, Marcus reached out to Owl, a local mural artist. Owl’s artwork adorning the walls and columns at Mariposa provides a modern feel and inspired the decor, from the black, white and grey color palette to the creative mix of seating options that includes traditional bar and dining chairs along with couches that make guests feel like they are at home.
“It was really fun designing the restaurant, working with artists and doing the decor,” Marcus says. “I think it will, hopefully, jump-start people coming back to Uptown.”
Marcus’ next project is Coquette, a French fast-casual restaurant inspired by France and its romance — think 1910 Paris, she says. Coquette, which is slated to open February 2022, will feature duck-fat fried chicken, pastries, oysters and all things fun and French. SP
Mariposa is open for dinner Tues.-Sat. from 5-10 p.m. Lunch and brunch service will be added at a later date. 500 S. Tryon St., mariposaclt.com