Paul Bell and his wife, Meredith, purchased Lebowski’s Neighborhood Grill in late 2019 — right before the COVID-19 pandemic all but brought Charlotte’s food scene to a halt.
“We really timed that well, didn’t we?” Bell joked.
Now, Lebowski’s has recently finished renovations intended to launch the Dilworth restaurant into a new season. “We want to be less dive bar and more family friendly,” Bell told CharlotteFive. Newcomers and regulars alike will find a clean aesthetic with new furniture, increased natural lighting and a permanent roof over the restaurant’s patio.
A new 8-foot neon sign manufactured by Charlotte artist Deb Slatkin of Neonworks draws the attention of pedestrians and motorists heading up East Boulevard.
“As Dilworth grows, we want to be the go-to restaurant and bar for families,” Bell said. A refreshed kitchen, new menu items (alongside longtime favorites) and a fully stocked bar ought to help keep Lebowski’s a neighborhood staple.
Maintaining Buffalo roots
Lebowski’s original owner is a Buffalo, New York, native, and traces of his beloved hometown have permeated the restaurant since it opened in 2009. Local members of the Bills Mafia pack the restaurant on NFL Sundays to watch their favorite team play. “We do giveaways, serve Labatt Blue Light and listen to them sing the fight song,” Bell said.
A number of Buffalo dishes pepper the menu, as well — a beef on ‘weck sandwich, haddock fish and chips, and of course — Buffalo wings. “Our wings are tossed in special seasoning before they’re parbaked and then fried,” Bell said. “The special seasoning gives them a distinct taste.” Among the most popular wing sauces are gold rush, stinger (sweet and sour) and Buffalo.
“I come for the Buffalo wings, the friendly staff and the atmosphere,” longtime customer Steve Godwin told CharlotteFive. “I come for the comfort food — it’s good,” regular Ernest Berry said. “I get the beef on ‘weck, the grilled chicken sandwich and bowls. And I get wings for my tailgate.”
The original owner is also part of the cult following of the 1998 film “The Big Lebowski,” hence the restaurant’s name. The film’s main character, Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, drank White Russians — and naturally, Lebowski’s has seven varieties on the menu. Filming took place in Venice Beach — bright artwork showcasing the beach town adorn the restaurant’s walls. Amidst the exciting changes at the restaurant, the original spirit of a relaxed gathering place remains.
New menu items
Building on the success of Lebowski’s, Bell and his daughter, Sarah Farber, have worked to add new menu items. “The fried egg avocado BLT with aioli has been a big hit,” Farber said. “We’ve also added bowls, tacos, salmon and shrimp.”
Bell and Farber are particularly proud of Lebowski’s bar; they credit bartender Monique Machado with much of its success.
“We make our purees in-house and fresh squeeze our lemon, lime and orange juices,” Machado told CharlotteFive. Craft cocktails include Ranch Water, Freedom Park Paloma, Dilworth Mule, Smokey’s Old Fashioned and Donny’s Dark ‘n Stormy.
With 14 beers on tap, a large selection of bottled beer and a dozen wines, those wanting a drink other than a cocktail have a wide variety to choose from. “We’ve also added an espresso martini that we’re really proud of alongside our new Southtown Whisky Lemonade,” Farber said.
Whether you’re looking for a business lunch spot or a place to watch weekend football — Lebowski’s opens you with arms wide open. And the friendly waitstaff — much like The Dude — abides.
Location: 1524 East Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203
Cuisine: American, Buffalo/Western New York
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.