Venezuelan restaurant Los Chamos is opening soon in south Charlotte

Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

A new Venezuelan restaurant called Los Chamos is opening this month in south Charlotte.

“Chamos” is slang for “friends” in Spanish. And that’s what co-owners Carlos and Cristina Calzadilla want the restaurant to be—a place to go and hang out with your friends.

Why it matters: As Charlotte gets bigger and more diverse, so does the food. Spanish food has more to offer than tacos and guac. It also consists of arepas, cachapan, pabalon, pepitos and picana – all Venezuelan dishes you can find at Los Chamos.

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Pabalon — rice, carne machada (pulled steak), black beans, prepared the Venezuelan way. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

Flashback: Carlos immigrated to the United States from Caracas, Venezuela, 15 years ago when he was in his late teens. He grew up in the service industry, working for his father, who owned a Cuban restaurant in Pompano Beach, Florida. After three years in South Florida, he moved to Charlotte in his early twenties with his brother. “We got in the car and just drove north and landed in Charlotte,” he told me.

Once in Charlotte, Carlos stuck to the service industry, working everywhere from a bagel shop in the mall to Cantina 1511, where he met his wife, Christina, another service industry veteran.

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From left to right: Esteban Moncayo (Executive Chef), Michelle Mesa (GM), Carlos Calzadilla (Co-Owner), Cristina Calzadilla (Co-Owner). Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

What is happening: After taking a break from the service industry to start their own construction business, SunSouth Carolinas, the Calzadillas are returning to their roots — figuratively, and for Carlos, a little more literally.

“Whatever you do in life, as long as you put love into it, you’ll kill it,” he said.

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Pepito — a traditional street food sandwich from Venezuela with truffle fries on the side. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

The menu: Los Chamos will serve a combination of traditional Venezuelan dishes, popular Venezuelan street foods and some fusion dishes.

They appointed Esteban Moncayo, an Ecuadorian chef with experience in international cuisine, as their executive chef. “We want to make traditional Venezuelan dishes with international inspiration,” general manager Michel Mesa told me.

  • Yes, but: “The real traditional Venezuelan foods, we don’t mess with them. They will taste like what your grandma used to make,” Christina said.
  • For drinks, they’ll serve papillon con limón (sort of like sweet tea), chicha (a rice-based drink like horchata), tisana (like chunky fruit punch), and other juices like mango and guanabana. Los Chamos also has a full bar with local draft beers and Polar, which is a local Venezuelan beer.
  • They will also sell Venezuelan products and foods – such as cheeses, creams, tequeños and salsa – from the large freezers they have in the back. “If you like something, you can buy it packaged,” Carlos said.
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These refrigerators will contain grab-and-go food and traditional Venezuelan products. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

The atmosphere: “We want this to be a place where you can come in, drink and hang out with los chamos,” Carlos said.

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Pork Belly Arepa – Traditional Asian pork belly cooked in an arepa instead of pork buns. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

details: Los Chamos is located at 7001 South Blvd., a former Mexican restaurant called La Taqueria.

  • It will be open Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and from 8 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday. “But if you’re still enjoying your food, we’re not going to kick you out,” Mesa said.
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El patacoon — Like a burger with fried plantains instead of buns and steak instead of beef. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

What next: “I’d love to invite some guys to salsa, merengue,” Carlos said. They also hope to stay open later on weekdays in the future.

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Quesito (flan) with a sugar ball on top. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

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