“They came here for their first date, and they’re bringing grandkids with them,” said Christina Kokenes, a restaurant owner and daughter of the founder.
CHARLOTTE, NC – Charlotte is a multicultural city, full of different types of restaurants, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that pizza made its debut in Queen City.
Open Kitchen has been in the Charlotte area since 1952. This family-run restaurant is on the west side of Charlotte, a few blocks from Bank of America Stadium, and specializes in Italian, Greek, and American fare.
Two brothers, Steve and Speros Kokenes, wanted to turn an abandoned gas station into a burger restaurant, and that’s exactly what they did in the beginning. Over time, the menu has expanded to include Italian cuisine. who brought Charlotte her first pizza.
“Nobody knew what pizza was,” said restaurant owner and daughter of founder Steve Kokenes, Christina Kokenes. “It was something new in the south.”
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From the photos hanging on the wall of who ate there, to its staff and how long they worked at the restaurant, there’s a lot of history surrounding Open Kitchen.
Christina Kokenes still remembers the most famous person to dine there: Pat Boone. The photo of the famous pop singer and actor still hangs on the wall.
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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the service industry, Open Kitchen may feel like one of the last family restaurants in Charlotte.
Open Kitchen customers have said good food keeps them coming back.
Many of them have so many good memories there.
“They came here for their first date and they’re bringing grandkids with them,” Christina Kokenes said. “And now the grandkids are driving, bringing the grandparents here.”
It is a tradition that locals hope will be part of the city for a long time.