Barefooters Neighborhood Grille moves into town

by Tori Hamby

Co-owners Shawn Hudson (left) and Michael Ivester Jr. (right) put the finishing touches on the walls of Barefooters Neighborhood Grille, which opened at the beginning of the month. (Tori Hamby/MIM photo)

Longtime Mountain Island and Coulwood residents might remember back to the 1970s when the building at 8470 Belhaven Blvd. used to house Mom and Pop’s Restaurants, one of the few places around to grab a bite to eat.
Now, after a 12-year stint as El Valle Mexican Restaurant and sitting empty for several years, the site will be called home to a new local restaurant, Barefooters Neighborhood Grille.
“This building has a lot of history because at that time, the 70s and 80s, this was the only restaurant around here,” said co-owner Michael Ivester, Jr. “The older people, they would stop by here all the time to ask ‘when are you going to open?’”
Ivester came up with the idea for Barefooters Grille after Carolina Catering, a small catering service he owned with a friend, failed to take off earlier this year. The Belhaven Boulevard building the company leased was already equipped with a kitchen and had ample space for a dining room. A food service veteran, Ivester had previously operated two Lake Norman-area restaurants and felt that he could bring his industry know-how back to his own neighborhood with the help of his fiancée Meera Jadeja, business partner Shawn Hudson and his wife, Melissa.
Although Ivester and Jadeja, avid Food Network fans and food connoisseurs, had casually bandied about plans to open a restaurant, the couple said they felt the circumstances provided the perfect opportunity to make their plans a reality. A couple months later Ivester enlisted the help of Hudson, the father of one of the youth baseball players he coaches, and Barefooters Neighborhood Grille was born.
“I remember coming here when I was growing up for sports banquets and other events, and it’s just nice to open up a restaurant at a place that holds a lot of memories for many people,” said Ivester, who also owns and operates his family dry walling business, Ivester Drywall and Painting, Inc.
Ivester and Hudson said their goal is to create a fun, family atmosphere with a wide variety of menu offerings. A sampling of which include a salad and soup bar, a smokehouse section that features barbeque, beer can rotisserie chicken, brisket and smoked sausage, flatbread pizzas and soft serve ice cream.
“We have a Southern Pride Smoker,” Ivester said. “It’s a real big smoker that will cook a lot of meat at one time.”
Prices will range anywhere from $5 to $18 combo-style meals, Jadeja said. A couple weeks after opening the restaurant. The staff plans to offer specials, such as Fish Fry Friday, which will include a variety of fish camp style menu options.
“Basically we’re Barefooters Neighborhood Grill and the word ‘neighborhood’ kind of encompasses all the different options we have,” Jadeja said. “We have something for everybody.”
The restaurant opened quietly at the beginning of the month, but the management team plans to hold a grand opening Sept. 9. In late August, Ivester and Hudson spent the final days before opening putting finishing touches on the restaurant walls, which included retro signs and surfboards to go along with the grille’s laid-back, beach vibe and a surfboard shaped salad bar.
For more information, call the restaurant at 704-391-3368 or visit the restaurant’s Facebook page by searching for Barefooters Neighborhood Grille. Jadeja said the restaurant’s website,, should go online shortly before or after the Sept. 9 grand opening.

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