When you enter the front door of Resident Culture Brewing Company’s new South End location, you immediately encounter the word “here” and an arrow in decades-old spray paint on the wall to the right. (Put what here?) The walls of the 102-year-old building were part of the appeal for the new owners when they found the space in 2020, after four years of searching. The 17,000 square feet of space didn’t hurt, either.
Amanda and Phillip McLamb and Chris Tropeano opened Resident Culture’s flagship location in Plaza Midwood in 2017 and quickly established a distinct reputation for its focus on hop-forward brews. But the team knew it would take more than just good beer and a standard taproom to make it in a city that’s churned out approximately 20 new breweries in the last five years.
So why set up in an old bus garage in South End, a district already jam-packed with places to eat; drink beer, cocktails, and coffee; listen to music; and gather? Resident Culture South End is banking on success in a crowded market by providing all those things in one space, anchored around something few taprooms can afford to offer: craft food. “People have so many choices,” Amanda says, “and if we’re going to have the honor of having somebody’s time, we want to do our best to take care of them every way we know how.”
Resident Culture South End is the first brick-and-mortar kitchen for Chef Hector Gonzalez, a Los Angeles native whose former Charlotte pop-up, Chilito, consistently sold out of 500-plus breakfast tacos in well under an hour. “One of the things we got asked often at our original location was, ‘How are we going to eat while we’re here?’” Amanda says.
After they met Gonzalez and indulged in his tacos at various events, the McLambs invited him to sell from their Plaza Midwood parking lot on weekends. When they launched plans for South End, they invited him to join them, and he says he had no reservations about accepting. “Amanda and Phillip and everyone at Resident Culture have inspired me to feel confident in what we as individual people add to our city’s flavor,” he says.
His new kitchen, El Toro Bruto, occupies the back of the main room and resembles a food-hall booth, with a small counter in front of a window into the kitchen. Customers can order from the table or counter. Served on plastic, oval plates in pastel hues, his expanded menu includes traditional All-Day Tacos; Tacos Brutos, with crispy griddled cheese, beans, and a choice of protein; quesadillas; and platters of loaded nachos. Protein options for each include carne asada, carnitas, lengua, barbacoa, al pastor, and nopales. (Pro tip: order something, anything, with the drool-inducing al pastor, which Gonzalez roasts on a vertical, rotating broiler with chunks of pineapple.)
His famed breakfast tacos aren’t on the menu yet, but Gonzalez says it won’t be long. “Given that we are all learning how to exist in this new space and neighborhood, we’re taking our time,” he says, “but we definitely won’t wait too long to wake up early and start cracking eggs.”
The building, at 332 W. Bland St., was leased by a pair of local bankers to a car, truck, and bus manufacturer named White Company, according to a 1923 Charlotte Observer article. White Company used the building until it moved to West Morehead Street in 1941, when the building was leased to Atlantic Greyhound Lines, which used it as a bus garage until around 1958.
When the McLambs and Tropeano first saw it in 2020, they were immediately struck by the building’s age, history, capacity, and overall feel. “It was the first place we walked into where all three of us looked at each other and said, ‘We can’t not be here,’” Amanda says. The team spent most of 2021 renovating the space as they worked to retain the building’s original brick walls, wooden beams, and expansive ceilings—tall enough to accommodate buses in a past life and, today, a suspended sculpture of a motorcycle-straddlin’ Skeletor-type creature, constructed from a real bison skeleton by artist Jeff Hamrick.
Staff artist Maryssa Pickett worked alongside Cluck Design Collaborative to design the space. A DJ booth sits atop a walk-in fridge behind the main bar, a disco ball hangs outside the bathrooms, and curtains made from gold and bright red chains hang throughout the space.
The brewery isn’t just for beer drinkers, either. The main bar serves draft cocktails as well. A coffee bar takes up the back left corner of the main floor, and it’s the only one in the Carolinas that exclusively serves Mostra Coffee, a roastery in San Diego that Roast magazine named “Roaster of the Year” in 2020.
The Resident Culture team expects to open the final addition this spring: a 6,800-square-foot space in the basement, rentable for live music and private events, or for Resident Culture’s own. “It’s perfect,” Amanda says with a laugh, “for the DJ battle of my dreams.”
Tess Allen is the associate editor.