Joe Douglas appears too laid back to be so obsessive over his restaurant.

He frowns at his ice tea. There is not enough ice and it is too full.

“Watch this,” he said as he stirred it and liquid streams down the side of the glass. “There needs to be an inch of room at the top so the customer can stir it without making a mess.”  

This is one of the many reasons that 131 Main remains a top choice for dining; the service and food are under constant quality control. Teachable moments abound even regarding food that looks and tastes amazing. His obsession translates into the perfect dining experience.

“Might be time for another training,” said Douglas as he takes a sip of the tea.

In 2004 Douglas was developing a building project in Cornelius that had a space for a restaurant. He had a deal brokered with someone to take on the space, but could not close the deal. So he and a partner just opened up a restaurant themselves. And so, on Aug. 2, 2004, at precisely 4:30 p.m., 131 Main was born.

The name comes from his first car – a Fiat 131 – and the “Main” is symbolic of mainstream, something for everyone.

131 Main engages all the senses when the customer walks through the door. There is an open kitchen with a hickory wood fire grill.

Items cooked on that grill maintain a subtle and natural infused hickory flavor. The ribs, for example, are slow cooked on that grill and smothered with homemade barbecue sauce for a fall-of-the-bone texture and smoky savor.

They are served with homemade fries; 131 Main actually starts with the potato to serve up those crispy, fresh fries. The P&G coleslaw – short for peanut butter and ginger – is a tangy, flavorful slaw that will change your outlook on the oft-served side.

Every single recipe on the menu has been honed from dozens and dozens of tries to create the perfect combination.  

“We work so hard that everything on the menu is our specialty,” said Douglas.

The menu is filled with classic American cuisine emphasizing the freshest and best ingredients. The only thing frozen is the ice cream.

The homemade veggie burger is a far cry from the normal menu staple, it looks and tastes like actual meat and is served on a bun from a local bakery. Opt for quinoa salad on the side along with those crispy fries.

The salmon is smoked in-house and tastes like it is going to jump off the plate. Yes, it’s that fresh.

131 Main even manages to elevate the lowly cornbread to a place of honor. It is served in its own cast iron pan with the most amazing integration of sweet, salty and spice. Douse it in honey or enjoy on its own.

Do not skip the desserts. All are made in-house and every single one is perfection on the plate.

It is obvious that the little things mean a lot at 131 Main and that goes for the thoughtfully laid decor as well. There is open brick through the restaurant that was reclaimed from an old RC Cola Plant in Anson County here in North Carolina. The tables are set up for smaller parties so that the service and food preparation can meet the high standard set by Douglas.

The outside patio features a fire pit, standing heaters and rocking Adirondack chairs.

Kay Pilley of Huntersville cannot say enough about the restaurant.

“The food, service and location are all just perfect,” said Pilley. “It is just a really good restaurant.”

Douglas nods with a content look upon hearing the compliment.

“We focus on three principles to achieve our high standards,” he explains. “Food, service and facility. We try for 100-percent quality 100 percent of the time.” 

Want to go? 

131 Main

17830 N. Statesville Road, Cornelius