It can be hard to be the middle sister.

The little sister is on-trend Burrito Loco, with its food truck flair and casual atmosphere. The big sister is popular Prickly Pear with upscale food and venue, not to mention the amazing reputation and longevity.

But middle sister restaurant Verde Urban Mexican Grill and Cantina is not going to fade into the background. This restaurant – the name means ‘green’ in Spanish – is a blend of the two aforementioned restaurants. A sit-down casual restaurant with choices ranging from full entrées to tapas. Go green, indeed!

Co-owner Eddie Chavez moved to Charlotte from California in 1995 to help his cousin open up the first Azteca Mexican restaurant. He then met co-owner Valentino Panizzut, and in 2003, the two decided to open the Prickly Pear, a high-end restaurant serving modern Mexican food.

The restaurant became very popular and eventually the two wanted to parlay their success with a more casual Mexican eatery. A space became available and Burrito Loco opened in May 2010. Then due to the prosperity of both restaurants, the two began to dream of a third restaurant.

Verde, off Exit 23 in Huntersville, opens this month.

Like many sisters, there are few similarities among the three restaurants. The Prickly Pear is decidedly high-end, with a posh venue and full-blown entrees. Burrito Loco is like a standing taco truck tucked away in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it strip mall in Mooresville. Verde, which is close to the Earth Fare organic grocery store, has a calm, spa-like decor.

Verde features seafoam green walls, big windows and ample booths for relaxing. The space flows with abundant seating and a large bar beckoning patrons to try a tequila from the extensive list.

Chavez offers a quick lesson on the large list of tequilas: Anejo Tequila is aged for at least 12 months, Reposado is aged for a minimum of two months but less than a year, and Plata Tequila is straight from the distillery. Flights of tequila will be offered, so it is possible to find a favorite on the extensive list. Plus, six of the 10 taps of draft beer will be Mexican. 

Unlike the other two restaurants, Verde will feature the flavors of several South American countries. This is due to the talents of a chef hired to help with menu choices and run the kitchen.

“He is Cuban and has worked with many South American cuisines,” Chavez said. “So this menu will feature flavors from Chile, Argentina, Mexico and more. Plus he is also trained as a pastry chef.”

There will be a daily catch, braised pork shank, Yucatán style pork and chorizo, and potato-stuffed chicken just to name a few menu choices. Fresh ingredients are blended in unique and tasty ways. All the sauces, salsas and marinades are homemade. Mexican cheeses at the restaurant range from Cotija, which is similar to parmesan, to Chihuahua, which is similar to a white cheddar or Monterey Jack.

“We cook the food fresh,” Chavez said. “We formulated the entire menu so the flavors work well together.”

The customers will not just be wowed by the food. The drinks are also inventive and creative, as well.

Try the Horchata Colado, which is made with rice water, rum, pineapple and cinnamon. Or a Smo-Jito, which is a play on the Mojito and made with reposado instead of tequila. Or perhaps a caramelized pineapple margarita or a blood orange margarita.

The wine list is also imaginative, with Vino Verde from Portugal.

“It is a new wine to America,” Chavez explains. “It is nice for summer because it has a little sparkle to it.”

Verde promises to be a fun and tasty spot for diners. There will be outdoor seating by a fountain and salsa lessons at night.

“It’s going to be a really good spot for the entire area,” Chavez said.

Want to go?

Verde Urban Mexican Grill and Cantina
9818 Gilead Road, Suite 107B, Huntersville