Oct 6, 2022 - Food and Drink

New Mexican restaurant Que Fresa opens in west Charlotte in former Picante spot

A new Mexican restaurant in theme with Mexico’s “Gossip Girl” era in the 1980s opens in west Charlotte, where Picante used to be on Friday, October 7.

Que Fresa, by the same owners of Que Onda, will offer “preppy tacos” and “ritas,” according to owner Manuel Flores.

Why it matters: Picante was a west Charlotte staple for more than a decade— a rarity in one of Charlotte’s fastest-changing neighborhoods.

  • “We couldn’t have done it without our amazing employees and great customers,” Picante owner Anthony Deresh and manager Lisa Mack wrote in the restaurant’s final Instagram post.
  • Flores tells Axios Deresh and Mack contacted him about taking over the space with the stipulation that he retain the staff, which Flores tells me are now mostly working at Que Onda restaurants around Charlotte. “Most of them have worked at Picante for more than six years,” Flores said.

Backstory: “Fresa” means strawberry in Spanish, but it’s also Mexican slang for a preppy person.

  • It’s a term that was popularized in Mexico in the ’80s, Flores explains, when Mexico started thriving financially, and parents started sending their kids to private schools and bilingual schools. Students started learning English, watching American TV, and dressing and acting a certain way. “Like if you’re golfing or at the Kentucky Derby,” Flores said.
  • Flores said he doesn’t know the exact origin of the term but says it derived from the character Strawberry Shortcake, who was also very popular at the time. “People started calling them ‘fresitas,'” he said.
  • Flores’ wife, Paola, grew up in Mexico in the ’80s— I asked Flores if she was a fresa, he said “big time! That’s where the inspiration came from.”

Yes, but: “Preppy” doesn’t mean expensive, according to Flores. The majority of the taco prices will range between $3.95 to $4.95.

  • “We still want to be affordable,” Flores said.

The food: There will be 18 signature tacos on the menu, plus sharable plates, sandwiches, wraps, and desserts.

  • Flores also said they’ll continue Picante’s daily food and drink specials that made the spot so popular and affordable—yes, that means taco Tuesday is here to stay.
  • He wants to maintain quality and affordability. “Our menu is going to be more culinary forward, Flores told me, “it’s going to have really over the top garnishes.”
Bang Bang Camarones. Photo: Alexis Clinton/Axios Charlotte
Cuatro Leches. Photo: Alexis Clinton/Axios Charlotte

The drinks: The full-service bar will serve beer and liquor, with a primary focus on margaritas.

  • Flores said they’ll play around with fun margarita flavors like blueberry prickly pear, and jalapeño orange and they’ll have a dairy-free soft-serve margarita.
  • “Like the soft-serve you see at Chick-fil-a or McDonald’s,” Flores said.
House Margarita and El Chapo. Photo: Alexis Clinton/Axios Charlotte

Details: Similar to Picante, Que Fresa will have indoor and outdoor seating that fits about 80-90 people. Its primary draw will be the fast-casual take-out menu that Picante was popular for.

  • Local artist Valentin Ramirez will paint a mural and possibly sculptures for the restaurant. 
  • Of note: There will be a piece of Picante on display permanently at Que Fresa, signage of the iconic lips holding a chili pepper. Flores says paying an homage to the restaurant that came before is a tradition at all of his restaurants.

What’s next: Flores hopes to open 10 Que Fresa’s in the next  five to six years.

  • He hopes to work with corporate chef and business partner Roger Lemus to open other locations near and around Charlotte “Ballantyne, Belmont, Fort Mill, Rock Hill, Kannapolis, Harrisburg” are all options, according to Flores.
Photo: Alexis Clinton/Axios Charlotte
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