Epicurean Charlotte

Food & Wine Magazine


Summer Days at Selwyn Avenue Pub

by Yvonne Ackerman
images courtesy Jason Ackerman-Scallionpancake

A cold beer, Bee Sting wings, and lounging in the sunshine on a sunny Carolina afternoon? That’s just what the doctor ordered—Doc Foster, that is. Regulars of Selwyn Avenue Pub will know Jim Foster as “Doc,” the co-owner of Myers Park’s number-one neighborhood destination for gathering with friends to eat, drink, and cheer on their favorite team.

It’s no happy accident that Selwyn Avenue Pub is the premier destination for those searching for a grown-up gathering spot in Charlotte. Doc and his father, Jim Foster Sr., also known as “Coach,” credit their long-lasting success with listening to their customers since they opened the pub in 1990. As Doc puts it, “We have stayed in business for 27 years because we listen to our customers. What you see here is the result of 27 years of improv with audience participation.”

The results of customer input can be seen everywhere. Take the menu, for instance. Customers asked for an Ahi tuna wrap, and now, it’s one of their best selling items. The enclosed TVs on the patio are a result of a suggestion by a customer for the alcove housing the TVs back in the early 90s, when no other restaurants had outdoor televisions.

The customers are the heart and soul of Selwyn Pub and play a central part in its identity. “We want people to feel welcome here, and to feel comfortable,” Doc says, and he believes it’s impossible to become stale in the restaurant business unless “you become tone deaf” to your customers’ preferences.

Doc has watched many fads in the Charlotte dining scene come and go, but he and Coach maintain a steady focus on a business model that cultivates longevity and customer loyalty. Doc and Coach are particularly gratified when people who met their spouse at the pub come back to share a pizza with their children.

There is a comfortable familiarity about Selwyn Pub that resonates with its customers, but the pub never stops evolving. Case in point? A brand new retractable awning (AKA the “Selwyn Pub-a-dome”) was recently installed to provide shade after the beloved willow oak tree came down in November 2015. After consulting several arborists, it was clear that the giant tree, like many other trees of its age in Myers Park, had to be removed. The new awning is so versatile that it allows for sun, shade, or weather protection at the touch of a button. It was also specifically designed to give pub customers an outdoor feel whether it’s open or closed, and it even provides a unique skylight feature. This addition ensures that the pub remains a comfortable gathering spot for the Myers Park community, and Doc knows his customers will be relieved to not have to cover their beers and race inside when a summer rainstorm pops up.

Additionally, Doc enlisted the aid of Tom Byrnes, Vice President of Merchandising for Springs Creative, to help craft a custom solution to replace the outdoor cushions. Incredibly, Springs Creative was preparing to launch a unique technology capable of digitally “printing” directly onto outdoor fabric, and they were willing to work with Selwyn Pub to showcase their new line. The crowning touch includes throw pillows with the Selwyn Pub logo. The awning, the outdoor heaters, and comfy new seat cushions will ensure that Selwyn Pub remains a year-round destination (yes, all year—even on Christmas and “snow days”).

Once you’re comfortable and climate-controlled no matter the weather, it’s time to focus on food, and diners know Selwyn as a reliable spot for quality pub food. The focus is on “shareable items,” Doc says, “because they support our main purpose, which is being a gathering spot to meet friends.”
The menu philosophy is straightforward: “Buy the best ingredients and keep it simple.” What does this mean in practice? Angus chuck for hamburgers, fresh—not frozen—hand-breaded chicken tenders, sashimi grade Ahi tuna, and Boar’s Head deli products.

Their most popular item is their pizza. With unlimited free toppings and a thin and crispy crust, you really can’t go wrong with a Selwyn Pub pizza.

Customers have recently noticed an expanded slider menu at the pub. The sliders are also designed to fit into the pub’s menu philosophy. Selwyn Pub takes a unique approach to “sliders.” In fact, Doc likes to think of sliders as a form of “Irish tapas.” Selwyn sliders may contain any bread, spread, meat, fish, or filling. Some of the most popular sliders include the Boar’s Head Reuben, Connemara Cod, and Tomato Caprese on grilled rosemary focaccia.

Slider specials are designed with specific types of customers in mind. The “Pick 6” slider special ($16.95) is designed for a larger group of people who want to share.

Often, groups like to settle in and order multiple “waves” of sharable food. A selection of sliders might be followed by a pizza, fried pickles, or wings. The “Pick 2” slider special ($8.95) is perfect for someone who wants to create a designer meal out of multiple slider offerings paired with a side. The “Slider & Side” special ($5.95) is ideal for someone who wants a lighter meal. It functions in much the same way as a half sandwich and soup, small salad, or other side. Doc believes as long as it’s delicious and doesn’t run down the front of your clothes while you lounge on a comfy sofa, it’s a slider.

While Selwyn Pub is widely acclaimed for its pizza and wings, their creative approach to sliders has energized the Pub regulars, who have dependably come forward with many delicious suggestions. Selwyn Pub continues to offer unpretentious quality food at affordable prices.

What to wash it all down with, beyond the beer, of course? “Many people,” Doc says, “are surprised at our wine menu, which includes a wide selection of high quality wines at pub prices.” Some of the most popular wines include La Crema Chardonnay ($10 glass/$38 bottle), Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc ($9 glass/ $34 bottle), and J. Lohr Cabernet ($9 glass/ $34 bottle).

Doc is the first to admit that the pub is a “dinosaur” when it comes to social media. However, one of Doc’s daughters recently convinced Doc to hook up the pub with a Snapchat Geofilter, but that’s as far their social media presence goes. He notes that for all the social media savvy people have today, they often crave an opportunity to talk to one another face to face.

Selwyn Pub harkens back to an earlier time of the village green, where people would gather together to discuss local issues, sports, and politics face to face, and not over Facebook or text. “People come here primarily because they want to socialize with their friends and meet new people,” he says, “and we provide the perfect place in Myers Park for them to do just that.”

So, walk on down, take an Uber or hitch a ride with a friend, and get down to Selwyn Pub ASAP to enjoy a few of those quintessential sunny Southern afternoons this summer. And don’t waste any time, because, as Doc notes, “your friends are already here.”

Selwyn Avenue Pub
2801 Selwyn Avenue | Charlotte