Penny Craver is like a local institution — she’s had her hands in just about everything cool and hipster. From her days at the Milestone Club to Tremont Music Hall and now DISH, Craver says she loves music, the arts and the neighborhoods in which she now works and lives. Craver is co-owner of DISH with Maggie McGee-Stubbs and Lawrence Stubbs. The restaurant opened in 2002, attracting rave reviews in “Best of” contests across the city, including our annual QList-Best of LGBT Charlotte. qnotes sat down for a short, casual Q&A with Craver recently — this writer having quite the laugh with Craver’s great humor and, in the process, learning quite a bit about some uncanny and unexpected similarities between Craver and himself. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Matt Comer: When did you open DISH?
We’ve been here 12 years. We opened July 17, 2002.
What did you do prior?
I was a dishwasher at 300 East. I went from starving to medium starving to “Let’s see how I can get out of starving” (laughs). From there, I went to Tremont. I opened Tremont Music Hall in 1995 — March 17, 1995. I had the Milestone from ’91-’94. That was not a paying gig (laughs). During that period of time, I was washing dishes at 300 East. I’ve done a bit of everything. I was a probation/parole officer. I worked retail a lot, particularly in record stores. I worked at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, in their physical education department.
I went to UNCG for college.
That’s my alma mater — undergraduate and graduate. I love UNCG.
Are you from the Triad area?
I grew up in a small town outside Winston-Salem called Clemmons.
Oh, I grew up in Winston!
Where’d you go to school?
I’m so, so sorry (laughs). I went to West Forsyth.
It’s okay. I had lots of friends at West.
Of course you did!
When did you move to Charlotte?
After I got out of college, I went to Florida and played with a band and then moved to Charlotte.
Owning a restaurant, how different is it from owning a music venue?
It’s totally different. I like the hours compared to nightclub hours. You’d think it’d be somewhat similar, but I have not found that to be the case at all.
What’s the best thing about Plaza Midwood?
Obviously, the popularity helps. People realize this is a cool neighborhood. You can come here and get just such a cross-section of Charlotte. A lot of arts. It’s the reason why I like this area — it’s artsy. Lots of musicians and artists and self-employed people like make-up artists and yoga instructors.
Do you live nearby, too?
I live in Merry Oaks — the most convenient place in the entire city to live. I love it.
When you’re not working, what do you do with your free time?
I don’t have a lot of free time, but I do like to save it up and I like to travel. I love just going anywhere. In the last couple of years, I’ve been able to go to Paris and I’ve gone to London and I’ve been to New York several times. I love to go to St. Augustine in Florida, which is one of my favorite places. My next trip will probably be D.C. or Nashville and Memphis.
Personally, what’s your most favorite dish here at DISH?
I don’t like spicy, so it’s not the meatloaf (laughs). I don’t do heat and spice. If I could eat anything, I’d eat the chicken and dumplings, but I’m diabetic. It’s probably not the wisest choice on my part. I do like the BLGT — which the staff and some customers have told me I should change to LGBT (laughs). It’s the bacon, lettuce and green tomato, with a little horseradish dill sauce. I enjoy that and I just love vegetables.
Since you’re an old concert venue person, I have to ask. What’s your favorite genre?
Obviously, alternative. I was in a band in the late 1980s. There was three of us — three women ‚ and we were one of the first all-women alternative bands in the state. It was called the Blind Dates, with Gina Stewart and Deanna Lynn Campbell, and we played all over. We do like to get together every once in a while and do a reunion show.
Do you go out to many concerts now?
No! (laughs) When you are required for the most part to be out every weekend for 14 or 15 years, it’s a joy to stay home and maybe cook-out or do something.
What’s your favorite season of the year?
Summer. I love the ocean and the beach. My favorite thing to do is to sit out on the beach with a good book and just read listening to the ocean. Go in when it gets hot or swim in the ocean and ride the waves back in on a boogie board.
Anything else? Did I miss anything?