Zeppelin is off to a hot start in South End — often generating hour-long waits (or even longer) during peak dining hours.

After 60 days in operation, Zeppelin has generated ratings of 3.5/5 on Yelp, 4.1/5 on Google and 4.8/5 on Facebook.

Negative reviews mostly mention poor front of the house management and high prices. Good reviews mention the dishes, space/design and unique cocktails.

I went to Zeppelin on last Thursday evening at 5 p.m. to check it out. Here are the 5 things you need to know.

(1) Zeppelin is beautiful.

Ownership plowed some serious money in the upfit — and you can tell immediately.

Inside, you’ll find seating for about 60. I recommend grabbing a booth.

(2) Zeppelin describes itself as a restaurant first, bar second — and I actually agree.

Honestly, I was expecting Zeppelin to be a bar-first spot that just takes advantage of awesome real estate.  I was wrong. It’s an excellent restaurant.

The menu has 12 small plates and 4 entree options (dishes changes frequently). It’s a small menu, which is a trend we continue to see more and more of in Charlotte.

Let’s talk entrees first, then small plates.

The #1 most popular entree is the Buttermilk Poached Kettle Fried Chicken ($23) – local wildflower honey, habanero vinaigrette and pickled mango.

The staff recommended the Dry Aged Crispy Duck ($36) – local wildflower honey, sansyo pepper, coriander, fluer de sel, Arbequina olive oil, fresh herbs, compress persimmon.

I preferred the duck over the chicken. The duck doesn’t come with any sides and can easily be split unless you’re starving and only want a huge plate of meat.

(3) Zepplin’s small plates are the main attraction on the menu, and the calamari is the star.

Instead of heavy entrees, I recommend ordering a bunch of small plates. I could even see a future where they drop the entree portions and only focus on small plates.

The #1 most popular dish at Zeppelin is their Point Judith Calamari ($11) — Korean chile, yuzu, pickled bacon dashi gel, serranos and shishitos. It’s a must-order when you go.

I also ordered the Maine Lobster Mac & Cheese ($20) – house made fettucini, uni bechamel, nori ranch fizz, bacon poached lobster tail. Pricey, but delicious.

Other popular plates at Zeppelin include the following:

  • Scratch Buns ($8) — sweet miso heritage pork belly, shaved cabbage and pickled chilisv
  • Fried Green Tomato Caprese ($12) — UAV Burrata, pickled cabbage, baby kale, sorgham-balsamic reduction, red gravy, Arbequinoa olive oil
  • Main Lobster & Avocado Toast ($12) — butter poached, homeade brioche, herd aioli, bacon and preserved lemon.

I literally wanted to eat all 12 of the small plates dishes at Zeppelin, with the exception of the $14 Roasted & Glazed Carrots… Although I’ve heard it’s tasty and popular, I just can’t order carrots at a restaurant. And $14 carrots? Not for me.

4) The most popular cocktail, by far, is The Edison. It’s that cocktail dramatically served in a smoke-filled glass dome that you’ve seen on Instagram.

What’s inside The Edison (Zeppelin’s take on an Old Fashioned)? Bourbon, cashew infused sorghum, barrel aged bitters, cold-smoke cherry bark and spiced cherry.

I get that the smoke presentation feels slightly gimmicky, but it’s cool. It also smells delicious.

At $16, the cocktail is pricey.

(5) Zeppelin is the type of spot for a group dinner with buddies who don’t mind spending money on tasty small plates and unique cocktails.

I didn’t think they’d be able to pull off a “Soul Gastrolounge for South End” — but that’s exactly the track that Zeppelin’s on as of right now. We’ll see if they can continue to iterate, maintain quality and hone in on operations.

Oh, and don’t forget, just like Soul Gastrolounge, Zeppelin also uses the No Wait App.