At his new restaurant, chef Josh Petty hopes to dish up more than a modern blend of Southern fare.
With a focus on local, Petty said his Porters Neck-area Cast Iron Kitchen, set to open April 1, will also serve to make a difference in the place he calls home.
“We’re all about supporting the community and giving back, because that’s what it’s all about,” Petty noted.
The concept for the restaurant itself – a chic take on a country store – is one Petty, longtime head chef at Sweet n Savory Cafe, has been working on for several years.
It was an idea prompted by a move he and his wife, Andrea, made to the Porters Neck area, which Petty said is heavy on franchises but lacks a strong privately owned presence.
“I wanted to do something out that way…instead of people having to drive all the way [into town],” he said.
After a lot of brainstorming and a departure from Sweet n Savory last year, Petty set his sights on opening up shop. When the former Hungry Heroes space opened up at 8024 Market St., he seized his moment. Petty was also able to secure the adjacent space, allowing him to create the restaurant he envisioned.
The 75-seat eatery will have a full bar and a “rustic feel” with a hip twist, Petty said. He’s been busy renovating the space and repurposing old doors to create tables.
Petty plans to serve breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Sunday, offering the “down and dirty” Southern staples like fresh-made biscuits but branching out with other, more progressive items: gluten-free sweet potato waffles and cheese “grits” made with cauliflower, among them.
“I want to take Southern food and make it fun, make it not that stereotypical fried in lard and fat stuff,” he said, adding he has been experimenting with frying in coconut oil.
A more “micro-local” rotating dinner menu will be served Thursday through Saturday, Petty said, with an extended Sunday brunch from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Petty’s plans also include a deli counter with homemade sausages and a ready-to-go cooler for busy professionals and working parents.
And looking ahead to summer, he is going to have an online order-ahead option for prepared fishing trip or picnic orders.
A focus on variety and meeting the needs of customers – Petty hopes to be able to also accommodate special requests – hints at his desire to foster community, both within the walls of Cast Iron and out in the greater Wilmington area.
During the first week of operation, Petty will hold a series of soft openings. A portion of those sales will go to local non-profits.
“We want to start giving back right out the gate,” he said.
The chef also plans to partner with the youth arts group DREAMS of Wilmington to offer some culinary programs, and participate in various fundraisers and other charitable outreach on a regular basis.
“It’s all about supporting North Carolina, supporting Wilmington and having good options for the people who live here,” he said.
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at email@example.com.