WILMINGTON — What’s better than New Orleans-style bread pudding? Bread pudding made with North Carolina’s Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
It’s a signature dessert “and a great way to put a cap on any meal,” according to Brooke Sundermier, a spokesperson for Louisiana-based Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux. The restaurant will open in June at 3710 Oleander Dr. near Independence Mall, “minutes from America’s best riverfront, UNCW and Wrightsville Beach,” franchisee Jason Sadowski said in a release.
Sadowski has operated the Myrtle Beach spot since June 2020. Wilmington will mark his second location, with a third following closely behind this fall in Charlotte.
The chain is the brainchild of Brandon Landry and Jack Warner, two walk-ons for the Louisiana State University basketball team. In September 2003, Landry and Warner launched their first sports bar and restaurant after realizing they wanted to take what they learned on the court into an entrepreneurial sphere of team work, sports enjoyment and hospitality. They opened Walk-On’s near Tiger Stadium at LSU and built it on the “idea that everyone on the team was needed and mattered as much as the next guy,” according to the eatery’s website.
Fast-forward 12 years, Walk-On’s was tagged by ESPN as the best sports bar in America. In 2015, it also gained a new co-owner in former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Landry and Brees began franchising Walk-On’s nationwide.
To date, there are more than 50 Walk-On’s in the United States. In 2021 alone, six new restaurants opened, two of which are co-owned in Texas by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, according to CNBC.
“Before the end of the year, the team has plans to open more than 20 total,” Sundermier noted. “Wilmington has been on Walk-On’s radar for quite some time. It’s a great example of a city that’s perfect for visiting or settling down for the long haul.”
The restaurant is well-known for its Cajun flavors, including crawfish étoufée and duck and andouille gumbo. It also has burgers, sandwiches and po’boys. The senior vice president of Walk-On’s culinary and supply chain, Mike Turner, works with each restaurant to maintain consistency and perfect the menu.
“The Boom Boom Shrimp is certainly a crowd pleaser,” Sundermier explained.
The sports bar has full ABC permits and also will curate local and regional beers.
More than 70 TVs will screen games and tournaments throughout the year. The 7,500 square-foot space will appeal to local fanatics eager to watch all Tar Heels and Panthers games. The restaurant even will be decorated by local team memorabilia, according to Sundermier.
Yet, its expansive setup will ensure all sports fans — Blue Devils and Wolfpack alike — are comfortable and can tune into their favorite teams.
Aside from serving food, drink and games, Walk-On’s also will be giving back to the community through its 501(c)(3) nonprofit that launched in 2019. The Game On Foundation revitalizes courts, fields and facilities in underserved communities. Currently, it launched a campaign to help fund the rehabilitation of a court at Crane Park in Melbourne, Florida, which needs resurfacing, striping and new backboards. According to the foundation site, it is halfway to its $25,000 goal.
Wilmington’s Walk-On’s franchise will be the second open in North Carolina after one in Fayetteville launched last year. The restaurant, which is now hiring, will bring 200 jobs to the area, according to a release. More information can be found on its Facebook page; an official opening date has yet to be revealed.
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