SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — From Leland to Carolina Beach, midtown Wilmington to Wrightsville, Cape Fear diners have fewer restaurants to choose from when eating out nowadays. Port City Daily will add to this list throughout the end of the year to keep readers abreast of changes on the dining scene.
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Magnolia Social Cafe
109 Pier Master Pt., Suite #110
Having opened in 2017, Magnolia Social Cafe in Riverlights was one of the first restaurants to launch in the riverfront community, located off River Road. Owner Tammy Tilghman said she opened the cafe in honor of her late father, who loved coffee, as a place to gather in camaraderie with community members.
“I always wanted to keep his legacy alive and create an environment where people could share memories and be together,” she told Port City Daily at the beginning of October. “Magnolia Social Café came from that.”
It grew beyond what she envisioned, Tilghman added. At the beginning of the year, when she faced health issues — having to undergo surgery to remove a brain tumor in March — the community threw her a parade and launched a GoFundMe to help her with her medical bills.
Tilghman and her cafe crew were in the throes of launching a second eatery, Girls With Dough, also in Riverlights, which opened its doors earlier in the month. The restaurateur credited her team, including chef Kevin Vermilyea, as well as residents in Riverlights for pulling together and seeing through the progress of the Italian restaurant and pizzeria, while keeping Magnolia Social Cafe operating during her absence.
“A lot of people around me have huge hearts,” Tilghman said. “A lot of people stepped up and took on challenges during opening Girls With Dough and kept things rolling while I was away — and they didn’t miss a beat. There’s a lot of great people out there working together. It has been quite a journey.”
The pizzeria will remain open, though Magnolia Social Cafe’s last day will be Sunday, Oct. 31. Tilghman announced on social media gratitude for her customers who supported her “dream of opening a coffee shop,” but indicated it may not be the last of the cafe: “Be on the lookout for the next location of Magnolia Social Cafe in the future.”
Port City Daily reached out to Tilghman for more information about the closure and will update this article upon her response.
Shug’s Sweet Shoppe
609 Piner Rd.
The bakery Shug’s Sweet Shoppe in Monkey Junction opened a few short months ago in May and served sweet croissants in a variety of flavors, cakes, cookies, brownies, muffins, and more. It also sold Java Estate coffee, and offered special discount days for first responders, teachers and those who served in the military.
Sometime over the last week, a note has been penned to the door of Shug’s: “CLOSED sorry for the inconvenience.” The Facebook page has been removed and Google has marked the bakery permanently closed.
Owners Scott and Josh Williams, who also run Cape Fear Restaurant Equipment, opened Shug’s four months ago. Port City Daily reached out to the owners to ask about the closing, but no one has answered for comment. This will be updated when and if they respond.
Soif de Vin (café only)
5226 S. College Rd.
Also located in Monkey Junction, Soif de Vin, which Shawn Underwood and Amy Siler opened in 2018, had transformed its wine bar and bottle shop into a café through the pandemic. In the eight months it’s been serving food, Soif garnered a following for its lunch, dinner and brunches, serving decadent items like crabcake and lobster Benedict, Moroccan beef cheeks, and tomato pie. It also hosted wine and chef dinners.
Last week, however, the landlord of the 5226 S. College Rd. establishment informed the restaurateurs they could not continue operating as a cafe because it wasn’t in the terms of their lease. The business owners posted a letter to Soif de Vin’s website, explaining the details and “meticulous permitting process” they went through with the county to outfit the establishment, which they said they assumed their landlord knew about.
Underwood wrote to Port City Daily they have worked everything out with the landlord since and are removing the kitchen equipment to keep within the standards of the lease. “[T]he wine shop and wine bar will continue to operate,” he explained.
Underwood also confirmed he and his wife are looking at restaurants on the market currently and expect their relaunch elsewhere would allow them to evolve the menu more, mainly because they would likely be working from a larger kitchen.
“But, of course, all of that will be determined by circumstances,” he added. “We are looking around to see what’s available, but not in a great hurry as we still have plenty of time here.”
The bottle shop hours are now 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; Soif de Vin is closed Sunday and Monday.
1215 N 4th St.
Mark Milner opened Wheelhouse Pizza on the Northside in the Brooklyn Arts District only a few short months ago in May. He told Port City Daily ahead of his Memorial Day launch that he wanted to focus on creating gourmet pies, like a goat-cheese pesto version he loved eating when he got his start in the culinary world out west more than two decades ago.
By the third week of August, however, Milner had to make the decision to step away from the restaurant, which was operated as walk-up window service, because of health issues.
“As a startup, you need to put in the hours until the ship rises,” he wrote to Port City Daily Tuesday. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that.”
Milner said someone is taking over the spot but whether it will be pizza remains to be seen. “Too bad since the pizza was amazing,” he added.
Port City Daily has reached out about what is planned for the eatery and will update the article when and if parties respond.
Blue Asia Bistro
341 S College Rd., #52
Blue Asia Bistro on S. College Road in the University Commons shopping center announced it will close Sunday, Sept. 19. A note was posted to its door on Tuesday morning: “We are sorry to be announcing we will be closing the restaurant,” it indicated alongside the date. “Thank you for all the support over the years. We will miss you all.”
The all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant opened in Wilmington in 2012 when restaurateurs Jessica and Lin Zhao closed their hibachi restaurant in Rock Hill, S.C., to be closer to the beach. It grew a dedicated following for its competitive pricing, including all-you-can-eat lunches for $12 or so, and for offering a fusion of Asian cuisine.
Jessica told Devour magazine in 2013, “Nowadays there’s so many different restaurants and so [many different foods] to choose from, you don’t have to go to different restaurants for Chinese, hibachi, high-quality sushi, Vietnamese, and a little bit of Thai. I wanted that to be Blue Asia. So when you’re going out with friends there’s [plenty] to enjoy.”
Blue Asia didn’t respond to Port City Daily’s request for comment.
1900 Restaurant and Lounge
1900 Eastwood Rd., Ste. 2
Ken Oliver took over ownership of 1900 Restaurant Lounge in Lumina Station eight-and-half years ago. The restaurant was revered for its thoughtful high-end food and even more popular as a hotspot in Wrightsville Beach nightlife. Carefully crafted cocktails (cucumber gimlet, anyone?) had customers sipping happily as DJs kept the music going late into the night.
Oliver announced on social media that Saturday was 1900’s last night. He said he decided to “take a deal” rather than re-sign the lease.
“It’s been an amazing run, but it’s time for me personally to step back and enjoy life after 35 years of hard work,” he wrote. “Thank you to all the people that enjoyed 1900 and the people that worked for me, especially the crew that got us through the busy but stressful covid days. You are my true friends.”
Boardwalk Pizza and Subs
6756 Gordon Rd., Ste. 190
Boardwalk Pizza and Subs earned fans quickly two years ago when it opened on Gordon Road. The owners focused on serving food that conjured good memories and paid tribute to summers spent on the Jersey Shore.
“Unfortunately, just like those summer vacations, the fun has to end,” Boardwalk posted on its social media Saturday (it has since been removed). According to the post, the pressures and obstacles of the pandemic left a mark on the pizza shop: “We can no longer ignore the staffing shortages we have been trying to push through and now being faced with food shortages as well.”
The shop’s last day in business was Sunday, Sept. 12.
Temptations Gourmet Café
3501 Oleander Dr.
Temptations Gourmet Café in midtown Wilmington at Hanover Center also announced on social media it has closed after almost 40 years in operation. In 2017, James Snyder — who owned the cafe for 13 years — sold it to Janet and Bert Lamport.
Since 1984, the cafe has been hailed for its gourmet sandwiches and salads, including highly praised pimento cheese and chicken salad, and a variety of homemade bread puddings. The restaurant also was a gourmet shop and offered a vast wine selection, gourmet foods, chocolate and candies, and gift baskets. All of its retail will be 50% off, according to its social media post, which stated, “The tight labor market does not allow us to continue.”
Temptations owners did not respond to Port City Daily’s request for comment.
1011 International Dr.
The Mediterranean chain has been operating its Mayfaire location since 2013. Last week, it posted a note to its door that it has closed shop as of Sept. 8 but encourages diners who have a rewards card to use up earnings at other locations.
Numerous Zoës Kitchens were purchased by CAVA Mediterranean over the last few years. CAVA got its start in the DC area in 2006, and one already is in the planning stages across town, to be located in the Belk parking lot at Independence Mall.
Mayfaire confirmed CAVA will open in Zoës place.
403 Village Rd.
Southern eatery M&K’s Kitchen closed on Village Road in Leland after facing a mountain of hurdles only a year into its infancy. From Covid-19 limitations to structural issues with the building to staffing shortages and food cost increases, restaurateur Kory Sanderlin decided to shutter the establishment Sept. 3.
He told Port City Daily he already has plans to launch The Sexy Food Truck as a nonprofit in coming months. It will be positioned to help food-insecure populations in southeastern North Carolina.
“I grew up in an area where a lot of people struggled to feed themselves, so I want to help get good, quality food, nourishing food, to people that are in the same boat I grew up in,” Sanderlin said. “In the last eight to nine months of running this business, I haven’t been able to do the things I enjoy doing most.”
A&G Barbecue and Chicken
800 S. Lake Blvd.
Across the Cape Fear and up the Intracoastal Waterway to Carolina Beach, another Southern hotspot, A&G Barbecue and Chicken, announced it would be closing after 33 years in business. Known as a homey meat-and-three diner — serving sliced and chopped eastern North Carolina barbecue, as well as fried chicken and shrimp, vegetable plates, and sandwiches — A&G has become an institution on Pleasure Island.
Owner Angela Stalnaker will be retiring upon its closing on Wednesday, Sept. 15. The restaurant will be taken over by Tammy and John Sharpe, who will reopen the location as Butts ‘n’ Such.
Restaurant closures announced before this was published:
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