WILMINGTON — Over the last few years, Jeremiah Ramos has been eyeing Wilmington.
A restaurant consultant in Raleigh, Ramos has helped launch new eateries and pivot concepts for other businesses for years. Along the way, he met Courtney Osgood, who ran her own public relations and marketing company.
A strong workmanship between the two deepened, and in recent years they began talking about putting to use their combined industry knowledge into operating their own bar. The two New Yorkers expected they’d open in Raleigh, their homebase.
“But it just stretched into us looking for places here,” Ramos said, “and we stumbled upon this one on the Riverwalk.”
Sauce’d will be located on the Cape Fear River, in the former Le Catalan space (224 S. Water St., Ste 1-G). Ramos and Osgood will officially open to the public Thursday, Nov. 18.
“From the minute we walked in, we were like, ‘Wow, this is it!’” Osgood said.
Ramos always loved visiting the Port City, he said. The coastal vibe reminded him of his youth in Hollywood, Florida. “I’m Puerto Rican-Hispanic, so my family’s from the islands, you know,” he said. “I’ve always had a love of being close to the water.”
The Sauce’d outdoor patio features over a dozen tables on the Riverwalk, in view of the memorial bridge and sunsets over the Battleship N.C. Inside, 12 velvet stools line the bar, with two- and four-top tables dispersed throughout, and a lounge area offering a sofa and more seating.
“The concept is like a fry bar,” Ramos said.
Regular, sweet potato, waffle and yucca fries will be offered, plus they will be “healthier” in that they’re air-fried rather than dunked in grease.
“So much less fat and much crispier!” Osgood said.
The regular and yucca fries are gluten-free as well. Each order comes with two sauces to choose from out of 12: house fry sauce, cinnamon sugar, seasoned sour cream, hot honey, curry ketchup, banana ketchup, white truffle ketchup, chipotle ketchup, cilantro-lime aioli, pesto aioli, Sriracha mayo or garlic-Parmesan aioli.
“But it’s cocktails first, fries second,” Ramos clarified.
“We just don’t want to give anyone a reason to leave,” Osgood said. “We’ve all been there: You’ve had a couple cocktails and your stomach’s grumbling. You just want to eat a little bit.”
Ramos went to Cornell for food service management but was a mixologist and bartender for years. He steered the Sauce’d cocktail menu with the goal to keep it simple, still high-end in flavor and appeal, while remaining reasonably priced (cocktails average around $12).
He also will highlight regional and local distilleries on the menu, and even has a nod to Wilmington’s film industry with the “Tree Hill Project.” The concoction is made of Mother Earth gin out of Kinston, N.C., St. Germain, lemon, and lavender-honey-infused syrup. It’s served in a glass shaped like a bird.
The pair said it’s part of the appeal of Sauce’d: to create “really fun, crafty cocktails that are very Instagrammable.”
Ramos even plans to bring out a few tricks to add extra appeal to the drinks. “I’ve got a flavor blaster that creates a bubble on top of your cocktail that, when it’s served to you, you pop the bubble and smoke or whatever aromatics we decide to choose for that cocktail — like if I do a lavender — will explode [and] kind of roll over your cocktails. A lot of fun stuff,” he said.
There are a few high-octane varieties, too, such as the Smokey the Pear, featuring both Creek Water bourbon and mezcal, prepared with a pear purée, thyme-infused syrup and lemon.
“Jeremiah thrives when it comes to creating syrups and blending flavor combinations,” Osgood praised. “Where I come in is in the details. Jeremiah will deliver a beautifully balanced cocktail and I’ll take it over the top by pairing it with something eye-catching – like an interesting garnish or cool type of glassware.”
The drink menu also features six wines and four beers. The entrepreneurs will be adding brunch Saturdays and Sundays in the spring. Though the cocktail menu will primarily stay the same, they’ll be rotating various specials.
“We’re looking forward to playing around with some fun concoctions that’ll be relevant to the season, the time of year, special events, pop culture — you name it,” Osgood said. “We love an opportunity to create something that’s timely and fun, so there will definitely be some movement on the drink side.”
They’ll also have seasonal sauces here and there for fries.
The lounge area facing the Water Street side of the restaurant will showcase throwback music videos, according to Osgood, who also said they’re hoping to utilize the space for celebratory themed nights — awards shows and New Year’s Eve parties. The bar owners will be adding live music and other forms of entertainment in the future.
Sauce’d will open Sunday, Monday, and Thursday, 5 p.m. – midnight, and Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. – 2 a.m. during off-season. Hours will expand in the spring.
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