Thursday, April 18, 2024

Port City Small Bites: Oden Brewing to pop up in town, K-38 opening on Carolina Beach Road, and more

The K-38 sign popped up at The Crossroads at Independence shopping complex at the corner of Independence Boulevard and Carolina Beach Road. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — Lots of movement happens around the Port City when it comes to new openings and closings of restaurants, food trucks, bars and bottle shops, as well as the launch of organizational and nonprofit foodie events and festivals. While Port City Daily already covers the majority of such news, smaller shifts and changes sometimes fly under the radar.

READ MORE: Catch up on other food news of the week

“Small Bites” offers another way to let readers know what’s happening on the local food scene — what to expect when it comes to expansions of existing establishments or menu changes, temporary closures and renovations, added hours or grand openings, pop-up events and other newsworthy tidbits.

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K-38 to open at Crossroads at Independence

Wilmington’s popular Baja-style restaurant is opening its seventh location in the area, when K-38 expands to the southern part of New Hanover County. The sign went up officially announcing its arrival at The Crossroads at Independence, located at Independence Boulevard and Carolina Beach Road.

Located within a mile of Echo Farms and two miles of Riverlights, the Crossroads will be anchored by an 81,000 square-foot Harris Teeter and other retail spaces and restaurants. According to the Wilmington Business Journal, Port City Java will also be in the shopping complex.

K-38 Baja Grill is a Wilmington-founded restaurant that started in the early ‘90s. Josh Vach, who passed away in 2019, built the concept around surf culture and elevated California-Mexican cuisine. It’s well-known for its margaritas, fish tacos, enchiladas, and of course chips and salsa. 

An email to the restaurant group went unanswered about the opening date of the establishment. 

Live Oak Development Company told Port City Daily in November 2020 the Crossroads complex is expected to open by April 2022.

Oden Brewing Company will open in the old A&P grocery store location on Princess Street by April 2022. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

Soda Pop District gets a new tenant, Oden Brewing Company

The Oden family — Bill, Jan, Kathleen and John — officially have announced the expansion of their Greensboro brewery into Wilmington by next April. Oden Brewing Company will be serving its dozen or so craft beers at 1108 Princess St. in 6,500-square-feet of the 11,500 square-foot building.

“It used to be an A&P grocery store in the ‘50s,” Oden Brewing’s spokesperson Mary Oden said. “Recently, it was a fitness place.”

Located between Folks Cafe and Hi-Wire Brewing, the brewery will be situated in the up-and-coming Soda Pop District. It will be blocks away from the Coca-Cola bottling plant recently purchased by Coast Capital Partners, which will be developing the area with restaurants, retail, manufacturing and housing in coming years.

Mary said the timing felt right for the Odens to come back “home.”

“We’ve been in the neighborhood my whole life,” she said. 

Her family has a house around the corner in Chestnut Heights but travels back and forth to Greensboro to run their flagship brewery. Oden Brewing opened in 2019 in the Piedmont Triad, as the family wanted to preserve a 1930’s bottling plant, built by family patriarch William L. “Fate” Oden. They worked with Preservation Greensboro to keep its historical relevance intact.

“It was in our family for many years, and it was operating as a metal finishing plant,” Mary said, “and so we had been turning over ideas on what do with that space since 2015.”

Her uncle was a home-brewer and with the surge of North Carolina breweries on the rise, the Odens decided to make the leap into the craft beer industry.  

Expanding into Wilmington’s Soda Pop District felt like the next natural transition, and when Hi-Wire opened in fall 2020, it solidified the inevitable. Mary said being located next to an established brand and surrounded by growth of incoming restaurants and businesses only helps from a business standpoint.

“It turns into more of a neighborhood where people want to go and spend the afternoon or an evening, and hop around from brewery to restaurant to brewery,” she said. “With our experience in Greensboro, more breweries really is better for us. It’s very much like a cooperative culture where we’re all supporting each other, so if one of us is doing well, all of us are doing well.”

Oden’s flagship beers include Hints and Allegations Juicy IPA and La Curva Sud Italian pilsner, created by Brian Carter, who came from another Greensboro brewery, Natty Greene’s. Carter will lead the helm in Wilmington at the onset once equipment is in place. The Odens don’t expect the Wilmington location to start churning out its own beer until summer, most likely.

The brewing area will be separate from the taproom and there will be an event space. 

“We also have an alleyway that’s going to be really nice for outdoor seating. I think we will put picnic tables out there with some more lights over it,” Mary said.

They are also adding garage doors and smaller windows to open up the space. Otherwise, the building doesn’t need much work, Mary said. Mainly, it will depend on the “Oden touch” — outfitting it with their design aesthetic, which mixes a nostalgic vintage vibe with a modern industrial feel. Antique pieces are used alongside secondhand items and accessories, from the turn-of-the-century through the 1970s.

“We’re really excited to find some pictures to hang of the building when it operated as an A&P grocery store and also some old documents from that time. We’re huge history nerds,” Mary said.

It also will feature artwork from Mary’s sister, Charlotte, a well-known Wilmington artist whose mural can be seen at Dram + Morsel downtown.

The brewery will inhabit the back side of the A&P building, while the 4,700-square-foot front space on Princess Street will be up for lease. “We’re hoping maybe a restaurant or something else complementary to us will go in there,” she said.

The Wilmigton location will have a 20-barrel system like its flagship brewery to allow Oden Brewing to distribute more and expand its reach. Currently, only a few places in town serve its beer on tap.

“Just being able to have more space locally is going to be really huge for us,” Mary said. “That’s the only reason I feel like we haven’t distributed more in Wilmington is because we’re driving it from Greensboro and we can only do so much.”

Despite launching only months before Covid, Oden’s grew from serving 600 barrels in 2020 to over 1,000 in 2021. It’s also planning to do more canning in the coming year.

The Wilmington location will hire a local brewer and 10 or so bartenders ahead of opening.

Gaelic garlic chips are a new menu item at Celtic Monkey, formerly Slainte in Monkey Junction. (Courtesy photo)

Slainte in Monkey Junction becomes the Celtic Monkey, gets new owners

Slainte in Monkey Junction has new owners, with Darren O’Connor and Mike Power from Queens, New York, taking over the keys to the establishment earlier in the week. The duo — who also have a third silent partner involved in the venture — moved down south earlier the fall but have had the process in motion for months now.

“We started looking in spring,” O’Connor said Friday, just as the doors were slated to open under the new moniker, Celtic Monkey.

O’Connor said he and Power worked together at an Astoria bar, The Irish Rover, over the last five years and wanted to branch out into their own business. Power suggested the move to North Carolina, as he had visited when one of his children enrolled at N.C. State.

“We came across Wilmington and absolutely loved it from day one,” O’Connor said.

That was March. When they found Slainte listed for sale, it fit in with their background and expertise, and thereafter all the pieces fell into place. 

The new owners are not looking to make any drastic changes currently. “The menu is basically staying the same,” O’Connor said.

One appetizer has been added to represent comfort food from Ireland. Gaelic garlic chips consist of fries, topped with garlic aioli and smothered in cheddar cheese. “It’s like Irish hangover food — really popular back home,” O’Connor said. 

He plans to bring in more Irish whiskeys, such as West Cork and Kinsale, as well. “It really depends on what we can get our hands on down here,” he said. 

O’Connor and Power have kept the entire Slainte staff, including the managers, and will continue hosting events, such as karaoke on Mondays and trivia on Tuesdays. Hours will be seven days a week, noon to midnight.

Steal of an oyster deal

Hieronymus Seafood is celebrating the oyster and holiday season all in one, by offering $30 buckets of steamed oysters daily, 3 p.m. – 9 p.m., through Dec. 23.

Having served the Wilmington area for three decades, Hieronymus is known for procuring local seafood, offered a variety of ways. The restaurant’s She Crab soup has gained its own following from fans far and wide, including Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, who stopped by the restaurant Nov. 30 when the band toured through the Wilson Center. 

But, for those who so choose to indulge in the mollusks, the upcoming week is all yours. Hieronymus’ $30 steam bucket special is subject to availability and offered as a dine-in option only.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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