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.
From burgers to pizza
The small, bright yellow building on Carolina Beach Road, once known for its burgers and fries, has been undergoing a makeover for two years now. John Moyer bought French’s Classic Burger at the beginning of 2020 and has been transforming it into Za Pie Pizza, slated to open by the end of February or beginning of March
“One day, I saw a for sale sign — and I’ve always wanted to own my own property,” Moyer said. “That way, I’m not subject to rent increases.”
Moyer has been in the pizza business for 25 years, as one of the first owners of local franchise Michaelangelos. He owned and operated eight restaurants before selling them in 2013. Today, he only oversees the Monkey Junction location.
“This is the only job I’ve ever had — I’ve never in my life filled out an application or a résumé,” he said.
Za — meaning “pizza” — will stand apart from the Michaelangelos franchise, with a focus on skillet pizzas (deeper crusts, made in cast iron pans), paninis and dessert pies. New York-style pizza also will be offered, as will cauliflower crusts, topped with Bacio cheese, a homemade sauce Moyer is still devising, and he’s preparing to have unique toppings, such as alligator meat.
Moyer has expanded the building — now light gray, with white, red and black complementary tones — into 1,600 or so square feet. It will be mostly takeout, with delivery also offered in a three- or four-mile radius. Sixteen tables will be available for outdoor seating only.
“I’m also going to have a pickup window and we’ll have an app to place orders,” Moyer said.
Already, he has trademarked Za Pie in preparation to franchise more locations. The flagship store is at 6142 Carolina Beach Rd., beside Beau Rivage.
Wish-Upon-a-Chef rescheduled due to Covid-19 surge
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Eastern North Carolina hosts an annual fundraiser to highlight chefs on the local scene while also raising funds to help fulfill the wishlists of children facing critical and life-threatening illnesses.
Originally scheduled for Jan. 20, the Wish Upon a Chef event held at UNCW’s Burney Center has been pushed to St. Patrick’s Day, Thursday, Mar. 17, due to the current omicron surge in Covid-19 cases.
“This event wouldn’t take place without the commitment of many local restaurants and community volunteers,” said Chris Winter, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina.
The foundation added their well-being and health, as well as the ticketholders who support the foundation’s annual soiree, remains of utmost importance.
The event boasts 12 local chefs serving signature dishes table-side, each dish scored by celebrity judges. The event will be hosted by actor and comedian Orlando Jones, as well as WWAY anchor Donna Gregory. Live and silent auction packages are available and beer and wine is included in the $100 ticket.
More information is available here.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House opens in River Place this month
The popular fine-dining establishment, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, has been constructing a new space in River Place on Water Street throughout 2021. As of Jan. 1, the restaurant closed to prepare for its official relocation from Hotel Ballast (formerly Wilmington Hilton Riverside), where it’s been housed since the national chain opened locally in 2009.
The steak house announced on Facebook it would be launching its new spot, 244 N. Water St., on Jan. 24. A redesign will be unveiled in the 7,000-square-foot restaurant, which will feature indoor and outdoor seating, plus valet parking.
The year of the tiger
As the Chinese New Year approaches Feb. 1, local restaurants are preparing to celebrate the year of the tiger (symbolizing strength, courage, and respect).
Junction 421 will offer a four-course menu and drink pairing for $60. The menu will include crab rangoons served with a lychee sparkler, Peking duck and a glass of Mirassou pinot noir, five-spiced roasted pork with Carnivor Zinfadel, and Chinese donuts with a green tea elixir. Reservations can be made by calling (910) 392-3490.
Double Happiness will have a specialty menu priced for $35 a person, featuring 10 items from appetizers to desserts. The chef is still working out details and courses, but it will be served for both lunch (11 a.m. – 3 p.m.) and dinner (5 p.m. – 10 p.m.) at the restaurant’s Wrightsville Avenue and Ogden locations. Diners can call 910-313-1088 or 910-686-1988 for more details.
City council gives go-ahead on rezoning, Ponysaurus Brewing headed downtown
Raleigh’s Cast Iron Group officially announced its second location of Ponysaurus Brewing is headed to downtown Wilmington in a former law office between Burgwin-Wright Museum and Gardens and a strip of shops along Market Street.
City council passed the rezoning of 0.22 acres of land from Historic District to Central Business District – Historic District Overlay during its first meeting of the year. It would facilitate Ponysaurus’ adaptive reuse of the contemporary Colonial Revival office building at 214 Market St. Constructed in 1970, the structure isn’t historic and backs up to an alleyway.
Applicant Nick Hawthorne-Johnson — owner of Ponysaurus – proposed to renovate the two-story, 3,100 square-foot building into a pizzeria and brewery, also adding on a 2,040-square-foot space, according to PCD’s December coverage. The rear parking lot will become a 4,930 square-foot outdoor beer garden, with an exposed terraced courtyard and double-sided masonry fireplace.
The brewery was founded in 2013 in the attic of The Cookery, another Cast Iron Group business out of the Bull City, before moving to an east downtown neighborhood in 2015. Ponysaurus specializes in brewing American, Belgian and European craft beer, currently served in local businesses such as manna, Kettle’s Brewer and Cape Fear Wine and Beer.
The Wilmington brewery will be its second location. Ponysaurus hasn’t announced an official opening date but said in a press release it plans to do so on its website in coming months.
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