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 piano bar to beer garden and restaurant
The crew behind Husk, YoSake and Dram + Morsel are preparing to open their fourth establishment in downtown Wilmington: a German beer garden and restaurant, according to co-owner Justin Smith.
Smith and his partners, wife Becca Smith, Gil Johnson and Kyra Tebo, have taken over the former Tails Piano Bar at 115 S. Front St.
“I’ve always loved that building,” Smith said, who admitted he had his eyes on it for years, even before Tails opened in 2018 (the bar shuttered in fall 2020 after being forced to close through the pandemic).
Aubriana’s operated in the building in the mid 2000s as one of downtown’s fine-dining options. Before that, it served as the notable Mickey Ratz, a popular bar in the ‘90s.
Last summer, availability of the space presented itself.
“Oftentimes, when we go out of town, we’ll find ourselves at various German places to have a quick snack or a beer, and use it as a meeting place with friends because of the large communal areas, and we love to be outdoors,” Smith added. “We go to this great place in Brooklyn called Black Forest.”
Currently, Wilmington’s Front Street restaurant seats around 40 inside and 60 on its outdoor patio, according to Smith. Though the business owners aren’t ready to reveal the restaurant and beer garden’s name yet, Smith envisions it as a destination spot in downtown Wilmington, offering a unique dining experience with communal and smaller pockets of seating. No construction needs to be done to the building itself, except for cosmetic upgrades.
The restaurateurs are working on permitting right now for the tap systems. Smith said the goal is to focus on German lagers from local craft breweries — “or their take on a German beer, a stout, a pale ale, whatever it might be.” The restaurant also will carry traditional German sippers and have full ABC permits.
YoSake chef Erin Wiley, who Smith said is part German, is taking the lead on the menu. While some items will be traditional, it primarily will be an interpretation of German food.
“It will be more like a fusion,” Smith added, “similar to how YoSake is Asian-American infused.”
Schnitzel, spaetzle, sausages, pretzels, sandwiches and salads appear on the preliminary menu, as well as goulash and seafood items. Sauerbraten (tender beef roast that has marinated for several days) may be offered as a special one day a week.
Smith said they will be working with an authentic German deli through one of its purveyors as well.
“We are still establishing price points,” he said, as food costs are waxing and waning with supply shortages still heavily affecting the industry. “We will have dips all the way up to some of our seafood items probably being anywhere from $8 to $18, and our sandwiches and our sausages and meats being somewhere between $12 and $15.”
Entrees will go up to $25.
Smith said if permitting and renovating the space goes according to plan, he’s hoping to be open by spring.
Tailwind Concessions expands at ILM
As the Wilmington International Airport (ILM) undergoes its $68-million terminal expansion, so are its concession areas getting an overhaul. National corporation Tailwind Concessions works with 35 airports in the nation to help feed and quench the thirsts of travelers moving between cities worldwide.
According to spokesperson Jess Backhaus, Tailwind has operated in ILM since 2005. “We’ve gone through many transformations as the airport’s kind of grown and shifted and such throughout the years,” he said.
Tailwind utilized three areas inside ILM at one time, though it’s dwindled down to two in recent years. As of late, they have had to work out of temporary spaces as the airport has undergone construction since 2018.
By the time Tailwind is done building out its new drinking and dining areas, it will have four concession areas for consumers to utilize. To be unveiled in February, they will include a full-service restaurant added in the middle of the concourse, as well as a coffee shop, plus two satellite bars.
The restaurant will seat 50 and have an expanded menu of about 30 items, featuring appetizers, sandwiches, salads and entrees.
The coffee shop will seat 25 and serve a wide array of high-end coffee drinks, plus offer a “very large, fresh grab-and-go section,” Backhaus said.
The satellite bars will seat between 12 and 16 and serve locally roasted brews — from Wrightsville Beach Brewery and Edward Teach, for example — as well as locally made spirits from Blue Shark and End of Days.
The build-out began in December 2021, with the help of Harris Construction and architect John Reese, Buckhaus confirmed. Though he couldn’t reveal the names of the establishments yet — Tailwind works with airport administration to localize the names of their concessions according to the region they represent — he said the aesthetics will have a coastal vibe.
“A lot of different shades of blue, reclaimed barnwood, a lot of white subway tile — fresh, bright but also a rustic look,” Backhaus described.
Tailwind will be hiring more crew in coming weeks as it nears its official opening. Currently, it employs around 15 or 20 people at ILM.
“Our staff fluctuates, and in the summertime is much bigger just because of the volume of travelers,” Backhaus said.
Wilmington Coffee Fest is coming up
What started as a coffee crawl in 2018 has evolved into a full-fledged festival, celebrating the art of Wilmington’s craft coffee scene.
Wilmington Coffee Fest returns Saturday, Jan. 29, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., after Covid-19 put the event on hiatus last year. There will be tastings from over a dozen coffee vendors, seminars, coffee competitions, music, food trucks, and local arts vendors. Sweets also will be served from local bakeries and food vendors.
The festival will take place at two breweries and will be held outside, to be spaced out per the current surge in pandemic numbers. Attendees will head to Waterline (721 Surry St.) from 9 a.m. – noon and Hi-Wire (1020 Princess St.) from noon to 3 p.m.
Tickets are $25 ($35 day of) for one location or $40 for both ($50 day of), and include a tote bag, limited edition WCF 2022 espresso mug, full access to vendors, lectures, and samples.
There is also a VIP admission for $60, which includes a kick-off party and early check in on Friday, Jan. 28, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Attendees can pick up their swag bag, meet and greet all the vendors, receive two complimentary drink tickets, and enjoy live music. VIP admission also allows early access to both sites, starting at 8:30 a.m. at Waterline and 11:30 a.m. at Hi-Wire.
Tickets can be purchased here.
Wilmington’s vegan fine-dining establishment, The Green House, debuted a new lunch menu last week: sides ($7), salads ($13), and small plates ($15).
Highlights include a warm potato salad (turmeric marinated cauliflower, mushroom bacon, petite rouge peas, golden raisin and caper vinaigrette), “krab” dip (Lion’s Mane mushrooms, sweet and spicy peppers, lentil chips), and root vegetable poutine (tubers, miso gravy and aged almond cheese).
There is also a winter caprese salad that looks like a work of art, featuring roasted butternut squash, mozzarella, sage, candied nuts, and brown butter vinaigrette.
The Green House accepts reservations and is open for lunch (11 a.m. – 3 p.m.) and dinner (5 p.m. – 9 p.m.), Wednesday through Sunday.
Across the bridge on Wrightsville Beach, Blockade Runner also released a new menu for its jazz brunch. Every Sunday, diners are treated to live jazz performed by Marc Siegel and guests while noshing on freshly prepared items, with ingredients curated from local farms and markets.
The menu was created by Blockade Runner’s chef, Jessica Cabo, and sous chef Shaun Fenix, who took inspiration from the Monterey Jazz Festival (the chefs will change the menu quarterly, based on destinations that host world-renowned jazz soirees). Offerings include items like a Fisherman’s Wharf-inspired clam chowder served in a sourdough bowl, crab and goat cheese quiche, cured salmon waffle Benedict, and lemon ricotta pancakes. Multiple vegetarian and vegan items also are included, like mushroom toast and tacos.
Items range in price from $7-$20. Brunch is served 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., and reservations can be made by calling 877-684-8009.
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