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.
“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.
READ MORE: Catch up on other food news of the week
David’s Deli to open second location in Scott’s Hill by summer
Since 1981, David’s Deli has been a Wilmington institution, known for its breakfasts and blue plate specials — humble, Southern food beloved by regular diners.
One is Vince Burgess, owner of Burgess Corporation, behind the U.S. Coast Guard bulkhead repair work in downtown Wilmington. Burgess has frequented David’s Deli throughout the years.
“He used to come in every Friday night when we offered dinners,” general manager Lindsey Monroe said.
Monroe is the daughter to David’s Deli owner Doug Efting, who, in 1993, bought the Lumina Commons restaurant located on Eastwood Road.
Burgess said one day in the middle of Covid-19 lockdown, he was talking to a group of people at Scott’s Hill Hardware how there wasn’t a good breakfast spot or country cookin’ restaurant close by.
“One thing we all said was needed so badly was a basic meat-and-three — comfort food, home food. Don’t get me wrong, Ruth’s Kitchen does a great job, but it’s such a small space,” Burgess said.
He decided to remedy the situation at 8740 Market St., within the Villages at Plantation Landing, a neighborhood featuring 48 townhomes, situated near Porters Neck.
Burgess scooped up 0.9 acres to construct a 7,287-square-foot building that will contain three bays. One end will be designated for a bottle shop and on the other end, a restaurant. A community retail or services facility will be located in the middle.
“People can walk there and have a beer, or stop and eat on the way home or pick up food,” Burgess described of the location. “We wanted a good local restaurant to integrate with the locals and community vibe so it serves the neighborhood — like Smoke on the Water serves Riverlights.”
The mom-and-pop reputation David’s Deli established throughout the years epitomized what Burgess wanted to build upon. He just hoped the restaurateurs had interest in expanding.
“Vince called me and said, ‘You know, I just think this would be a perfect fit for y’all, if you’re in a place where you can grow,’” Monroe recalled. “And it made sense for us.”
Monroe grew up in Scotts Hill before moving to Wilmington in high school. She said her family knew firsthand there were few restaurants, without having to drive south to Ogden or north to Hampstead, that provided a “cheaper option without sacrificing quality.”
The second David’s Deli location will seat 20 to 25 people in its indoor and outdoor dining areas. It will operate for breakfast and lunch. “We also will be selling alcohol,” Monroe said, “and adding brunch options.”
Burgess said the building will have a Lowcountry look to integrate with the aesthetics of Villages at Plantation Landing. The other occupants have yet to be determined and will be brokered by Steve Hall.
”Steve also grew up in Scotts Hill,” Burgess said. “We have worked as a group together for probably a year fleshing this idea out — so it’s a truly local-inspired theme.”
Groundbreaking will begin on the building next month and Monroe is hoping to have David’s Deli in Scotts Hill open by summer.
East Coast to get its first Dave’s Hot Chicken in February
By late February, Wilmington will get a taste of Nashville hot chicken with a Hollywood franchise that’s making its debut on the East Coast. Dave’s Hot Chicken will open in a 2,384-square-foot space, part of the new construction surrounding the perimeter of Independence Mall on Oleander.
Located beside Masa Sushi, Dave’s specializes in fried chicken tenders served across seven levels of spiciness, from a very mild “No Spice” to a flaming hot “Reaper.”
“You have to sign a waiver for the hottest,” operating partner Katie Wingard said.
Dave’s Hot Chicken menu is simple: tenders, sliders, kale slaw, mac ‘n’ cheese, crinkle-cut fries, and milkshakes.
Yet, it’s drawing the attention of celebrity palates, including rapper Drake, actor Samuel L. Jackson and Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. All are stakeholders in the business.
Dave’s Hot Chicken started as a humble operation in Los Angeles in 2017, founded by Chef Dave Kopushyan, brothers Tommy and Gary Rubenyan and Arman Oganesyan. “It initially opened in a parking lot under a pop-up tent, with lines that quickly wrapped around the block,” Wingard said.
Nine months later, Dave’s Hot Chicken had its first brick-and-mortar.
By 2019, the restaurateurs signed a licensing agreement with investors behind Blaze Pizza, and five years later almost 300 franchises are slated to open in the U.S. and Canada.
Multiple locations will launch in North Carolina in 2022, with 10 going in from the Triangle to the coast, franchised by Russell and Loreen Hansen. The Hansens also operate Blaze Pizza franchises, including one near Mayfaire.
Wingard said they will launch another East Coast store in Jacksonville, N.C., after Wilmington’s restaurant opens. The fast-casual eatery seats 48 inside and 20 outside and will operate for lunch and dinner.
Currently, Dave’s is hiring 70 to 100 employees.
Blue Surf Café makes changes
Racine Drive’s Blue Surf Café has shifted its menu and now is sprucing up its space during its slowest time of year.
Owner Colleen Kochanek said, traditionally, the café will close the second or third week of January for touch-up painting and cleaning. At the beginning of the week, the cafe closed in order to put to use restaurant recovery money Kochanek received due to the pandemic.
She has invested in new equipment that “needed to be updated,” as well as painted the floors and bathrooms. New lighting and fans also will arrive soon to be installed.
“We also hired a company to come in and do a deep clean,” she said, “so everything looks shinier and cleaner.”
Blue Surf at Racine is Kochanek’s flagship cafe; the restaurateur opened a full-scale eatery over the summer, Blue Surf Arboretum West, which offers a finer dining experience than the casual counter service offered on Racine Drive. Due to ongoing staffing shortages, Kochanek decided to scale down the cafe’s menu last month, removing seven lunch items and dropping dinner service altogether (nothing has changed with their breakfast menu). Hours are now 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
“Hopefully, when staffing gets a little bit back to normal, we can open back up for dinner,” she said. “But we are trying to be really careful about food costs and not throwing away food.”
One item that has remained: their popular hot chocolates, created to order — from shaving down chocolate to toasting the giant marshmallow on top. Blue Surf offers traditional, peppermint-chocolate, and Mexican chocolate, and has added three new flavors for the 2022 winter menu: cookies and cream, white raspberry, and white chocolate.
“It’s quite a process to make them, but we love it,” Kochanek said.
The refreshed café will open to the public again on Sunday, Jan. 23.
The Big Nosh
The Temple of Israel hosts an annual Jewish food sale, “The Big Nosh,” offering traditional delicacies straight from New York to the local Wilmington community. Funds raised from the sale will go toward the temple, which is currently securing funds for its vast reconstruction.
Corned beef and pastrami can be purchased by the half pound or as sandwiches (which come with coleslaw and kosher pickle). Also available for puchase: Guss’ pickles (half sour and sour), smoked whitefish salad and chopped herring salad by the half pound, Matjes Herring, seeded Rye Bread, potato knishes, Israeli salad, and noodle kugle.
Sweets are available, including Greene’s NY Babka (a dense layered cake, filled with fudge chocolate or cinnamon) and Rugelach (bite-sized cookie made with cream cheese dough, filled with chocolate or cinnamon).
Prices are $4-$20. The menu and order form can be found here. Orders must be placed by Friday, Feb. 11, with pickup scheduled for Feb. 24, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Reibman Center for Kahillah (922 Market St.). Contact Shai Abisch at email@example.com or (914) 582-8673 for more information.
GLOW celebrity chef fundraiser postponed until April
The annual fundraiser for the Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington (GLOW) brings in celebrity chefs every January to prepare a meal for upward of 350 diners at its luncheon. This year’s event has been pushed to Apr. 29 due to the recent surge in Covid-19 cases.
Led by all females — going hand-in-hand with GLOW’s single-gender, public charter school, a first in North Carolina — Ashley Christensen, Cheetie Kumar and Sarah Gruenberg will be showcasing their skills while raising money for the educational institution (Devin Finegan was originally scheduled to join but can’t make the rescheduled date). The luncheon will be open to the public at the Landfall Country Club.
Christensen is a Raleigh, N.C., chef, whose numerous eateries — Poole’s Diner, Death & Taxes, Beasley’s Chicken and Honey — have been hailed by critics and diners alike. She was 2014’s James Beard winner for Best Chef Southeast division and in 2019 won Most Outstanding Chef.
Also a Raleigh-area chef, Kumar’s Pan Asian and Indian cuisine at Garland touts all fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
Gruenberg previously led the team at Michelin-starred Spiaggia before opening her own Chicago restaurant, Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio.
The three will be joined by area chefs from local restaurants to help prepare and plate the food at the luncheon. GLOW spokesperson Margee Herring said only two tables are left, priced at $3,000 each or sponsored for $5,000, which come with added promotional value.
“We will incorporate students into our program, as we have done in years past,” Herring confirmed. “Chefs will also visit the school prior to the event.”
Two of the chefs, Christensen and Finegan, visited GLOW earlier in the week on Thursday to talk to culinary students about what can be expected by a career in the food industry.
Money from April’s fundraiser will help the academy’s leadership and afterschool programs, learning circles, college-bound programming, transportation and student services. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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