SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — Lots of movement happens around the Port City when it comes to restaurants, food trucks, bars and bottle shops, not to mention organizational and nonprofit foodie events and festivals. While Port City Daily already covers most of this news, “Small Bites” offers another way for readers to stay in the know.
READ MORE: Catch up on other food news of the week
PCSB unveils newsworthy tidbits, whether it’s smaller shifts and changes to local menus, or expansions of existing establishments, temporary closures and renovations, added hours or grand openings, pop-up events and, of course, openings and closings.
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End of Days distributes ready-to-drink sippers
Last year, Wilmington distillery End of Days released ready-to-drink canned beverages out of its quonset hut on Castle Street. The owners announced earlier this year they would also take over a 6,000-square-foot warehouse around the corner specifically to boost distribution of ready-to-drink items to ABC stores across the state.
“We’ve got a great team of people that’s been scaling these recipes to make sure that they taste like a cocktail that’s been served behind our bar,” co-owner Oliver Earney said.
The warehouse is equipped with brite tanks that can churn out 250-gallon batches of End of Days’ Hurricane (Port of Entry rum, passion fruit, citrus, and cane sugar), a gin and tonic (created with Port of Entry gin and EOD house tonic syrup) and the Cargo Mule (Port of Entry vodka, ginger, lemongrass, and citrus). The tanks chill and carbonate the products ahead of canning and packaging.
“Our first canning run of the mule is actually going to be next Tuesday, so we are excited to get that going to sell them in the distillery,” Earney said.
They sent their first orders of the gin and tonic and Hurricanes for ABC distribution, starting with 150-gallon batches. Within a week, Earney said they were almost sold out of gin and tonics.
The product is sold in four packs in 8.5-ounce cans with 10% ABV. It retails at $24.95. Earney said customers can enjoy it out of a can, pour over ice or even get two cocktails out of it by adding soda water for a lower ABV.
The canned products already are being bestowed in award-winning praise by the SIP Awards International Spirits Competition. The Hurricane received a double gold medal, the gin and tonic received special mention with an innovation award and a silver medal, and the mule received a gold medal.
What’s new? Pizza, sammies, booze.
Wilmington epicureans are delighting in the new flavors now open in town. On Saturday The Half on the Northside officially opened.
Formerly Detour Deli, the space has been renovated by owners Dean Moore, Carl Cross and Andrew Dennison, who announced in February they would launch their first restaurant. They added a 12-seat bar inside that oversees the sandwich-making action and upfitted the back patio with picnic tables and benches for al fresco dining.
READ MORE: Sandwiches get new life on the Northside
Just over a dozen sandwiches are offered, around half of which are or can be prepared as vegan. There is even an homage to the predecessor with a Caprese.
“But I highly recommend the Mixto,” Cross said during Friday’s soft opening. “It’s my favorite.”
Roast beef, ham, salami, fresh mozzarella, olive salad, onion, tomato, and mixto sauce on ciabatta taps out at $14. Sandwiches are served with choice a of house-seasoned chips or cucumber, tomato and onion salad. Upgrades are also available on sides like potato, chickpea or beet salad.
The most popular vegan option, he said, is the Take Out — a tip-of-the-hat to Chinese takeout in a sammie. Hot mustard, roasted broccoli, green onion, smacked cucumber salad with peanuts, kraut, and Szechuan sauce on ciabatta comes in at $10.50.
The owners also are bringing in a nomadic brewing experience to The Half, meaning they will collaborate with breweries to feature on tap. The first is a dry cider from Burning Blush Brewery in Asheville. The three owners come from the industry, formerly of Flying Machine Brewing Company, and also have a selection of canned brews and wines.
Apparently, the opening on Saturday and Sunday went so well, the owners announced on social media they had to restock.
“Holy smokes, Wilmington! We knew you would show out, but the level of support we received this weekend was something to behold. So much support in fact, that we have sold out of all our sandwiches!”
They will reopen Wednesday.
On June 5 Cugino Forno opened beside Hi-Wire Brewing in suite A, the Princess-facing side. The 3,500-square-foot restaurant is popular across the state; it opened first in Greensboro in 2017, and has expanded into Durham, Winston-Salem and Clemmons. Three cousins from Turkey — Joseph Ozbey, Yilmaz Guver and Adam Adksoy — started the restaurant after studying the art and craft of making Neapolitan-style pizza in Italy.
Eight percent of the ingredients sourced for a Cugino pizza come imported from Italy, including San Marzano tomatoes and Caputo flour. Buffalo mozzarella tops each 16-inch pie (except the Marinara), and the pizzas are cooked in 900-degree stone ovens, also imported from Naples. The crust is delivered with a signature char and crispy bite yet soft chew.
There are around 11 specialty pies, priced $15.95 and up, a handful of salads ($8.95 and up), as well as macarons, cannolis, cakes and gelato ($2.95 and up). The restaurant also serves beer and wine.
Currently, Cugino Forno is offering a 10-inch personal pizza and drink for $10.95 during lunch, Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The pizzeria is open seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., except on weekends. Cugino stays open until 10 p.m. on both Friday and Sunday.
Downtown at the corner of Market and Front streets, Dram and Draught is bringing new spirits to the busiest corner of Wilmington. It’s the fourth bar Kevin Barrett and Drew Schenck have opened since 2016. Dram and Draught started in Raleigh before expanding to Greensboro and Durham. After opening in the Port City, they will launch in Cary and Charlotte as well.
The menu specializes in balanced cocktails, priced $10 and up. It will have over 300 bottles of whiskey as the collection builds, but will also feature offerings of all liquors, owner Barrett told Port City Daily ahead of Friday’s soft opening.
Dram and Draught opens Tuesday at 3 p.m. Read the full coverage here.
Slice of Life raises $20K for World Central Kitchen
Slice of Life owner Ray Worrell hosted a fundraising program in May, Pizza for a Purpose, to raise money for World Central Kitchen. He wrote a check for $20,073 last week to donate to the humanitarian nonprofit that goes into areas of crises — hurricanes, tornadoes, war zones — to ensure people in need are properly fed with a hot meal.
Chef Jose Andrés started the nonprofit in 2010 after feeding displaced Haitian families devastated by an earthquake. In 2018, the WCK crew set up in Wilmington in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Crews have recently been in the Ukraine and even survived a Russian missile strike in April, which left four people wounded.
Worrell’s wife, Anastasia — who also runs the vegan fine dining eatery, The Green House — is from Moldova, bordered by Ukraine to the north. Her mother lives in Transnistria, a Russian-occupied region also bordering Ukraine.
In essence, the war hits closer to home for their family.
“It’s the first time we’ve done something like this,” Worrell said of Pizza for a Purpose. “I’m always reluctant to work with nonprofits that are big and not in the community, but WCK does powerful work.”
Worrell sold 4,550 large pizzas in May and donated $5 from each sale.
He said he plans to continue Pizza with a Purpose a couple times a year, likely focusing on a local organization next.
“It might not be $5, but it’ll be something substantial,” he said.
Worrell is no stranger to charitable giving. He served on the NourishNC board for six years and will become a member emeritus by next year.
“I feel like you got to work on your own front porch first, you know?” he said.
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