Sunday, July 14, 2024

Small Bites: The Sandspur to open at CB, Soif de Vin closes, EOD’s new gin release

103 S. Lake Park Boulevard will be the location of The Sandspur, a restaurant from Clay O’Neal coming to Carolina Beach soon. (Google Maps image)

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.

Port City Small Bites will unveil newsworthy tidbits, from smaller shifts and changes to local menus, 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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The Sandspur sticks to Carolina Beach

A new restaurant is moving through the county’s permitting process currently, to be located on Carolina Beach at 103 S. Lake Park Dr. The Sandspur — a project overseen by Clay O’Neal — will seat around 36 diners indoors in its 1,200-square-foot space.

The menu turned over to the county consists of less than a dozen items, including a rice bowl, as well as tacos, fresh catch sandwiches (with seafood procured from Seaview Crab Company on 1515 Marstellar St.), a burger and sausage dog, plus a fried shrimp BLT, and housemade chips and salsa. 

A Southern favorite also makes an appearance: heirloom tomato sandwich with Duke’s mayo. Served on traditional white bread, it gets an extra oomph, topped with grilled okra.

Construction plans show a 12-seat bar will be outfitted inside The Sandspur as well.

Located in a cottage with a front porch, there is a back patio area facing the Courtyard Marriott and Boardwalk rides. Permit documents indicate future outdoor seating is planned. 

The contractor is listed as Clint McBride of Oceanside Builders, who will construct a kitchen on the property, zoned as commercial mixed use. It also indicates a deck will be added, with cost of construction totaling $89,000.

In January, O’Neal and Rebecca Milligan, listed as the manager, signed the lease agreement for the property with 107 Lake Park LLC.

Hours of operation are marked as Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight. There is no opening date scheduled as of yet.

Port City Daily reached out to O’Neal but did not hear back ahead of press.

Soif de Vin in Monkey Junction has officially closed. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

A wine shop closes 

Monkey Junction wine shop, Soif de Vin, officially hosted its last event on July 14, according to owners Amy Siler and Shawn Underwood. The hospitality lifers, both of whom have had wine industry and restaurant experience under their belts for two-plus decades, opened Soif as a retail and wine bar in 2018.  

All was going well throughout the first two years, but like most businesses during the pandemic, they had to shift operations just to stay afloat. They began offering curbside service, hosting Zoom tastings and even virtual cooking classes. They also constructed an area for outdoor seating to allow for more diners during the height of social distancing.

The biggest change came when they turned operations into a cafe. Soif de Vin became a hot spot for lunch, dinner and brunches, serving items like crab cake and lobster Benedict, Moroccan beef cheeks, and tomato pie. It also would book specialized wine and chef dinners, popular events among its clients.

Yet, after eight months of running the cafe, the landlord said the lease agreement didn’t allow the business to serve food — despite the fact that the couple went through the permitting process with the county which signed off on the building’s upfit.

“The restaurant put us back in the black,” Underwood confirmed, saying the retail outlet lost a lot revenue due to Covid-19. “We were able to pay our bills because of it.”

The husband-and-wife team were pulling 16 hour days tirelessly but were making it work. Soif de Vin didn’t receive money through the paycheck protection program, though it did receive help through the SBA’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund, Underwood said. Every penny was put toward paying rent.

“It was really tough — and we had built up some reserves, which kept us open,” Underwood added.

Even after the cafe portion shuttered last fall, the retail side of things did OK, he said, as they entered the industry’s busiest time of year: the holidays.

“And then in January, it tanked,” Underwood said. “It was like someone shut the door and turned the lights off. And we have been struggling ever since.”

Though they had another idea brewing and considered moving the establishment to a different location with a kitchen, essentially after assessing what was happening overall in the restaurant and hospitality world, they hesitated. Staffing shortages and inflation driving up costs didn’t leave them confident enough to try to keep their vision alive currently.

“The industry just kind of collapsed around us,” Underwood said, “between COVID and the economy. We have heard from so many of our colleagues the troubles they too are facing. There’s been a change in consumerism and buying habits.”

This weekend Siler and Underwood are moving all furniture out of 5226 College Rd., Unit 9-B. They’re also selling off wine inventory and said anyone interested in purchases should call the business ahead of time (910-338-4027), as it’s not open to the public. 

Unsure of their next moves — aside from a few catering and bartending events they have scheduled — they are taking time to re-evaluate and clear their minds and souls after a stressful two-and-a-half years. It doesn’t necessarily mean a permanent exit from an industry they’ve loved. 

“We just need quiet time right now,” Siler said, “just to figure out what our next thing is.”

End of Days will release a new blue pea flower gin at the end of the month to add to their spirits portfolio. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

Say hello to Wilmington’s first blue pea flower gin

A plant native to the South Pacific and well-known for imparting natural blue coloring is making its way into End of Days’ latest gin release. 

Luna Bloom has been two years in the making, according to Oliver Eaney, business partner of End of Days Distillery. The gin has been made with butterfly pea flower, utilized in food and drinks in other countries for years — especially teas. Yet, the FDA just approved it to be used stateside in fall 2021.

“It is prized both for its antioxidant-rich, deep indigo color and mildly floral taste,” Earney told Port City Daily.

Sweeter, with spices, citrus and juniper, Luna Bloom will appeal to palates not as keen on the heavy juniper berries known to infuse the distinctive piney taste in many gins. (Earney is clear, however, that EOD’s use of juniper in its flagship gin is mild compared to most brands, balanced by 14 other botanical ingredients, including coriander, citrus, lemongrass, and chamomile.) 

End of Days is releasing Luna Bloom Gin at the end of the month, labeled with an artist rendering of the butterfly pea flower. The distillery has 600 bottles to go out to the state’s ABC stores and 360 bottles to be sold in its retail establishment at the Castle Street distillery. 

“Our hope is to make this a permanent addition to our brand with another batch five weeks from release date,” Earney said.

He said the blue hue changes as other ingredients are combined, altering the PH balance. For instance, when adding citrus it turns purple or magenta.

“Impeccable craftsmanship and alluring botanical elements awaken curiosity and inspire creative cocktail construction,” Earney added. 

A party will be held at the distillery July 31 to celebrate the Luna Bloom release. It will feature live music, Luna Bloom cocktails, and heavy appetizers and a menu created by Pine Valley Market. Tickets are $65 and available here.

Two more restaurants opened this week

A North Myrtle Beach chain, Blueberry’s Grill, officially opened its doors in Lumina Station this week. The 4,800-square-foot restaurant specializes in brunch — Benedicts, omelettes, skillets, biscuits and gravy, pancakes and waffles. A grilled blueberry muffin is served with most orders and it offers blueberry hushpuppies.

READ MORE: A taste of Myrtle comes to Wrightsville: Blueberry’s Grill to open in Lumina Station

The restaurant has been undergoing renovations since earlier in the spring. Formerly Halligans, Blueberry’s expansive outdoor patio, complete with a hearth, is covered in foliage and equipped with a second bar for folks to enjoy mimosas and Bloody Marys. Manager Michelle Gustafson described it to Port City Daily in March as “modern farmhouse,” with shiplap walls and murals. 

The restaurant seats about 150 people and is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Across town in Barclay Pointe another restaurant group known for its brunches have opened a restaurant. Spindles Filling Station has taken the place of Tavern on 17th, located next door to Bagels on Pointe.

However, it’s not focusing the latest venture on eggs and French toast. A high-end sports bar is now situated among the The Pointe 14 cinema and surrounding apartment complexes. 

It features local brews on tap, a craft cocktail list, including spiritless cocktails like a “Safe Sex on the Beach” made with the well-known Seedlip brand. While expected pub grub is served — “Trash Can Nachos” and smoked wings, burgers and flatbread — more refined entrees, like scallops over risotto, tuna poke and Wagyu meatloaf, can also be found. 

Also coming to the shopping plaza will be Spindles’ sister restaurant, Brunches, originally slated to open by spring but has been delayed. Brunches is expanding into other cities as well.

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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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