SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — The number is staggering and there’s no guarantee this list is all-inclusive of every food and beverage business in the tri-county region that launched or officially turned off the lights over the course of the year.
But, as another year closes and 2023 arrives, a look back on the local dining scene shows at least 60 eateries opened in the greater Wilmington area, with almost two dozen closing.
In addition, around 30 drinkeries — bars, coffee shops, bottle shops — opened and closed.
Port City Daily looked back at reporting throughout the course of 2022 to run down an extensive catalog for diners to refer to for ideas on where to drink and dine in the area and also support local businesses.
The piece is broken up into two parts. Part one, featuring restaurants, can be accessed here. Below are drinkeries that opened and closed in 2022.
Bitty & Beau’s at nCino
Bitty’s and Beau’s, a local coffee shop founded in 2016 with a focus on giving a career opportunity to those with disabilities, had a big year. It started with the goal to launch 13 franchises nationwide in 2022. But before any opened, Bitty and Beau’s launched a satellite store in the newly renovated nCino in Mayfaire. The 2,860-square-foot coffee shop is located on the first floor of the fintech company (6770 Parker Farm Dr.). The partnership had been in the works for two years before the pandemic hit. Read about it here.
Boba Tea Factory
Owner Grace Gao opened the shop in August on Shipyard Boulevard, a dream she had wanted to fulfill since leaving her job working for a bank in New York for almost two decades. Her family relocated to Wilmington, a place they visited on vacation, and decided to start an authentic Taiwanese tea shop. The store starts with a base of jasmine green or black tea and adds flavors, milks, toppings and jellies. There is also an uncaffeinated milk series — drinks concocted with whole milk but can be substituted with oat or almond milk. There are also fruit teas, which can be served frozen. Read more about the cafe here.
Boballie Bubble Tea
Another boba tea shop opened downtown on the Riverwalk in November. Operated by Joseph and Diana Crosland, the couples said they had an adoration for the drink in Nevada, from where they moved in 2021. Their daughters loved the drink and the family often would frequent the boba shops together. Upon relocating and realizing at the time only one boba tea shop existed in the area, the Croslands decided to enter the food and beverage industry for the first time. Read about Boballie here.
Bull City Ciderworks
Wilmington’s first standalone cidery landed in the Cargo District in summer. A franchise with five locations, its numerous ciders range from pineapple flavor (UpCide Down) to orange peel-hibiscus (Oyah) to ginger (Rhize Up). It also serves cider cocktails aplenty, spirited drinks topped off with the sweet or dry cider beers. Plus, they do cider slushies. Read our prior coverage here.
Dram & Draught
In June, former Wilmingtonian Kevin Barrett — who once owned a wine shop downtown — made his return to the Port City after moving away almost two decades ago. This time around it was to launch Dram & Draught at the corner of Market and Front streets. Operated with business partner Drew Schenck, Dram and Draught’s menu consists of 20 or so drinks, featuring classics and signature offerings, with seasonal changes — though there is a section dedicated to former popular drinks under “Dram Favorites.” It’s known for its vast whiskey selection as well. Catch up on the coverage here.
Located in Fulton Station in the Pine Valley area near Cafe Chinois, DrumTrout Brewing Co. opened in May. The brewery utilizes a three-barrel direct-fired brewhouse system, essentially meaning all beer is “small batch.” Thus the brewery will be able to churn out more seasonal and one-of-a-kind flavors.
A year ago, local restaurateur and bar owner Joe Apkarian (Pour House, Tacobaby) announced plans to transform an old 1950s gas station at Red Cross and Third streets into a bar. He and his partners, ?, officially opened in May and since have hosted numerous bashes at the new watering hole, including a fundraiser for the Domestic Violence Services and Shelter in October. There is more to come in the new year as well, as the bar hosts live music and special events. Catch up on the original story here.
A popular Ogden bottle shop relocated to the Cargo District at the end of August, almost a year after announcing his move. Steven Gibbs hosts art markets and live music at his venue practically every weekend, and there is always a rotating selection of wines and beers offered. Read about his initial move announcement here.
Flying Machine’s Big Ocean Cider Co.
Flying Machine Brewing Company opened in Wilmington in 2018 but in spring 2022 also revealed it was getting into the cider game. It launched Big Ocean Cider Co., a product sold at both its taprooms both on Racine Drive and at Wrightsville Beach. Co-owner Grant Steadman told PCD it was part of the business plan from day one; read about it here.
Four Hounds Distilling
At the beginning of 2022, Fox Hounds Distilling in Carolina Beach announced an expansion into a new space. It opened at 1202 N. Lake Blvd. in a former two-unit office building, by late spring. Max Sussman and Chris Stellaccio told PCD it will allow more production of its four rums. It also opened a tasting room on the premises to serve beverages.
A well-known business owner that launched plenty of bars and restaurants downtown and in New Hanover County opened The Ivey on St. Patrick’s Day. Ian Moseley turned storage space in the back of the former bar City Saloon into a hideaway, The Ivey. Located in the alley across from Blue Post, it specializes in craft cocktails without the burdensome price, as reported on by PCD. Moseley passed away in the fall after years-long health issues; his memoriam can be read here.
The non-alcoholic beverage game is trending upward in cities nationwide, with dry bars often popping up to serve those who are living more health-conscious lifestyles. In Wilmington, Moxie launched in December, which builds packages and services for clients looking for zero-proof cocktails, wine and beer at events. It also has a retail space where people can come by and purchase goods in supply. Catch up on the coverage here.
Located in the Cotton Exchange, Hunter Ford opened Momentum Spirits in April. The micro-distillery sells vodka in NC-shaped bottles. It also has merch for sale. Outside of vodka, the brand plans to churn out limoncello and orangecello as well.
Port City Java
In November, Wilmington’s homegrown coffee brand expanded yet again only this time on Carolina Beach Road. Port City Java opened at the Crosswords at Independence, serving up its coffee drinks, smoothies, sandwiches and baked goods. Read more here.
Wilmignton’s first dog bar opened in late summer on Wrightsville Avenue. Originally, the dog bar was going to be a part of Sam Steger’s Mess Hall — a popular burger joint moved from the Cargo District onto Wrightsville Avenue. However, when the building next to Mess Hall’s relocation became available, Steger decided to make the two entities separate.
A craft cocktail bar in Carolina Beach is taking it back old-school, with a retro style bar. Nicole Adkins leaned into a mid-century modern style mien for the former Coast Craft Cocktails and Calabash restaurant on the island. The bar offers a menu of eight signature crafted cocktails and 10 small bites, and changes up specials and offerings frequently. So, yes, technically it’s also a restaurant — but it really shines with its sippers. Read more here.
Social Coffee + Supply Co.
A popular coffee shop that got its start in 2017 opened a second location in May 2022. Social Coffee + Supply Co. operated originally as a coffee cart before growing into a brick-and-mortar at 5317 Wrightsville Ave. Its popularity has grown so much, it expanded again to 4718 Oriole Drive, with both locations in former residential homes that have been renovated.
The Sorrow Drowner
An immersive tiki bar experience opened on 10th and Dock streets after a multi-year six-figure renovation. Owned and operated by Alfred Wheatley, The Sorrow Drowner centers on tiki drinks and food, including pupu platters. The two-story building showcases unique furniture, century-old artifacts, antique photos, and original art, all the backdrop to its story: The abandoned building is where a society of adventurers once gathered — historians, scientists and archaeologists — to share their findings as they went in search of a lost continent in the Pacific Ocean. The staff and performers — it features live music on weekends — bring it all to life, serving customers in character. See the inside of the bar here.
The Starling Bar
The Cargo District got its first whiskey bar in April when The Starling Bar opened behind Salt + Charm. Owned and operated by Matthew Ray and Abbye McGee, the two childhood friends always wanted to operate a business together, McGee told PCD. The bar focuses on rare and vintage bourbons and whiskeys, but offers all spirits, crafted creatively by mixologists who work with fresh ingredients and unique flavors.
Social Casa de Tequila
A tequila-centric bar opened on North Front Street in the former Trolly Stop location. Opened by Lindsey Fundora Rutherford and three partners over the summer, Social Casa De’ Tequila focuses on freshly prepared cocktails and higher end tequilas. Fifty-five tequilas are currently and cocktails start at $6. Read more here.
Thirteen Bar and Lounge
In late fall, a new bar next door to Cape Fear Beer and Spirits opened. Thirteen Bar and Lounge was renovated by owners Nina Orenstein and Tristen Langley at 141 S. Front St. Three stories, it’s open Wednesday through Sunday, often features DJ’s and drink specials. For NYE it’s offering $20 bottles of champagne. Read more here.
Wilmington wine lovers rejoiced over the summer when the box store giant Total Wine opened on Military Cutoff Road. The market boasts a selection of more than 8,000 wines and 2,500 beers and features an array of local vendors. Its opening also garnered a $29,000 donation to local nonprofit Coastal Horizons.
TRU Colors Taproom
TRU Colors released its first beer in October 2021 after being in operation for five years. By July 2022, it opened its taproom at 715 Greenfield St. to the public. A little over a month later, the brewery closed its doors, Its founder George Taylor cited the pandemic, poor media coverage, dried-up funding, and lack of community support as factors contributing to his startup’s demise in an op-ed posted to Wilmington Business Journal. Catch up PCD’s reporting here.
The former Dock Street Oyster Bar restaurant was reinvigorated with a new tenant over the summer. Wilmington Distillery is the storefront for Matt “Chewy” Karn’s flagship liquor, IZZYz white rum. However, since installing a copper still, he is adding to the portfolio, churning out vodka, moonshine, and limoncello as well. Read PCD’s coverage announcing its opening here.
The Vault Coffee and Pour House
In November, owners Jeff Hogan and Jenn Taylor opened a new coffee shop and beer and wine shop in a former First Citizens Bank location. He renovated the space, which includes dine-in seating for coffee drinks — hot, iced and frozen — and baked goods during the day, with a drive-thru also open. At night, folks can stop in to enjoy multiple craft beers and Prossecco on draft, as well as numerous wines, both affordable up to high-end varieties. It’s open seven days a week at 7 a.m. and closes by 9 p.m., located at 612 North Lake Park Boulevard. There are plans for a grand opening celebration in early 2023, according to a press release.
The Vibe Music and Cocktail Lounge
Bobby and Robin Brown hosted the grand opening celebration of The Vibe Music and Cocktail Lounge in December, after opening the new Cotton Exchange venue in early fall. The Vibe focuses on craft cocktails, heavily featuring bourbon, as well as spirits from local distilleries and across the globe. The menu will change seasonally, sometimes even monthly. It also has a full lineup of music and comedy offered weekly. Read more about the space here.
Bars, bottle shops that closed
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