WILMINGTON — Matt Golden, co-owner of Bowstring Burgers and Brewyard, has been coming to Wilmington for years from Raleigh. His wife’s family lives in the area, so when an opportunity arose to expand the business into a second location, the Soda Pop District seemed like a perfect fit.
“It’s far enough away from the Raleigh market, but there’s a strong Raleigh and Wilmington connection; a lot of people vacation there and travel there, and enjoy the city and the beaches,” Golden said. “And with the transformation of the original main bottling facility for Coca Cola in the state, there are some cool spaces opening there that we look forward to being neighbors with.”
Pomona Shrub, the upcoming Ibis cocktail and listening lounge, as well as Craftspace are in the newly renovated Bottle Works Building across the way, with Hi-Wire Brewing and Cugino Forno located a block up.
Bowstring in Wilmington will have its ribbon cutting Friday, July 7, at 4 p.m. at 1002 Princess St., formerly the Electric Bottling Co. in the 1900s. Golden and his partners, Ben Yannessa and Brad Bowles, have leaned into the building’s roots, with vintage soda pop regalia peppered throughout the space and some menu items named after the bottling company.
The last business proposed for the location was Tidewater Brewing, a co-op that never came to fruition after the building sustained damage from Hurricane Florence in 2018. Three years later, Parastream Development bought the property and neighboring lots for $8 million, with the goal to bring in mixed-use businesses.
“A sizable investment was paid to upfit the building in partnership with our landlord,” Golden said. “The bones were good — brick with wood and steel.”
Bowstring Brewyard is a fitting name, too, as the building features bowstring trusses, a structural device used in industrial buildings, often done by hand. It matches its Raleigh counterpart, a former Gulf Oil facility.
“It was a really cool feature back in the 1930s,” Golden said. “That’s kind of how it all started — the bowstring name from the actual roof structure — just a super cool design, the wood is hand-bent, way too expensive to do nowadays.”
The partners first decided to open Bowstring Pizza and Brewyard in 2019, after finding the Gulf Oil facility, which had been turned into a nursery, in Five Points. The pandemic stalled plans, but the business launched in the summer of 2020.
A criminal defense lawyer at the time, Golden wanted a “side project”; however, it’s grown into a thriving full-time operation, known for featuring beers from regional craft breweries, cocktails and wine, and live music and food.
Unlike Raleigh’s output of pizza, Wilmington’s brewyard will focus on burgers.
“We’re moving into a district with a close-knit group of businesses, and I think choosing something that complements each other is important,” Golden said, pointing to Cugino, already turning out Neapolitan pies in the vicinity.
The team devised the burger menu, which will include six staples and a rotating special. The fresh hand-patties will have various toppings; one comes smothered in Electric Sauce, a combination of mayo, mustard, a pinch of horseradish and other seasonings.
There will be a black bean option for vegans, and specials could contain anything from a bacon-blue cheese variety to an avocado version and another featuring roasted red peppers. Open Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the location will serve a brunch burger as well.
“We’ll give the cooks the freedom to sort of experiment,” Golden said.
Unlike Raleigh’s brewyard, which utilizes a food truck, the local 9,000-square-foot building is outfitted with a full kitchen; diners place orders via text message and expos bring out the food. The concrete bar has 50 stools, though the restaurant holds upward of 150 people.
“It’s a nice, open space, with little lounge areas, a game area with pinball machines, and an outside patio space too with more games — Bocce ball, giant Kinect, corn hole,” he said.
There will be a side yard as well connecting to Hi-Wire’s parking lot.
“There’a a lot of talk about social districts coming to Wilmington and they’ve had success in Raleigh,” Golden said. “We’re hopeful that the Soda Pop District is included in these proposed talks … it would make total sense for people to be able to go to Hi-Wire and bring a drink from there over here, and vice versa.”
There will be 15 rotating taps, featuring Wilmington breweries, such as Wrightsville Beach Brewing and Wilmington Brewing Company, as well as Red Oak and R&D’s out of Raleigh. R&D’s Seven Saturdays is the number one selling beer at the flagship location, according to Golden.
There also will be popular domestics, such as Modelo.
“But, really, we will figure out what’s popular here and what people want to drink to dictate the taps,” he said.
R&D has also brewed a special cherry-flavored hard seltzer, Bowstring Electric, for the business. There could be more flavors coming down the pipe, Golden indicated.
A craft cocktail menu will be offered, featuring a Transfusion — a hit in Raleigh — with vodka, ginger ale, grape juice, and lime juice.
“I call it an adult Capri-Sun,” Golden said, as the drink comes in a pouch. “It’s whimsical and fun — great on a hot summer day.”
Seven or so drinks will be on the menu and also change with the seasons. Watermelon and strawberry margaritas, made with fresh fruit, will be available this summer, for instance.
Aside from drinks and burgers, the venue will host live music. The bar is large enough to hold around 500 people when clearing some of the floor space, and the flow between outdoors and indoors is seamless.
“We have four garage doors that open up,” Golden said.
The partners plan for plenty of free music but also want to bring in larger acts for ticketed events.
They have already begun booking and have scheduled Duck for Saturday, July 8.
“They’ve been playing with us since the beginning,” Golden said of the Raleigh venue. The five-piece blends jazz, funk and blues.
Chill Paxton is scheduled for July 22, a five–piece that has played with Rusted Root and Toubab Krewe.
On Sept. 22, Bowstring will bring in Tauk Moore — a heavy instrumental rock fusion band out of New York.
The business will operate everyday of the week for lunch and dinner, with expanded hours on weekends.
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