Sunday, October 1, 2023

Chef Keith Rhodes ‘tackles’ old venture in 3 new spots: UNCW, Freya’s Haus, downtown

Chef Keith Rhodes opened Tackle Box Kitchen on UNCW’s campus this week and plans to park its food truck operation in Scott’s Hill at the soon-to-be opened bar and bottle shop, Freya’s Haus, as plans to open another location of Tackle Box at a brick and mortar downtown are to come by November. (Courtesy UNCW)

WILMINGTON – Tackle Box Kitchen was a concept Chef Keith Rhodes — best known for his modern seafood restaurant Catch — started in 2020.

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It opened inside Seven Mile Post and operated a year before becoming a food truck. Since then, Rhodes has continued its mobile outreach for private caterings only; however, that changes this year. 

Tackle Box Kitchen will serve the masses from the northern side of New Hanover County to midtown and downtown by the end of 2023.

Rhodes — a 2023 James Beard Award finalist for Chef Southeast — launched the brand as a satellite operation on UNCW’s campus this week. It’s located in the university’s food hall, Hawk’s Nest, aimed at a younger clientele. 

The menu consists of various local fish and shrimp sandwiches, also served as a bowl — with rice, mixed greens, vegetables and sauces — or as tacos. Tackle Box Kitchen also has daily specials, such as fish or shrimp BLT, New Orleans’ style seafood gumbo, and shrimp and grits. Prices are $5 to $15.

“UNCW is just another way to bring easy, convenient, familiar seafood options that are locally sourced at a really nice price point to college kids and faculty here,” Rhodes said.

Tackle Box joins other local eateries, such as Shaka Taco and Wheelz Pizza, on campus.

Come November, another location will be added. Rhodes, and his wife and business partner, Angela, will open Tackle Box Kitchen at 11 Market St., a brick-and-mortar obtained three years ago. The goal has always been to start a restaurant there, Rhodes confirmed Friday.

“We took a little hiatus for a minute, but we’re going full speed with Tackle Box everywhere,” he said.

The restaurant space — which will seat roughly 35 people — has been ready for a year. It will be primarily an oyster bar but also serve shareable small plates featuring sustainable seafood for which Rhodes is known to procure.

“Everything is going to be casual,” he said. “Catch has been branded as the special-occasion restaurant and we’re gonna do some things at Tackle Box to make it a little bit more accessible for folks.”

The mobile operation of Tackle Box is parking its wheels at a new spot opening in Scotts Hill — Freya’s Haus (55 Scotts Hill Loop Road). The concept is being launched by Kimberly Rhine, a local who has worked in the food and beverage industry over the last two decades. The bottle shop, beer garden, bar and coffee house will be in the former Crab Shack space next to Poplar Grove.

She secured a year-long agreement with the Tackle Box food truck to be on site daily. 

“I actually worked for Chef [Rhodes] years ago,” Rhine said. “I’ve always been a huge fan of his food. And I think it’s really cool because he is so ingrained in Southern culture and the Gullah community, which Poplar Grove is one of the oldest Gullah communities out there. It fits the Scotts Hill community, especially since there are so many fishermen here.”

Rhine had the idea to open Freya’s Haus after traveling to Europe a few years ago and seeing community gatherings during Oktoberfest at beer hauses in Germany. The 2,500-square-foot space is located on almost an acre of land, with plenty of outdoor seating. 

It will host live music, special events — such as yoga or charity fundraisers — and work in tandem with Poplar Grove’s holiday events coming up for Halloween and Christmas.

“We’ll do specialty craft cocktails, hot chocolate and other beverages during October’s Paranormal Tours and November and December’s All is Bright,” she said, adding the space will be family-friendly.

She also foresees an opportunity to host larger outdoor concerts for the area, to accommodate 300 or so people.

“My mentor was the booking manager at the old Ziggy’s, so I have a lot of really good connections in the music industry,” Rhine said. “We had an opportunity to have Dudley from the Dirty Heads come, but, unfortunately, I was pretty sick during my pregnancy.”

The 34-year-old is juggling the opening of her venue with rearing a newborn. She has been renovating the Freya’s House space over the last few months and is keeping it industrial, yet cozy: 12-foot ceilings illuminated by Edison lights, lounge areas with leather couches and chairs, as well as lots of foliage. 

A walk-up window has been installed for patrons hanging in the outdoor area to order from. 

The drink menu will be vast, leaning into her bartending background. Since attending UNCW, Rhine has worked behind the pine at plenty of places in town, from downtown’s Goat and Compass to Wrightsville Beach’s 22 North. She will create cocktails from fresh, seasonal ingredients and offer a variety of beers, a few from local breweries but many coming from Asheville and Charlotte. 

“I’ll maybe have one or two locals in-house, but kind of still usher people to visit those other venues — I think the camaraderie is important,” Rhine said. “Really, we’ll cater to what the community wants. I want to be really versatile and I think, sometimes, bars get caught up in what they want their image to be or their branding, and I think it’s really important just to stick with the times and know what people are drinking and introduce them to new beers.” 

The same goes for the wine selection offered and customers will be able to purchase the sippers via an app for curbside pickup to take home.

Rhine is working out details still on the coffee shop side of the business, which she said won’t launch until a month after Freya’s Haus opens — slated for Labor Day weekend. She is looking at serving free trade coffee from Java Roasters. While there won’t be a drive-thru, the curbside approach will be offered for on-the-go customers.

The businesswoman also wants to add items for breakfast once morning hours are in place. She touts Rhodes’ daughter, Kristen — who helps operate the Tackle Box food truck — as “super talented.”

“Hopefully, she can make breakfast burritos, baked goods and other grab-and-go items for early-morning visitors,” Rhine said.

Freya’s Haus will be open at first from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and until midnight on weekends. When coffee is added, it will operate daily starting at 8 a.m.

Tackle Box Kitchen food truck will be open at Freya’s Haus from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, while its satellite operation on UNCW’s campus runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Hours for the soon-to-open downtown location have not been announced yet.

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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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