Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Small Bites: New Italian pop-up, ice cream, tacos and more

Wandering Cone’s menu, featuring a dozen flavors served in a variety of ways: milkshake, floats, sundaes. (Courtesy photo)

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.

Farfalla

A new concept is coming to the South Front District from True Blue Brands.

Farfalla is an Italian pop-up concept that will be offering a 12-item menu for six weeks. The announcement comes from True Blue’s Ellipsis, 1502 S 3rd St. 

True Blue opened Ellipsis as a ticketed event concept last October, located in what once was its Spanish tapas restaurant, Mariposa. Ellipsis centers on various culinary ticketed events offered certain days of the week, switching up one-off concepts that push True Blue chefs into evolving their flavor portfolios. 

For instance, there were specialty New Orleans-style brunches held on weekends or Southern BBQ nights, burger celebrations and Chinese takeout.

Rather than switching themes daily, True Blue Chef Bobby Zimmerman is changing the concept for six weeks at a time. Farfalla has debuted as ”a delightful take on an Italian summer,” according to a release from the restaurant, and is open Wednesday through Saturday, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“The flavors from that region have always fascinated me,” Zimmerman said in a statement. “We get to refine and practice, and our guests get to know the concept a little more deeply.”

The menu includes items like roasted chicken with artichokes, chilies, olives, and lemon broth or olive oil-poached fish with broccolini, hummus, lemon and basil. It also has a vegan cacio e pepe, created with cauliflower and almond ricotta, and for carnivores, homemade bolognese with short rib, pork cheek and osso bucco ragu. 

Zimmerman has always envisioned Ellipsis as a culinary destination. That has not fundamentally changed, only the ticketed concept has been altered, as the chef said it led to too much unpredictability.

“Broader timeframes are essential for our guests to truly enjoy what we offer,” Zimmerman said. “This new approach will allow more people to experience our unique concepts without the hassle of scheduling conflicts.” 

After one concept ends, another will be announced. Farfalla will launch July 12 through through August; reservations can be made here.

Wandering Cone Creamery

A new ice cream parlor has opened in the Soda Pop District.

Wandering Cone Creamery launched at the end of May, showcasing homemade small-batch flavors, such as roasted red cherry or rice pudding, the latter folded into cinnamon and cardamom ice cream. The eatery — located beside the listening bar, The Ibis — offers a dozen flavors, including chocolate, salted caramel, breadth cake, cookies and cream or cold crew, and specialty additions — or “visitors” — which change often.

Owned by Amanda Cassella — once a travel agent whose dream job has been to own an ice cream shop — Wandering Cone makes its ice cream from sustainably sourced ingredients, never using dyes or artificial flavors. It also offers vegan, gluten-free, and nut-free flavors and makes in house all of its waffle cones and bowls — also available gluten free. 

The company uses compostable packaging, desirable for the environment, including a half-dozen egg carton holder for its ice cream flight — six mini scoops that allows customers to try different styles. Wandering Cone serves floats, sundaes, and milkshakes.

New July flavors are being debuted this week, including some iteration of blueberry, strawberry and corn. The ice cream shop also hopes to do local collaborations with bakers.

Wandering Cone is open daily, noon to 10 p.m., at 921 Princess St.

Islands Fresh Mex is opening its sixth location by August. (Courtesy photo)

Islands Fresh Mex Grill

The popular taco joint — with five locations operating in the region since 2008 — is bringing store number six to Oleander Drive.

Islands Fresh Mex Grill is moving into Suite E at 4401 Oleander Drive, formerly The Greeks. Known for its fast, affordable approach, the restaurant is slated to open by August.

“Our growth is a testament to our loyal customers and dedicated team,” owner Lucas Jones said in a press release.

Islands serves a variety of tacos, quesadillas, burritos, salads and more, but is possibly most popular for its daily $1 taco specials. It’s hiring crew for its Oleander Drive location currently, with training beginning immediately. Resumes can be sent to info@islandsfreshmexgrill.com.

Rebrand, upgrades to Elijah’s Oyster Bar and Fish Camp and The Pilot House

Two staple restaurants in downtown Wilmington are also evolving.

Elijah’s and The Pilot House have been part of the Riverwalk dining scene for decades. Both are being upgraded, including the appearance of their dining spaces and menus

Aside from a new coat of paint, light fixtures, and decor to brighten up the eatery, Elijah’s is now rebranded into Elijah’s Oyster Bar and Fish Camp.

“Fish camp” is a phrase often referring to sites where anglers would gather pre-World War II and cook what they caught along the riverbanks in small waterside kitchens. 

In North Carolina, particularly the Piedmont region, it also became the term used to refer to locally owned seafood restaurants, often ones that would open in the very spots the anglers fried up their catch.

Carolina fish camps have been known to specialize in fried seafood — flounder, Calabash shrimp, oysters and scallops — piles of hushpuppies and pitchers of sweetened iced tea for diners to help themselves to.  While Elijah’s offers the fried seafood combo platter of all four items above, it also has a more varied menu for seafood lovers, such as a traditional Southern seafood boil or shrimp and grits. But it doesn’t leave out items for landlubbers, whether going for the New York strip, chicken carbonara or handhelds aplenty — lobster roll and PoBoy included.

Elijah’s Ouster Bar and Fish Camp has rebranded, with a new look and some new menu items. Still offered is their Carolina bucket, featuring a seafood boil. (Courtesy photo)

Elijah’s also has kept its famed crab dip, cheese bread with olives, and oysters Rockefeller on the menu.

According to co-owner Taylor Standfield, in a release, the goal was to maintain the restaurant’s historic charm while also honoring its past. The Wright family opened Elijah’s in 1984, formerly a maritime museum, with many of its artifacts used in the decor.

Its neighboring Pilot House also has undergone recent renovations, including the addition of the Crow’s Nest bar in the main dining area. There are panoramic views of the river and a new menu of seasonal cocktails paired with its haute coastal cuisine — Carolina-grown grits, fried green tomatoes, lobster mac and cheese. New small plates include baked burrata, coastal nachos, Carolina caviar, and crispy oysters. 

“Our historic restaurants have had the privilege of helping our guests celebrate special occasions and create lifelong memories for decades,” Stanfield noted in the release.

The Pilot House menu and reservations can be made here; Elijah’s Oyster and Fish Camp menu and reservations are available here. Both restaurants have dining spaces for large groups as well and in the cottage next door, Little Drum Landing, for up to 200 people.


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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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