Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Inside M&K’s Kitchen, new Leland walk-through restaurant

M&K's Kitchen opened this week in Leland. The small walk-through restaurant serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner six days a week on the corner of Lanvale and Old Fayetteville Road.

Michele Mikki passes out a hot plate out the walk-through window at M&K's Kitchen located on the corner of Old Fayetteville and Lanvale Roads. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
Michele Mikki passes out a hot plate out the walk-through window at M&K’s Kitchen located on the corner of Old Fayetteville and Lanvale Roads. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

LELAND — Everything on M&K’s Kitchen’s menu is under $10. The venture is Leland native Kory Sanderlin’s first after a decade of working in kitchens.

Sanderlin grew up just one mile from the 280-square-foot walk-through restaurant he now runs. Located on the corner of Old Fayetteville Road and Lanvale Road, M&K’s Kitchen remixes country favorites.

Related: Eternal Sunshine Cafe’s plan to shine on Village Road in Leland

“Food’s developed and come a long way throughout the years,” Sanderlin said. “And a lot of North Carolina isn’t changing.”

Non-profit roots

It’s likely many people have already tried Sanderlin’s work; as Support The Port’s head chef, he turned out 10,000 dishes daily for 15 days during Hurricane Florence. Then, and still, Sanderlin’s food truck has no logo, except for the big red stop sign on the back that reads “Stop the Violence,” a Support The Port mantra.

He first thought to open up a standalone as a means to establish a commissary for the truck after barely breaking even last year. Between event costs charged to trucks without a restaurant and the bulk of non-profit work he dove into, M&K’s Kitchen is Sanderlin’s first step cementing his own business.

His mom, Michele Mikki, is helping out at the kitchen’s front window. “He was raised giving back to the community,” she said.

Kory Sanderson pours smoked, creamy maple syrup on donut-style waffles while plating his $8 country-fried chicken and waffle dish. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
Kory Sanderlin pours smoked, creamy maple syrup on donut-style waffles while plating his $8 country-fried chicken and waffle dish. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

M&K’s Kitchen replaces Five Girls Grill, which lasted a little over a year and closed before Florence. With his own space, Sanderlin invents new combinations in his “test kitchen.”

The spot opened Saturday, and on Tuesday, he whipped up a Cheerwine habanero barbecue sauce. It’s not on the menu — yet — because he’s still looking for something for it to go on.

“Food should be fun. And I feel like a lot of food in our state is just slow,” he said. “I want the same country food, with a twist.”

Pictured above, country-fried chicken and waffles. Below, country-fried Philly cheesesteak. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
Pictured above, country-fried chicken and waffles. Below, country-fried Philly cheesesteak. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

Local flavor

Sanderlin’s first food gig growing up was at the Leland staple, Shirley’s Diner. An alumnus of North Brunswick High School and Cape Fear Community College’s culinary program, he came back home after spending time in Las Vegas, working under well-known chefs Wolfgang Puck and Kerry Simon.

He can’t stand boring, “buffet seafood on 90s plating,” and is here to wage war on puny portions.

“We have to eat three meals a day. Why are we putting garbage in our body?” he said.

Mikki, Sanderlin’s mom, said a new customer already stopped by three times in one day, so someone got the memo.

M&K’s Kitchen’s menu items are approachable for long-time locals. Its Philly cheesesteak is actually a country fried Philly, smothered in a homemade queso sauce. The chicken and waffles are made donut-style, fried and doused with smoked creamy maple syrup. And the chicken is breaded in ground Honey Smacks cereal.

Kory Sanderson fires up smoked, creamy maple syrup which is paired with donut-style waffles. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
Kory Sanderlin fires up smoked, creamy maple syrup which is paired with donut-style waffles. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

“All of Kory’s food is just so insanely creative,” his sister-in-law and sous-chef Alissa Helhoski said. “It goes together so well.”

Once he gets the small kitchen rolling, Sanderlin plans to keep up regular food truck hours off Oleander Road in Wilmington. Though he’s still working out the kinks of his business model, he said one thing is certain: food is changing.

“I guess if it’s not broke, don’t fix it in some people’s eyes,” he said. “But food is evolving.”

Located at 1389 Lanvale Road, M&K’s Kitchen is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Update April 19: This article has been updated to correctly identify Sanderlin.

M&K's Kitchen replaces Five Girls Grill in Leland on the corner of Lanvale and Old Fayetteville Roads. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
M&K’s Kitchen replaces Five Girls Grill in Leland on the corner of Lanvale and Old Fayetteville Roads. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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