Monday, August 15, 2022

Port City Small Bites: Blockade Runner’s monthly oyster roasts, Carolina Fish Fry’s rebrand, and more

Blockade Runner will bring back its monthly oyster roasts through April, hosted the second Sunday and featuring live music from Masonboro Island. (Courtesy photo)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — Lots of movement happens around the Port City when it comes to new openings and closings of restaurants, food trucks, bars and bottle shops, as well as the launch of organizational and nonprofit foodie events and festivals. While Port City Daily already covers the majority of such news, smaller shifts and changes sometimes fly under the radar.

Miss last week’s Small Bites? Catch up on the tidbits here.

“Small Bites” fills in the gaps of coverage, and lets readers know what to expect when it comes to expansions of existing establishments or menu changes, temporary closures and renovations, added hours or grand openings, pop-up events or other newsworthy tidbits that may get overlooked during the daily grind.

Shuck, shuck, shuck!

It’s officially oyster season in southeastern North Carolina and Blockade Runner will kick off its monthly roasts on Nov. 14. They will continue to be held the second Sunday of every month through April 2022. 

The roast offers all-you-can-eat oysters, as well as side dishes, like mac and cheese and roasted root vegetables, and desserts. There will be live music from Masonboro Sound every month, as well as locally crafted beers, a variety of wine and full bar available. 

Tickets are $50 for adults (drinks are not included) and $25 for kids, and the roasts take place from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Leland’s Shuckin Shack will host its annual Oysters and Octane event on Saturday, Nov. 13, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. More than two dozen vintage cars and hot rods from the Oysters and Octane Motor Club will fill the parking lot. Registration is $25 to join the club and show off those wheels. Registration comes with discounts on food at Shuckin Shack on certain days throughout the year as well.

The restaurant will serve oysters all day Saturday, and award prizes for the car show. The Leland location is located at 1175 Turlington Ave.

Formerly Carolina Fish Fry, Morgan’s Seafood is renovating its flagship restaurant at 4023 Market St. and will open its second location in Ogden by the end of December, according to owner Tyler Morgan. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

Fish fry rebrand

Formerly known as Carolina Fish Fry, two fast-food restaurants on Market Street have officially changed names to Morgan’s Seafood. According to restaurateur Tyler Morgan, the rebranding comes from his separation with the North Carolina fast-food franchise. Morgan wanted to take the restaurant in a new direction, keeping seafood at its foundation but evolving the menu with more sandwiches, such as cheeseburgers and cheesesteaks, and salads.

“I want to be able to appeal to different customers, even ones who don’t like seafood,” he said. “We’ve already got barbecue back on the menu — sandwiches and plates — and we’re looking to add different seasonings, different flavor options to the fish.”

He said customers have been asking for Cajun and lemon pepper breading since he took over the fish fry a year ago. 

“As an independent restaurant owner, I will have more freedom to control these decisions and implement customer feedback,” Morgan said. “For one, I also will have more fresh food.”

Still open to the public, the flagship location (4023 Market St.) is undergoing some renovations. Morgan said he is adding booths to the dining area and more equipment to the kitchen. He is also changing the signage and painting the building.

”It will likely be a different shade of blue with grey undertones,” he explained, “more subtle than the bright blue and orange Caribbean vibe currently.” 

Morgan is also moving forward to open the second location in Ogden in front of the Publix Shopping Center (7150 Market St.) The remodeling has begun, and if all goes according to plan with inspections, he’s looking to open by the end of December at the latest, he said.

New food truck rolling out 

Champs BBQ food truck has new owners. Clark and Samantha Sumner, who moved to Wilmington in July and purchased downtown’s Varnish nightclub and cocktail lounge, took over the truck two-and-a-half weeks ago. They renamed it Mr. Mac’s Salad OG BBQ, after businesses they ran in Washington state. 

“We owned BBQ restaurants along with food trucks and a catering business,” the Sumners wrote to Port City Daily. “We had named our dog Mr. Mac Salad, so we named the truck after him.”

They focus on fusion barbecue from across the nation, with lunch and dinner priced between $7 and $15. The truck is booked out through November, and already has begun filling dates in December and January at local breweries, events and other businesses. 

Upcoming dates include: 
Nov. 13 Waterline Brewing, 1 p.m. – 6p.m.
Nov. 14 Waterline Brewing, 3 p.m. – 8 p.m. 
Nov. 16 Honda of Wilmington, 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., and Hi-Wire Brewing, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Nov. 18 Waterline Brewing, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Nov. 19 Humphrey’s Farm, 3 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Nov. 20 Humphrey’s Farm, 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., and End of Days, 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Follow Port City Daily’s Food Truck Tracker for more dates.

New menu items

In Barclay Point, the French patisserie and gourmet retail boutique Far From France Sweet Souvenirs is known for its high tea, featuring teas and macarons from Maxim de Paris, as well as homemade pastries, like petit fours made on site, and finger sandwiches. However, it also does brunch and lunch, and has a few new menu items tempting diners with seasonal flavors. 

Pumpkin cocoa bombs are available in white, milk or dark chocolate; just drop them into hot milk and voila: Instant hot chocolate! The treats retail for $4.99.

Far From France also has added a few new specialty sandwiches to its menu, including a turkey cranberry variety, just in time for Thanksgiving. A new French dip also makes an appearance, and both are served with a side item and range in price from $12-$15. 

The chefs from The Green House won first place at Taste of Wrightsville Beach for Overall Dish: King Trumpet mushroom scallops with pumpkin curry. (Jackie Whitaker Photography)

Awards and recognition

Dean Neff’s seafood restaurant, Seabird, at the corner of Market and Front, garnered recognition from North Carolina’s top preservation awards. The Gertrude S. Carraway Award of Merit was given to the building’s owner, James Goodnight of Raleigh, who purchased 1 and 9 Market streets — known as the Solomon Buildings — in 2016. 

Goodnight began renovating and preserving the history of the buildings, believed to be designed by Henry Bonitz, who oversaw 130 structures in New Hanover County, of which 53 are still standing. The Solomon Buildings are known for their Italianate influences. As Goodnight began renovations on the building’s three floors, contractors found original window frames with rope and pulleys and woodwork dating back to 1899, as well as arched masonry openings in the original doorways. 

Seabird’s renovations include original hardwood flooring and a preserved tin ceiling.

Named in honor of New Bern historian and preservationist, the late Dr. Gertrude S. Carraway, 12 awards are given annually that recognize leadership, research, philanthropy, promotion, and/or significant participation in preservation.

Across the bridge five miles away, the food competition Taste of Wrightsville Beach took place last Saturday — returning in person after canceling 2020’s event from Covid-19. It welcomed more than 600 attendees, patrons and vendors to help raise funds for Wheels on Meals. Almost 20 eateries and drinkeries competed for best overall dish, savory dish, and sweet dish, with people’s choice awarded for best dish, best beer, and best wine/spirits. Below are the first-place winners in each category; click here for the runners-up.

Judges’ Overall Dish
The Green House: King Trumpet mushroom scallops with pumpkin curry

Judges’ Savory Dish
East at Blockade Runner: Miso braised ribs with parsnip puree, heirloom squash, lotus chips and microgreens

Judges’ Sweet Dish
Ceviche’s: Key Lime Matcha cheesecake

People’s Choice Dish
Ceviche’s: Chipotle tuna tostada

People’s Choice Beer
Tru Colors

People’s Choice Wine/Spirits
Blue Shark Vodka

Now open

A new Mediterranean restaurant has taken over the old Zoës Kitchen space in Mayfaire Town Center. Located at 1011 International Dr., the growing franchise CAVA allows diners to build their own meal — pitas and bowls — from a variety of Mediterranean proteins, grains and vegetables. Prices are $10 and up and the restaurant specializes in family meals starting at $49. 

The restaurant has 13 operations in North Carolina and is planning to build second eatery at Independence Mall in the Belk parking lot.

Butts n Such opened its doors Halloween weekend and is keeping the former down-home appeal of its predecessor, Carolina Beach’s A&G Chicken and BBQ. The island institution shuttered in mid-September after three decades serving locals and tourists. Before the doors even closed, another set of owners were announced to launch its replacement. 

The new menu consists of some of the same items as A&G: breakfast classics, BBQ, fried chicken, fried shrimp, fried flounder, pork chops, plus sandwiches — burgers, grilled cheese, fried fish or shrimp. Veggie sides, a kids menu, plus family meals and bulk items are available. Butts n Such is open Tuesday-Sunday for breakfast from 7 a.m. – 11 a.m., and serves lunch and dinner, closing at 9 p.m.

Casey Thompson, Katsuji Tanabe and Annie Pettry, all Top Chef” alums, hosted a seven-course dinner with executive chef Fabio Capparelli of Bluewater Waterfront Grill at the Wrightsville Beach eatery on Tuesday night. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver) *Click to scroll the gallery.

Local scenes from ‘Top Chef’

Bluewater Waterfront Grill hosted around 100 people Tuesday night for a special dinner, created by three “Top Chef” alums and led by Bluewater’s executive chef Fabio Capparelli. 

Capparelli cooked alongside Katsuji Tanabe (“Top Chef” Boston), Casey Thompson (“Top Chef” Miami) and Annie Pettry (“Top Chef” Charleston) to provide diners seven courses of varied flavors, inspired from land to sea. Each was paired with a cocktail for a complete dining experience.

LM Restaurants — which operates eight brands across the state, including four restaurants in Wilmington — has been hosting “Top Chef” dinners for a while now, according to marketing director Marianne Stokes. 

“We hosted Katsuji at Oceanic in the spring,” she said, “and we’ll likely have more dinners like this scheduled for next year.”

Here’s a peek at the seven courses from the Nov. 9 dinner.

Katsuji Tanabe created the first three small courses, each elevating the flavors of Mexico on the palate. The first course was a tuna and truffles tostada — like a ceviche, bright with citrus and pickled onion, the textures of the fresh tuna marrying perfectly with the salty crunch of the chip. Each course came with a drink pairing, the first being Michelada — beer, lime, tomato juice and spices, in a salt-rimmed glass. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
Course two was Mexico-style shrimp cocktail, served in a sweeter-style tomato sauce, with plump shrimp and crunchy peppers and onions, served on a fried saltine for a different take on an old-school classic. It was served with a margarita. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
A fragrant red and black mole was delivered with a basket of bread for dipping. It’s earthy flavors were rich and with a fiery finish. “There’s no chocolate in this mole,” Tanabe told the crowd. “Only about 30% of mole has chocolate in Mexico.” The spice of the dish was tamed with homemade white sangria, filled with fresh peaches and strawberries. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
Casey Thompson cooked up a traditional scallop dish for the crowd. She seared the plump scallops — full-bodied with a salty bite — on coals, and served them in a butter corn and green apple aioli, enhanced with dill. It was served with a pear martini. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
From the mountains of North Carolina, Annie Pettry said she took inspiration from the sea and her childhood, remembering her family’s garden while preparing her dish. A milk-poached halibut was served in a creamy base, alongside Beluga lentils, fried leek strings, with a slightly sweetened finish, from the drizzle of fig leaf oil. It was served with a Seaside mule.
Bluewater’s executive chef Fabio Capparelli served a heartier sixth course, rife with flavors of the season: A boned-in braised short ribs was glazed with huckleberry Shiraz demi, served with a sweet-potato gratin, grilled asparagus and toasted garlic and herbs. It came with Jungle Bird, a drink of rum and campari, blending bitter, savory and sweet when all paired together. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
The finish came in Mezcal-infused chocolate flan — an egg-based custard — topped with pink salt, mint and served with a caramelized pineapple. It was completed with a cup of Mexican coffee, rich with cinnamon and tequila. (Courtesy photo)

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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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