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.
“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.
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.
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
People’s Choice Wine/Spirits
Blue Shark Vodka
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.
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.
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