Monday, April 15, 2024

Small Bites: Korean BBQ and hot pot restaurant coming, PC Java closes at Arboretum West

Burnin 99 Hotpot and Korean BBQ is headed to University Commons, in the former Cicis Pizza location. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

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.

READ MORE: Catch up on other food news

Burnin 99 Korean BBQ and Hotpot

A Carolina-based chain best known for its Chinese hot pots and Korean BBQ is headed to University Commons in the former Cicis Pizza location.

Burnin 99 Korean BBQ and Hotpot has four locations, three in South Carolina, where the restaurant is based. It has opened in Columbia, Summerville and Charleston in the last two years. Yelp ranked it Best New Restaurant in South Carolina in December 2023 and it landed 23rd in the United States by the popular review-based app.

Burnin 99 just opened in Greenville, North Carolina, last month and according to county documents Wilmington will be getting one soon. An opening date has not been announced and no one from the restaurant returned PCD’s calls.

Anecdotally born from the Mongolian Empire, hot pots are essentially simmering metal receptacles of broth to cook a variety of ingredients table side. The concoction takes on flavors of the add-ons during the cooking process. In China they’re referred to as huǒguō and the earliest forms of the cookery trace back from the cauldrons of the Zhou dynasty. 

Today, multiple Asian nations — from Northern China to Korea, Japan to Vietnam — have their own versions, with restaurants in the U.S. gaining popularity, such as in Hawaii, California, and New York. 

While hot pot restaurants in the Triangle and Queen City have seen an uptick over the last few years, Burnin 99 will be Wilmington’s first. 

Diners interactively engage in the meal — much like fondue — by gathering ingredients from eight buffet-style stations. Burnin 99 boasts six broths as the base — Tom yum, spicy, tomato, mushroom — for its hot pots, installed at each table. 

The pots can also transform into a grill to cook meats, including thinly sliced beef, tofu and multiple seafood items, such as crab legs and shrimp. There are varieties of vegetables, noodles, dumplings and rice as well.

Upon seating, diners cook the accouterments either on the grill or in the base of the pot, adding in flavors like ginger and garlic, soy sauce or fiery hot peppers. A sauce bar is part of the experience for build-your-own flavors, though the restaurant has its own chef-inspired sauces, too.

The restaurant is working through the permitting process now, according to a spokesperson from New Hanover County. It will take over a 7,400-square-foot space, located at 341 S. College Road, Ste. 8A, between Lowe’s grocery store and Dollar Tree. The capacity is roughly 250 diners and permits list architect Frank D. Mileto, engineer Harki Singh and food consultant Lam and Associates Consulting working on transforming the space.

Burnin 99 consists of bright colors, including neon-changing lights, and anime. The buffet is priced $32.99 to $38.99 (kids start at $11.99) according to its online menu; hours are 1 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and open at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Port City Java may have closed Arboretum West but it recently opened satellite locations in the ILM. (Port City Daily/Kristen Witkowski)

Port City Java closes Military Cutoff location

After opening one of its cafes on Military Cutoff Road in the middle of the pandemic, Port City Java has closed its Arboretum West location. 

The store shuttered two weeks ago. 

“That café opened during the heart of the pandemic, and unfortunately never really got off the ground,” according to the coffee shop CEO Steve Schnitzler. “Initially, we could not let anyone in the dining room and it really didn’t allow the café to take off.”

Another tenant is planned for the location, however, has not been confirmed by press.

Port City Java is Wilmington-born and -bred, having started in 1995. It has grown to more than a dozen locations in the region and operates its own bakery and roasting facility, with offices located on River Road.

The newest corporate cafe opened last year at Crossroads on Carolina Beach Road near Harris Teeter. 

While Arboretum West may have closed, other satellite locations have recently launched across Wilmington. Wilmington International Airport, in partnership with Tailwind Concessions, has two, and there are other nontraditional locations in Novant NHRMC, as well as universities including UNCW, Coastal Carolina and N.C. State.

Port City Taste kicks off Friday

It’s the most delicious time of year: Restaurant week kicks off for 10 days starting Friday, Feb. 23. 

With almost 20 eateries participating, Port City Taste features prix-fixe meals at discounted prices through March 3. 

Participating restaurants include: 

  • Bridgewater Wine and Dine Porters Neck  
  • Bridgewater Wine and Dine Leland
  • Italian Bistro Porters Neck 
  • Smoke on the Water 
  • Poe’s Tavern 
  • Prost 
  • Rosalie’s  
  • Little Dipper 
  • Elijah’s
  • Mess Hall
  • Steam
  • Pilot House
  • Ruth’s Chris Steak House
  • YoSake
  • Henry’s 
  • Platypus & Gnome
  • Shuckin Shack Downtown
  • Rx Chicken and Oysters   

All menus will go live here by Thursday. 

Now open…

A few restaurants have opened in the last month that have been in the planning stages for a while.

Meet the Greek officially opened its doors in Monkey Junction at 5120 College Road, unit 107. Owned and operated by Ilias Sarris, the restaurant is nestled between Indochine Express and Leland Smoke House for both dine-in and takeout. It serves Greek street food, such as souvlaki and gyros, skewers and salads, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Prices are $10 and up; read more here.

Tequila Comida and Cantina is now operating its second location along the Riverfront in downtown Wilmington. Located at 14 Harnett St., in the Pier 33 complex, the Mexican restaurant is operated by the Los Portales owners. Ramón and Miquel Villaseñor have three Taquería Los Portales, a Los Portales Supermarket, which is looking to expand with a second one on Carolina Beach Road, and Tequila Comida and Cantina at Monkey Junction. The brothers announced to PCD last April about its recent expansions. The downtown Tequila Comida and Cantina menu matches the flagship eatery, which opened in 2018. It opened last month and features more than 50 items, from ceviches and fajitas to fish plates and molcajettes (hot stone mortars filled with proteins, starches, Mexican vegetables and sauces).

Clean Eatz has a new location in town in what was formerly Chuck E. Cheese at 4389 Oleander Drive. Launched a decade ago by husband-and-wife duo Don and Evonne Varady, Clean Eatz focuses on health menu plans, meal prep and operates a cafe serving wraps, flatbreads, smoothies, melts, salads and more. The eatery has more than a hundred franchises nationwide and the Oleander Drive is its second in town, following the opening of flagship operation on Racine Drive. Its hours are Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on weekends from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Brunch Thyme opened in the Brooklyn Arts District on Feb. 9. From the owners of On Thyme, the takeout restaurant has multiple breakfast sandwiches, including homemade biscuits and fried bologna sandwiches. There are a multitude of chicken and waffles, as well as grits dishes, including shrimp and grits and fish and grits. They also area serving their famed steak and cheese eggrolls, but also stuffed with eggs. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at 1124 North 4th St.; online ordering is available and delivery is available through DoorDash. Catch up on Port City Daily’s coverage here.

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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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