Sunday, June 4, 2023

Tex-Mex eatery to open in former Firebelly’s Lounge

Olo Cantina will offer a more upscale Tex-Mex experience in a casual but chic atmosphere. Courtesy photo.

A new Tex-Mex eatery is taking shape inside the former Firebelly’s Lounge.

Downtown restaurateurs Billy Mellon and Sean Cook have teamed up with longtime Hell’s Kitchen general manager Drew Flynn to open Olo Cantina early next year. Mellon owns manna on Princess Street and Cook has two Shuckin’ Shack locations, one on Market and another in Carolina Beach.

“We want to make sure everything is dialed in correctly and staff is ready to rock and roll and the food is on point,” Cook said of the cantina’s progress. “We’re having fun doing this and we want to keep having fun.”

Cook approached Mellon and Flynn earlier this year after finding out that Firebelly’s, 5607 Carolina Beach Road, was going up for sale. For many years, the bar and grill was a mainstay of downtown’s Front Street, but moved to the Monkey Junction area in 2013.

It’s an area of the Port City Cook sees as having nothing but potential.

“It’s the hub on this side of town, when you consider Mayfaire and Wrightsville Beach being the hub in that part of town,” Cook noted. “Wrightsville Beach has Mayfaire. Carolina Beach has Monkey Junction.”

Initially, Cook and his partners considered keeping Firebelly’s name, with some changes and upgrades to the menu.

“But then as we looked into it a little deeper, we chose to get away from Firebelly’s and open a brand new restaurant that was somewhat similar but a little more upscale, in a sense,” Cook said.

Rather than a sports bar feel, the trio wants to create a casual yet chic restaurant atmosphere, complete with some modern, unique twists on the traditional Tex-Mex fare.

While Jameson Chavez, chef at manna, is still in the process of putting together a menu, Cook said diners should think burritos, tacos and other traditional offerings, a la K-38 or Tower 7.

Cook said Olo will also offer up an extensive margarita and specialty drink menu.

The roughly 3,500-square-foot property offers up 1,500 square feet of dining space and a 1,000-square-foot patio and bar for outdoor dining and drinking.

There, Cook said Olo plans to stage some live music and has also taken great pains to create an intimate atmosphere, using shrubs and greenery, that will shield patrons from views of a nearby parking lot.

“We’re excited about the spring and being able to utilize that space,” Cook said.

For more information on Olo Cantina, visit the restaurant’s website.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at

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