Update: Bluestar Kitchen Bar has now closed. More info here.
LELAND — The town of Leland is growing fast and – if you ask Stephen Harrington – it deserves its own local bars and restaurants. Bluestar Kitchen and Bar is Harrington’s attempt to give Leland a neighborhood joint the town can hang its hat on.
Harrington has traveled the globe building a repertoire of flavors, the inspiration behind the eclectic mash-ups he’s served for the last two years from Steviemack’s International Food Truck. Harrington’s first plan was to open a brick and mortar — but the cost of opening a restaurant in Wilmington was prohibitive, and thus his food truck was born.
After two years, Harrington has reconsidered setting up permanent shop – this time in Leland, where he lives with his wife and daughter. And while Harrington wears his love of food on his sleeve, when he first checked out the Leland location, what struck him was the opportunity to create a neighborhood hang-out.
“There’s a sense that people in Leland shouldn’t have to drive to Wilmington to have someplace nice to eat, to get a beer, to hang out. They should have it here, in their neighborhood, something with a little personality,” Harrington said.
Looking around at the Village Road area, Harrington said, “We looked around and thought, ‘it’d be so easy to be the first really cool restaurant around here.’”
Harrington described the menu as, ”all fresh food, focusing on a more vibrant feel, a little more modern.”
Harrington doesn’t have a set menu – and that’s part of the point of Bluestar. While Harrington said he would definitely offer “tacos, sandwiches, soups and salads,” the menu will be open to experimentation.
“I know I want a pretty tight menu, we want to do 15 to 20 things, and do them really well,” Harrington said. “But I’m going to be here, listening hard. I plan to work kitchen shifts, bar shifts, and I’ll be listening to what people like, what we can change – that was the best interaction I had on the truck, when some unlikely individual comes along and gives me an unlikely criticism, and that makes the dish better.”
If you still want to know what to expect, Harrington said, you can always check out the food truck menu for examples of how he likes to approach food, blending his Asian-pacific interests with other more familiar southern ingredients.
“It’s about how do I get these wacky influences to people who are unfamiliar to them,” Harrington said.
A perfect example: Harrington’s beef brisket Korean BBQ.
“We pair elements that you like with something you might not be familiar with. So, we take beef brisket – which you’re comfortable with – and we pair it some Korean flavors, and then, hey, turns out you like Korean food. Or at least my take on Korean food,” Harrington said. “In a nutshell, that’s what I do.”
“I wanted to create the kind of place I would come and hang out and have a beer if my buddies were in town,” Harrington said.
Bluestar will serve wine, beer and liquor – with a heavy focus on local beer.
“We’ll have all the usual suspects from the local brewers,” Harrington said. “I’ve only got the six tap handles, but I’ll definitely have five local beers – maybe six beers.”
Harrington said he’d also have locally canned and bottled beers, alongside some of the beers from his southeast-Asian experiences.
For wine, Harrington said he wanted to keep the list small, but exciting.
“We’ll be looking for good deals on exciting house whites and reds, maybe we’ll find a good wine from Chile or Argentina, and get a case of that, and that’ll be our house pour,” Harrington said.
Like the food and drink, Harrington said he will play Bluestar’s hours by ear, but plans to open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Saturday, and for Brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Bluestar will tentatively be open until 10 p.m. on weekdays, and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
“We’ll be closed Monday, and we’ll close Sunday after brunch,” Harrington said, adding that the wanted to make sure his staff had a guaranteed day to “rest, get stuff done, have Sunday dinner with the family, or hang out with friends.”
Bluestar Kitchen and Bar is set to open in March, Harrington said. The restaurant is located at 117 Village Road in Leland, in the former Charlie Macgrooders location.
Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at firstname.lastname@example.org, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.