MONKEY JUNCTION — With the opening of Junction 421 a “New American Bar and Grill,” the Monkey Junction area has a new bar and restaurant.
After a five year run, Osteria Cicchetti’s second location closed in early September. Owner Ash Aziz’s Circa Restaurant Group had initially planned to sell the location, but after Hurricane Florence, plans changed. Aziz and his team decided to re-imagine and reopen the location.
Junction 421 swaps the Venetian feel of Osteria Cicchetti for a feel that’s much closer to home: photos of Wilmington, old and new, are displayed around the bar, and the brick and wood interior feels like something that would be at home in downtown Wilmington.
In the kitchen, Chef Matt Moran – a veteran of several of Aziz’s restaurant – walks the line between classed-up and comfort. Case in point: plenty of restaurant’s have a blue plate special, few of them feature braised pork shank with boursin cheese risotto.
In addition to the blue plates, there are entrees, salads, flatbreads, and shareable plates — on Junction 421’s opening day, a common sight was rectangular plates of fried pimento cheese with Tabasco syrup (a very Southern take on a sweet chili sauce).
The menu doesn’t shy away from meat and cheese — or both, as in the short-rib and bacon mac’n’cheese referred to by one waitress as “cheesy pork Armageddon” — but it also features a house-made vegan burger, the kitchen’s own take on the popular Impossible burger. These have come a long way, visually miles away from the pre-frozen black bean burgers of yesteryear.
From the bar there are a number of North Carolina beers on tap, including local offerings from Wilmington Brewing Company and Shallotte-based Red Hare, as well as a dozen more North Carolina beers in cans and bottles. There’s also a couple of North Carolina liquors, including Covington Sweet Potato Vodka, Kill Devil Pecan Rum, Mother Earth Gin, and Social House Vodka.
Junction 421 is located at 5104 S. College Road, just north of the intersection with Carolina Beach Road. The restaurant is open every night for dinner from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. — open until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. In January, the restaurant plans to open for lunch on Saturday and Sunday.