Rooster and the Crow to bring Kalua pork, ‘gator cheesecake’ to downtown Wilmington

Downtown Wilmington's newest restaurant will feature classic southern cuisine alongside more nontraditional dishes, like shrimp and alligator cheesecake and scallops on roasted sweet corn.

Rooster and the Crow will be serving southern cuisine -- including alligator cheesecake -- and craft beer, wine, and liquor drinks. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Rooster and the Crow will be serving southern cuisine — including alligator cheesecake — and craft beer, wine, and cold drinks like beer milkshakes and frozen mimosas. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

WILMINGTON — Rooster and the Crow, a new restaurant in downtown Wilmington, takes its name from its owners’ nicknames. Although Zach Harmon’s nickname, Rooster, stuck as a child, his business partner’s came at the expense of a loss on the North Carolina drag racing circuit.

Allen Carpenter said he was hunting for a championship at a track near Winston Salem when the timing system miscalculated his race. Feeling cheated, he told racing friends and track owners he wouldn’t come back, only to return within a year.

“They said I had to eat crow and come back. ‘Old crow came back to the race — Cah! Cah! Cah!,’ they said. That’s where it stuck,” Carpenter said.


Now Rooster and the Crow is almost set to open in the old Chandler’s Wharf warehouse on Water Street. After years traveling around the south from racetrack to racetrack — Harmon raced on round tracks — they both grew to love the local touch of southern cuisine.

“Your grandma made it best,” Carpenter said. “Traditions carry down and we appreciate those same values that other small businesses from everywhere we visited put into it.”

Zach Harmon and Allen Carpenter are set to open Rooster and the Crow in Chandler's Wharf on Water Street. It will replace NeMa Burger and Pizza Lounge, which owners closed due to Florence-related damages. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Zach Harmon, left, and Allen Carpenter are set to open Rooster and the Crow in Chandler’s Wharf on Water Street. It will replace NeMa Burger and Pizza Lounge, which was closed due to Florence-related damages. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

Harmon said the food will be “southern to the core” — fried chicken brined overnight then pressure fried, shrimp and grits, and hamburgers with a blend of chuck, rib, and brisket.

Then there are the not-so-typical southern dishes, like scallops on roasted sweet corn and the shrimp and alligator cheesecake. Although they refrained from disclosing too much of their recipe, they did say the cheesecake is a Louisiana dish including cream cheese, cajun seasoning, and the tail meat of an alligator.

“It’s got a lot of the same ingredients as sweet cheesecake, just not the sweet part,” Harmon said.

Not everything is inspired by the cuisine of mainland southern U.S., however. A common dish in Hawaii, Harmon said the Kalua pork plate embodies a shared cooking technique (pork is often slow-cooked in dug-out pits in North Carolina and Hawaii) resulting in that smoky, “pull-apart type flavor.”

The menu, which is still in the works, will be topped off by banana pudding and key lime pie. Their 16-tap bar will include beers from all over North Carolina, as well as local favorites, and they will also serve beer milkshakes and frozen mimosas.

Carpenter also said for new patrons to keep an eye out for weekend brunches featuring chicken and waffles and — his favorite — chicken and doughnuts.

Rooster and the Crow is located inside Chandler’s Wharf shopping mall on 225 South Water Street. Carpenter and Harmon expect an opening sometime in May; you can stay updated on their Facebook page. It will replace NeMa Burger and Pizza Lounge that opened in 2015, but closed due to damage from Hurricane Florence, according to Star-News.


Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com

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