Oyster ice cream: A surprising scoop of American food history

“People actually ate this...It was once a big deal in Read more

Chocolate, ice cream and N.C. root beer!

In my favorite round, Battle Uncle Scott's Root Beer, Merrell, who runs the tapas restaurant and "cocktaileria" Circa 81 restaurant in Morehead City, prepared one heck of a riff on a Black Cow, that famous chocolate, ice cream and Read more

Cooking lessons learned at 2014 Fire on the Dock

As the contest moves into its final battle tonight, I'm thinking back to the ideas I got during the 2014 tournament, part of the statewide Competition Dining Series that ultimately crowns an overall North Carolina winner from four regional Read more

Southern Collards should be the new kale

Will collards be the new kale, darling of diners seeking farm-to-table fare? If the 2014 Fire on the Dock chef competition is any indication, maybe. Read more

Food touring in Carrboro with Taste Carolina

As I often say, "I'm eat up with it," and Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours fed my obsession quite well this past weekend. Read more

New oceanside eats in Carolina Beach

Hurricane Alley's is on the Carolina Beach boardwalk.

Carolina Beach’s new super-casual beach bar and restaurant, Hurricane Alley’s, 5 Boardwalk Way, specializes in steamed seafood and serves it on a tall deck overlooking the ocean on the town’s famed boardwalk.

Steamer pots for one, two or four people feature shrimp, crab legs, red potatoes and corn on the cob seasoned with Old Bay ($14 to $35). Sandwiches, salads, appetizers, a late-night list and a kids menu round out the menu.

The Monsoon Mahi Delight stacks blackened mahi, bacon, fresh spinach and mango salsa on ciabatta bread ($9).

Beer taps and a full bar calls for flip-flops and bathing suits.

Hurricane Alley’s owner David Cole also runs The Dive, a pub at 6 North Lake Park Blvd., Carolina Beach. He came from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to New Hanover County in 1997.

Cole worked for the City of Wilmington’s engineer department and ran a successful construction business. When the housing market fell, Cole went into the restaurant business.

Find Hurricane Alley’s behind the boardwalk’s summertime amusement park rides and Courtyard by Marriott Hotel. Prices range from $5 to $9, minus steamer pots. Hours are 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday-Sunday and 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday. Call 910-707-0766.

Maddfish Grill just installed a new menu.

Farther from shore, Snow’s Cut Café, 1140 A N. Lake Park Blvd., has a new owner, menu and name, Maddfish Grill.

Former Carolina Beach town councilman Dan Wilcox acquired the restaurant earlier this year.

Chef Chris Newton, previously of Cape Fear Seafood Company restaurant, 5226 South College Road in Wilmington, is crafting a new menu. Among recent selections: grilled blue crab cakes with ancho chili aioli and grilled asparagus ($18); Ritz Cracker-crusted flounder with lemon caper cream sauce and roasted potatoes ($14); and Irish egg rolls stuffed with Reuben sandwich fixings and served with Russian dressing ($8).

Like Snow’s Cut Café, which opened in early 2011, Maddfish serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hours for now are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5:30 to 10 p.m. daily, but times may change. Call 910-707-0550.


Posted on by lizbiro in Carolina Beach, New restaurants, Restaurants, Uncategorized Leave a comment

Caffe Phoenix good-bye party

Caffe Phoenix's dining room.

When Caffe Phoenix opened in December 1989, downtown Wilmington’s revitalization was in its infancy. The restaurant helped the area turn a corner and become a celebrity favorite.

John Travolta dined at Phoenix, and EUE/Screen Gems Studio past president Frank Capra Jr. was such a fan that he was regularly at Phoenix for the same fare: a glass of chardonnay, salad Nicoise and his New York Times.

The restaurant’s nearly 23 years of memories will be celebrated as Caffe Phoenix owner Ann-Marie Clifton prepares to lock the doors July 31.

The closing follows the recent death of Clifton’s husband, downtown veteran restaurateur Roy Clifton. But the restaurant is for sale, so spread the word if you want to help save this wonderful downtown Wilmington landmark.



Read my full report about the closing in The Greater Wilmington Business Journal.

Posted on by lizbiro in Downtown, downtown Wilmington, Restaurants Leave a comment

Wilmington dinner theater opens soon

A downtown dinner theater under development at 19 S. 10th St., near Dock Street, serves its first production July 13.

The 6,000-square-foot Theatre Now stages Friday and Saturday evening performances,  “jazz gospel Sunday brunch” and dinner and a movie on Sunday nights.

The debut show, “Dawson’s Hill,” is a comedy. The audience will “witness the behind the scenes antics as Dawson Hill’s actors have gone missing and it’s up to the stage crew to put on the show at the last minute. Mayhem ensues as this amateur theatre company attempts to live up to the motto, ‘The show must go on,’” according to Theatre Now’s website.

The $38 ticket price includes a three-course menu featuring porchetta, a herb-stuffed pork roast with crispy skin, but a vegetarian entree is available. Salad and dessert are included

Tennessee native Denise Gordon heads the Theatre Now kitchen. 

The chef honed Asian cooking skills in her Vietnamese mother’s kitchen and food market. Gordon trained at Johnson & Wales in Providence, R.I., and then worked in Washington, D.C., restaurants before heading to Paducah, Ky., to open her own restaurant, according to her Theatre Now biography. 

Alissa Harris is developing and marketing the venture, but she’s also a food and wine aficionado.

Harris likes the stage, as well. The actress worked producer Barry Levinson’s sci-fi movie “The Bay” (aka “Isopod”). Over the years, Harris participated in various Wilmington stage productions, worked as a talent agent and designed Thalian Hall’s logo.

“The place is coming along great,” Harris said of Theatre Now. “It just looks like a giant box from the outside but the inside is just spectacular.”

Posted on by lizbiro in dinner specials, Downtown, downtown Wilmington, New restaurants, Restaurants, Uncategorized Leave a comment

Cape Fear Fathers Day specials

Skip the tie and get Dad a steak this Fathers Day — but let someone else cook it. Lots of area restaurants are offering food and drink specials for Pops' day.

The way to a man’s heart is via his stomach, so skip the necktie this year and get Pops something to eat and/or drink.

Beer specials, free dessert, buffet deals and three-course steak dinners are just some of the Fathers Day specials restaurants in and around Wilmington are offering Sunday, June 17.

For instance, Father’s Day at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Hilton Wilmington Riverside, 301 N. Water St., features a three-course, $49.95 meal, including soup or salad, entrée and dessert. Lobster bisque, filet, garlic-crusted halibut and cheesecake are among choices.

Find out about more specials in my Fathers Day roundup for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.

Don’t forget gift certificates for my food walking tours. As one dad told me recently, “My wife wanted to do this thing, You know, I’d rather get a lobotomy than go on a tour, but this is one of the best things I’ve ever done!”


Posted on by lizbiro in dinner specials, downtown Wilmington, Restaurants, Uncategorized Leave a comment

Cafe Johnnie dinner service starts this week

Chocolate-dipped bacon leans on sweet potato cake at Cafe Johnnie tonight.

Remember the sweet potato cornmeal cake with cinnamon sugar pork cracklings and chocolate-dipped bacon that Pine Valley Market served this spring at the chef competition Fire on the Dock? It’s on the menu June 14 at Cameron Art Museum’s new Café Johnnie, which starts regular Thursday dinner service this week.

The 5 to 9 p.m. menu changes weekly but always emphasizes fresh, local ingredients, Pine Valley Market co-owner Christi Ferretti said. Ferretti and partner Kathy Webb also run Cafe Johnnie, which opened in March at Cameron Art Museum.

The evening meals coincide with Cameron Art Museum’s extended Thursday hours. The museum is open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays.

You could start with dessert. That sweet potato cake is served with goat cheese whipped cream, blackberry coulis, cinnamon sugar pork rinds and chocolate-covered applewood smoked bacon ($9). Blueberry cobbler ($7)  and old-fashioned banana pudding ($6) are other sweet options.

On the savory menu:

* Beef and Brussels: chili-crusted N.Y. strip with Cuban espresso sauce and Brussels hash ($26).

* Grilled swordfish with beet and carrot slaw ($20).

* Baked chicken with rutabaga and potato puree, roasted tomatoes and red beard baby carrots and roasted garlic veloute ($18).

 * Grilled miso tuna with roasted savoy cabbage, quick pickled beets and duck-fat-roasted red potatoes. ($22).

 * Pan-roasted apple cider and honey-glazed pork chop with rutabaga and potato puree and red beard baby carrots ($20).

 * Joe’s Old Country Pasta: penne with roasted tomatoes, bacon, mushrooms, shrimp, scallops and roasted garlic cream sauce ($20).

Appetizers and salads on Café Johnnie’s lunch menu will be available Thursday nights.. The list includes fried green tomatoes with dill aioli, deviled eggs with crab and microgreens, and & crab meat and a grilled romaine salad with bacon, diced tomatoes, bleu and parmesan cheeses and balsamic vinaigrette.

For Café Johnnie dinner reservations, call 910-777-2363.

Posted on by lizbiro in dinner specials, Local food, Midtown Wilmington, New restaurants, Restaurants, Uncategorized Leave a comment

Frozen yogurt AND cupcakes at new Porters Neck shop

Find Fresh Berry at Porters Neck.

Studies show that tough economic times inspire us to get healthy. Maybe that explains all the frozen yogurt shops have popped up in the Cape Fear region lately.

At least five “fro-yo” have opened over the past year. Two more just showed up.

North Wilmington’s Fresh Berry offers a little sin with it’s frozen good deeds. You can get a cupcake with your yogurt.

Twelve yogurt flavors, including two sorbets, whirl daily at the self-serve shop in Porters Neck Center, 8211-DD Market St. Signature flavors are Decadent Chocolate and Fresh Berry Tart, but Coconut Cream is popular too, said Francy Bauer, who owns Fresh Berry with her husband, Brad.

A selection from 46 cupcake flavors is baked daily. Choices might include cotton candy, margarita, stuffed French toast and orange Creamsicle, all with tall frosting peaks.

The Bauers “always talked about wouldn’t it be fun to have a little ice cream shop,” Francy Bauer said. When they decided to leave Ohio for someplace new, Brad Bauer traded his insurance career for the couple’s cool dream.

Fresh Berry is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. Call 910-319-7057.

South of Wilmington, Leland welcomes Honeybees Frozen Yogurt, 2013 Old Regent Way, in Waterford Center near Harris Teeter.

Ten rotating flavors and 40 toppings are on tap including mango sorbet, banana and coconut. Fresh fruit toppings recently included local blueberries from Lewis Farms in Wilmington.

Honeybees is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Call 910-859-7357.


Posted on by lizbiro in Brunswick County, Leland, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Uptown Wilmington Leave a comment

Goodbye Fat Tony’s at Racine

Today is the last day to get your “craft beer, craft pizza” fix at Fat Tony’s at Racine Center.
Staff will lock the restaurant’s doors for good when closing time hits at 2 a.m., owners announced on Fat Tony’s Facebook page.
“Please join us for our grand finale! We will have live music on the patio.”
Fat Tony’s downtown remains open and celebrates its nine-year anniversary in July.

Last night to sit around Fat Tony's cool bar at Racine (Photo from Fat Tony's).

Additionally, the downtown address has added The North Carolina Tap Room, which features suds from a dozen N.C. breweries including Foothills Hurricane Hefeweizen from Winston-Salem. Three beer samples cost $4.50, and Fat Tony’s beer sommelier, Eric Rylander, can help you select a flight.

Find downtown’s Fat Tony’s Italian Pub at 131 N. Front Street.
By the way, ever notice that the bar at the Racine Center Fat Tony’s is shaped like a wine barrel? It was built by Wilmington carpenter and bar designer Jimmy Kaylis, who also plays in rockabilly band, the Cashmere Jungle Lords.
Posted on by lizbiro in Downtown, downtown Wilmington, Midtown Wilmington, Restaurants Leave a comment

Real, real Italian at Waterford

Falcone's will open in about a week.

Ozario “Mike” Falcone’s thick Italian accent on the phone was a welcome sound enhanced only by Falcone’s confirmation that, yes, he was opening an Italian restaurant near Waterford in Leland.

Named Falcone’s and scheduled to open in about a week, the restaurant is an offshoot of Falcone’s Pizzeria in Whitehouse Station, N.J. 

For 28 years, the Falcone family also operated Falcone’s, a 300-seat Italian restaurant in Martinsville, N.J., Frank Falcone said.

Find out about Falcone’s menu, its award-winning cheesesteaks and exactly where the restaurant will be located in my report today for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.


Posted on by lizbiro in Brunswick County, Leland, New restaurants, Restaurants Leave a comment

Sushi master brings it to Masonboro Loop

Sunset Bistro will become a sushi place this summer.

A sushi spot is taking over the late Sunset Bistro this summer at Masonboro Station.

Tamashii will specialize in sushi and spoons, developer and sushi chef Mark Scharaga said.

The 4039 Masonboro Loop Road restaurant will serve a traditional sushi menu featuring “sustainable seafood and a heavy accent on local, farm-fresh flavors,” while ceviche, poke, tartare and other bites on individual spoons will come from Tamashii’s spoon bar.

Scharaga, previously the sushi chef at Shallotte Cattle Barn, which closed this year, plans a July opening.

Tamashii is pronounced ‘tama she,’ which means ‘soul’ in Japanese,” Scharaga explained at the restaurant’s Facebook page. “Tamashii brings a soulful love of sushi to the Wilmington market.”

Scharaga plans lunch and dinner service six days a week.

Posted on by lizbiro in Midtown Wilmington, New restaurants, Restaurants Leave a comment

Best egg rolls in Ogden

The dining room at the new Hibachi to Go.

My favorite place for egg rolls is the tiny, all-take-out Hibachi to Go in Hampstead. Now, I can get my fix in Ogden, too.

Unlike the Hampstead Hibachi, which is all take-out (picnic tables are available), the new store provides a stylish dining room with a feng shui vibe. 

Egg rolls, of course, are on the menu along with Hibachi’s top-notch hibachi and teriyaki meals made to order using quality ingredients. New on the Ogden list are vegetable gyoza and tempura fish and shrimp. Grab-and-go sushi boxes are available, too.

The new Hibachi to Go is at Ogden Commons Shopping Center, 6932 Market St., near Gordon Road.

The new Hibachi to Go is at Ogden Commons Shopping Center, 6932 Market St., near Gordon Road. It's a few doors down from Food Lion.

Although dishes are as fine as any from Asian kitchens, owners Scott and Shari Clemons are American.

Scott Clemons has worked as a chef, and the pair ran a similar Asian concept in Lenior. Both keep up with healthy food trends, Shari Clemons said.

The new Hibachi to Go is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Prices range from $4 to $11. Call 910-791-7800.

Find the year-old Hampstead Hibachi to Got at 15248 U.S. Highway 17 North. The phone number there is 910-270-9200.

Posted on by lizbiro in Hampstead, New restaurants, Restaurants, Uptown Wilmington Leave a comment