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


Happy Birthday Katy’s

A big burger welcomes diners to Katy's.

A big burger welcomes diners to Katy’s.

In the commerce mishmash lining Wilmington’s busy College Road, one restaurant stands out not just for its bright, mustard-colored awning and the giant double-cheeseburger sculpture holding court by the door.

The burger signals the fun, food and friendliness Katy’s Grill & Bar has been serving for 30 years. That this little restaurant always feels like home is thanks to its owner Katy Monaghan.

The Wilmington restaurant veteran has been a force behind some of the city’s most beloved dining spots, including The Original Salt Works on Oleander Drive near Bradley Creek.

Today, Monaghan stages a huge birthday party for Katy’s. She’ll serve a buffet from 5 to 7 p.m.  Sliders, seafood and Katy’s popular wings are on the menu. Live music starts 4 p.m. The first act, Cosmic Groove Lizards, is a band whose members attend Monaghan’s church. Foosball, corn hole and ping pong are planned, too.

The celebration will no doubt be as down to earth as every other day at Katy’s. Folks will eat and drink — specials include Jell-O shots — hoot and howl, engage in back slapping and just hang out. Such a huge crowd is expected that Monaghan has arranged for parking attendants and added spaces at parking lots neighboring Katy’s.

Katy Monaghan

Katy Monaghan

An owner who truly cares about her customers, Monaghan’s kind and genuine spirit is evident each time she meets someone.

“I love the fellowship,” Monaghan said of the restaurant business.

Monaghan was 16 years old when her father moved her family from Illinois to Wilmington for work.

“I sold my saddle to buy a surf board,” Monaghan said while sipping a beer at the Katy’s bar.

The beach lover’s first job was at Wrightsville Beach’s late Marina Restaurant, which in the 1970s and 1980s was on Causeway Drive. A friend from Monaghan’s mother’s garden club got her the job. Monaghan started as a waitress. Six years later, she was the manager, a climb she made while working on her college biology degree.

Monaghan’s love of restaurant work trumped her interest in biology. By her early 20s she was married and persuading her husband, a teacher, to get into the restaurant business.

They opened a burgers and hot dogs place named Salt Works because of a historic salt production site nearby.

The marriage didn’t last, but Salt Works did as did Monaghan’s love of the food business. Salt Works inspired a different owner to develop Salt Works II, still on Wrightsville Avenue, in a building where Monaghan operated a restaurant named Pony Express. She also was involved in the creation of Wrightsville Beach favorite Causeway Cafe. Today, Katy’s is her sole restaurant.

She describes the restaurant business as a round-the-clock stressor that “sucks you dry.” With so many chain restaurants added to the College Road mix since Katy’s opened, profits have dropped. No matter. Monaghan considers the bigger payoff the people she meets at Katy’s, whether they’re regulars or unexpected celebrities including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver and Julia Roberts.

A joyful heart, an easy manner and an eye toward the future are what it takes to survive in the restaurant business, Monaghan said. After all this time, Katy’s remains a work in progress, no matter the odds. When a car drove through Katy’s, Monaghan made the restaurant’s slogan “not just another hole in the wall.” When diners’ tastes shifted to healthy foods, Monaghan added a salad bar and veggie burgers, although fried soft shells crabs (available now), fried pickles and fried green tomatoes remain her favorite menu items.

“It’s evolving,” Monaghan said of her restaurant.

“I hope it stays Katy’s.”

Posted on by lizbiro in dinner specials, Midtown Wilmington, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Wrightsville Beach Leave a comment

Changes at Cameron Art Museum cafe

Cameron Art Museum is taking over full operation of its in-house café.

In March 2012, Wilmington’s Pine Valley Market, began managing the eatery as Café Johnnie. On May 1, Café Johnnie will become the new CAM Café, Cameron Art Museum officials announced this week.

Pine Valley Market ran the restaurant in an effort to help CAM eventually solely manage the shop, Pine Valley Market co-owner Christi Ferretti said.

“The museum appreciates Pine Valley Market’s hard work in establishing the café, and both parties are excited that the museum will now have the opportunity to operate and continue to grow the café and continue to work with Pine Valley Market catering,” according to a CAM statement.

Past “Hell’s Kitchen” television program contestant chef Jessica Cabo heads the CAM kitchen, the museum reported. Read more…

Posted on by lizbiro in Brunch, Midtown Wilmington, Restaurants, Uncategorized Leave a comment

New pub near UNC-Wilmington

A hidden nook between South College Road and Kerr Avenue has strong profit potential, according to the owner of a new restaurant moving into the area.

When Eleanor Deschamps opens Low Tide Pub in mid-May, she said she plans to target guests at 40 hotels and residents of 20 apartment complexes within three miles of the 4540 Fountain Drive location.

“I used to travel all the time as a regional vice president for Olan Mills, and when I did, I always wanted to eat at that little, local place,” Deschamps said.

Low Tide fits the bill Deschamps sought. The approximately 50-seat restaurant, including outdoor deck tables, will focus on wings and sandwiches, including a beer-battered fish stack and a meaty crab cake sandwich, Read more…

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

Pub opens at Waterford

Tony’s N.Y. Pizza and Trattoria in the Waterford area of Leland has been closed for only a month, but, already, a pub is moving into the Cross Creek Commons shopping center location.

Halftime Sports Bar and Grill opened May 3 in the spot on U.S. 17 in front of Walmart, Halftime owner Charlie Almond said.

Almond previously operated Halftime Sports Café, 50 River Road SE in Belville. He closed that shop April 28 to move into Cross Creek Commons, where Halftime will have 4,500 square feet, more than twice the space of Almond’s former digs. Read more…

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

Blue Surf Cafe coming to Racine

Blue Surf Café will soon mark the sign on Surf House Café in Wilmington, but Surf House fans will see the same sort of food, albeit with an expanded dinner menu, general manager Jeremy Lozito said.

“The concept not going to change very much at all,” Lozito said.

Expanded dinner hours, a broader evening menu and more wine and craft beer are ahead, Lozito said. He did not know exactly when changes would take effect, as alterations are being planned.

The restaurant, 250 Racine Drive, started as a second location of Surf House Café, 604 N. Lake Park Blvd., in Carolina Beach. Original business partners Craig Love and Brad Jones recently divided the company. Jones sold his shares, and Love took over the Carolina Beach shop, which is closed for kitchen expansion but set to reopen soon. Read more…

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

Jerry Allens gets a new look

Renovations happening at Jerry Allens Sports Bar in Wrightsville Beach will not only make the spot more comfortable but add family-friendly elements, too.

Owners Jerry Allen and Kelly Baucom are adding new windows, bathrooms, floors and furniture, as well as 11 60-inch flat-screen televisions. Another three 46-inch screens will host gaming options such as Xbox and Nintendo Wii.

“We 100 percent gutted the place, from the studs to the walls,” Baucom said.

Windows will bring in more natural light, booth seating has mostly replaced tables and chairs and owners are considering a few menu additions, namely lettuce wraps and a weekly Kids Night during which profits will benefit the local PTA, Baucom said. Read more…


Posted on by lizbiro in Restaurants, Wrightsville Beach Leave a comment

A new Wilmington food truck

Some Wilmington food truck operators, including a new set of wheels hitting the road in March, have united to create a commissary from which they may all work.

Blount’s Street Bistro, which rolls out international street food in March, joins Poor Piggy’s BBQ, Chicken, Ribs and The Patty Wagon burger truck at the former Dinner A-Go-Go meal preparation store, 5424 Oleander Dr., Suite 1, said Blount’s Street partner Paul Kern.

The commissary idea began with Poor Piggy’s owner Ed Coulbourn, who pursued the Dinner A-Go-Go location for the group kitchen, Kern said. Dinner A-Go-Go operated briefly in the early 2000s. At the time, such shops where home cooks could prep meals with which to fill their refrigerators popped up all over the country. Read more…

Posted on by lizbiro in barbecue, Food trucks Leave a comment

More beer, burgers, seafood at Fish House Grill

New “gourmet” burgers and an expanded tap beer list are among changes at Wrightsville Beach’s Fish House Grill.

The 1410 Airlie Road restaurant’s Certified Angus Beef burgers include a new Reuben version on rye with kraut, Thousand Island dressing and Swiss cheese and a Hawaiian with prosciutto, smoked gouda and grilled pineapple, Fish House general manager Chris McCray said.

A black bean burger made in-house replaces the previous veggie burger, McCray said.

Eight beer taps have been added…Read more

Posted on by lizbiro in Restaurants, Wrightsville Beach Leave a comment

Vote for your favorite food truck

Get a look at Flaming Amy’s new food truck this weekend when Wilmington food trucks compete in downtown’s first TRUCK-a-ROO 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3 at Riverfront Park.

Flaming Amy’s Sacred Burrito Bus will serve its full menu including burritos, a fried tofu burrito and Jamaican jerk chicken or tofu chimichangas with pineapple jalapeno salsa, Flaming Amy’s owner Jay Muxworthy reported.

Also participating are Poor Piggy’s barbecue truck, The Patty Wagon burger truck, Catch restaurant’s food truck and  The Cheesy Banker.

Diners may purchase $10 ballot cards to sample fare from each truck and then vote for their favorite. The truck earning the most votes will be named best in show.

Admission to TRUCK-a-ROO is free, and guests may purchase from participating trucks’ full menus.

Posted on by lizbiro in downtown Wilmington, Food festivals, Food trucks Leave a comment

Chapter 11 for Sweet & Savory company

The company that owns popular Sweet and Savory restaurant and its new sister unit, The Pub at Sweet and Savory, both near Wrightsville Beach, has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but the owner emphasized that the businesses are not closing.

“We’re planning on being here for a long, long time,” Robert Shapiro said Thursday. “The future looks very bright.”

“This is what we’re doing to ensure our survival,” Shapiro said, emphasizing that the filing is a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows firms to reorganize debt and emerge financially healthy and able to pay creditors, as opposed to a Chapter 7 filing, which requires firms to sell off assets in order to pay creditors.

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

Shapiro was upbeat about both restaurants, but especially The Pub at Sweet and Savory (2012 Eastwood Road), which he said has nailed a stellar menu comparable to Wilmington’s fine-dining restaurants. The original Sweet and Savory is next door at 1611 Pavilion Place.

His favorite dish puts seared diver scallops and crispy pork belly atop pureed parsnips with bacon Mission fig jam, asparagus tips and house potato chips crisped in duck fat. Available on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the dish cost $18, but on special for just $15 on Thursday nights.

The pub also offers a 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. brunch every Saturday and Sunday.

See the full menu at http://www.thepubatsweetnsavory.com. Call 910-679-8101.

Posted on by lizbiro in Bakery, Restaurants, Uptown Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach Leave a comment