Kapow! It’s not just an onomatopoeia that fits right in with the retro, comic-book style décor that dresses the chairs, walls, and plates at Castle Street’s newest brunch spot, Rolled & Baked. Kapow! was my initial reaction after skimming their insanely creative menu.
Also, try this on for size: mustard maple IPA sauce.
Rolled & Baked owners, husband-and-wife duo Bill and Annie Ward, claim their goal upfront to new diners: “To have you grinning like a possum eating a sweet potato.” One chomp through the crispety-crunchety-crackly crust of an R&B fried pickle, and I was smiling like a kangaroo with a bloomin’ onion.
Let’s start with the R&B concept—because having an environmentally thoughtful business isn’t a requirement for having a kickass restaurant, but it certainly is something to applaud. All to-go containers, disposables and paper products are compostable from R&B, and the kitchen’s food waste travels down the street daily to be composted at the Castle Street community garden.
R&B’s menu is clearly rooted in two things: first, high-quality, locally-grown products; and second, passion for producing everything from scratch. The proud list of farmers and purveyors on the chalkboard menu screams, “Yeah, we didn’t buy that in a jar!” From the sauces to the biscuits to the butters and brines, we’re talking a truly homemade experience, from start to finish.
I was in awe to have found such inspired, culinary-driven cuisine in a little shop on Castle Street. Sure, seems totally expected in trendy Asheville or Charleston, but these are far and few in between Wilmington. (Hopefully, that’s changing, too.)
“Biscuits for the bold” is part of R&B’s slogan, so I had high hopes the fluffy suckers would be mighty impressive. I’m proud to report each uniquely flavored biscuit I sampled was outstanding and light. Seriously, no carb coma. How is that even possible with biscuits?! Even decorated with a piece of dark-meat fried chicken, the silky baked goods were ethereally delicate; buttery without being heavy. What? Mind blown.
I kicked off my breakfast journey with the Reborn Southerner: a buttermilk biscuit with a sweet tea-brined fried chicken thigh, green goddess buttermilk dressing, pickled slaw, and a farm fresh egg (thanks to my husband, who thinks fried eggs belong on everything). The spicy cornmeal crust was crackly and airy—and bites of the briny, crunchy slaw created a perfect contrast of textures.
The herby green dressing added earthy, floral notes and the fried egg brought the goopy, savory, drip-between-your-fingertips deliciousness. Personally, I would have preferred the dish sans egg since I thought it took away from the refreshing, crunchy bites of the pickled slaw. The chicken could have used an extra pinch of salt but, overall, the handheld was a satisfying Southern draw that didn’t leave me in a pile of sweatpants and regret.
On the side, I went for the potato hash and sweet iced coffee. Unfortunately, the hash tasted like it had been sitting around or maybe overcooked. I dug through the bowl and discovered what appeared to be onions or shallots and herbs, which leads me to believe that, while thought was put into the compilation of taters, the bad boys dried out. The iced coffee was divine with warm, aromatic spices (cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon) on top but was mostly ice and little coffee served in a cool retro milkshake glass.
Next up was the Choice Bit of Calico—a huge win between both me and my meat-obsessed husband. The fun veg creation featured thinly shaved eggplant, crispy capers, pickled zucchini, and fresh mozzarella, gently piled atop a Parmesan-basil biscuit drizzled with R&B’s “off the ranch” sauce. I appreciated the precise attention to smaller details, such as the plating (with its sauce swipe and dash of balsamic), and the mandolined veggies. The oh-so-light dilled ranch also provided a distinct, much-needed creamy mouthfeel. On the side we had fairly traditional stewed collards. Though I would have liked a saltier, porkier flavor, the smoky greens were skillfully tender without being mushy or overcooked.
Last entrée on deck was the Count of Monte Cristo. R&B’s version is a savory biscuit, bread-pudding French toast with IPA mustard maple sauce, Italian-smoked ham and cheese and crispy chives. Presentation-wise, it was a standout! The tangled maze of fried chives was a rockstar garnish atop the gloriously pink prosciutto, but I wasn’t wild about the biscuit bread pudding. The flavors and textures mingled well, but I missed the traditional crunch of classic, crispy butter-fried bread.
I’ll cap things off with two a la carte items that landed on extreme ends of the spectrum in my brunch book. The Roasted Eggplant Tomato Basil Soup wasn’t hot, nor was it a big quantity for $5. Its texture resembled something similar to sauce than soup. Thanks to the additions of shaved Parmesan and basil swirls, it appeared to be a small bowl of marinara. Sorry, R&B, but needs some tweaks.
However, I will end on a high note: I consider myself a fried-pickle connoisseur. R&B’s spears are as bomb as Britney. At first glance, I thought I was being greeted with a plate of chicken tenders—that is how righteously crusty the batter is. I took a closer inspection and spied flecks of cornmeal, spices, and I honestly don’t know what else. Wedged inside was a shaved housemade pickle (not too thin and not too thick) whose brine characteristics were a beautiful balance of bread-and-butter and dill: sweet on the tongue and savory on the finish. It’s served with R&B’s “off the ranch”—a homemade, thicker mixture of fresh herbs and sour cream.
All-in-all, between the fabulously friendly (and fast) service, dope building and inventive menu, I’m proud Rolled & Baked picked Wilmington as their landing zone. I was blown away by the imagination behind the menu, even if slightly disappointed by the execution of some dishes. Regardless, Rolled & Baked are on their way to having every bite match their bark with a few improved culinary executions.