Best Seafood Company
Cape Fear Seafood Company
“Every day is a new day,” restaurateur Evans Trawick tells encore about his love of owning and operating Cape Fear Seafood Company (CFSC). The restaurant was ready to roll out a new menu of items like cioppino, pimento cheese BLT, BBQ salmon succotash and more, when Governor Cooper closed nonessential businesses across the state. Though CFSC has done some takeout, it hasn’t been up to full speed with staff that Trawick looks forward to seeing daily.
“I really have enjoyed working with my staff through the years and seeing the smiles on their faces when we put smiles on our guests’ faces,” he tells.
CFSC won Best Seafood Restaurant for the fifth or sixth year running (though they’ve been a finalist for far longer). It’s been a nice uplift during such precarious times. Having grown up in Burgaw and lived in Wilmington for more than 40 years, Trawick loves southeastern NC and the connections he’s forged here, not to mention the abundance the coast has to offer.
We interviewed him about his 2020 win.
encore (e): How has the pandemic affected your job and how have you adapted?
Evans Trawick (ET): I thought I had imagined every worst-case scenario that could have an impact on CFSC. I was wrong. We have had to adapt to a new reality that is in many ways out of our control. We are great at what we do, but not knowing what the playing field looks like has been very challenging for myself and the teams of people that run my stores. [CFSC has a total of four eateries in Wilmington, Leland and the Raleigh-Durham area.]
e: What are you most looking forward to when this is over?
ET: Not having to rethink my business plan every other day or worry about the health and safety of my family.
e: Tell us about some of your more popular dishes, pre-pandemic and now during it—has anything changed?
ET: Cape Fear Shrimp & Grits is a go-to dish for many and one of my favorites. It is a classic Low Country-style recipe that contains an unmatched depth of flavor.
We do fresh fish really well, whether it’s grilled, pan-seared or blackened, and topped with one of our signature sauces or a crab butter. You really can’t go wrong with fish.
Lastly, good ol’ fashioned fried seafood dishes were among our bestsellers pre-pandemic. Since we have been doing the curbside to-go thing, they have continued to be very popular.
e: Let’s say COVID-19 suddenly disappears and all of Wilmington reopens. What does your first day back in the world look like?
ET: From a business perspective, we would jump right back into it. This is normally the busiest time of year for CFSC, and I would be hard at it trying to ensure we can continue to win the Best Of awards next year.
Personally, my family needs a break. My wife has been phenomenal through this all: becoming a teacher, nurse, counselor, chef, caregiver and planner. She needs a respite, and I hope we could sneak away for a minute after all of this.
e: What, if any, silver linings have you found during the pandemic?
ET: Spending time with my family has been great—trying at times, but great. I have dedicated the majority of my adult life to building Cape Fear Seafood Company, so being able to spend time with them has been amazing. I have a beautiful wife whom I can’t imagine life without, a 14-year-old son that is turning into an astounding young man, and a 6-year-old little girl that has more energy and charisma than anyone I’ve ever been around.
e: How have you been spending your free time? Have you discovered a newfound hobby?
ET: Fishing a bit when I can and just spending a lot more time outdoors. I think I have fixed everything around the house and the restaurants twice.
No real new hobbies or interest,s but I have been rekindling old loves with guitar and the great outdoors during quarantine.
e: You get one meal to eat whatever you want from businesses across Wilmington. What are you eating/drinking?
ET: Not an easy answer. Really, I just want to be able to go out and grab a bite without any of the realities we are facing today. I would like to dine in a pre-COVID world.
I look forward to a time in the near future, whether it’s a PT’s burger or something from Savorez with my wife, when I can enjoy the meal for what it is.
e: Will there be anything new at CFSC when you reopen fully to the public?
ET: We were working on a couple of new things prior to COVID-19. We had just introduced a new menu the week before the shutdown, with several great new items, and I am excited about getting to roll with that for a while.
Currently, we are doing a limited menu with most of our favorites. This menu is easier for us to produce with all of the changes in the marketplace.
e: How will you begin operating in phase 2? What will this look like per new measures?
ET: We have a comprehensive plan in place to allow us to use 50% of our dining rooms, while maintaining the social distancing and limited exposure guidelines provided by the state. Single-use menus and the ability to use QR codes for menus, no place settings on the tables, single-use products, plenty of extra sanitizing and social distancing are among them.
We will be limiting seatings to 1 hour and 15 minutes, to limit possible exposure and allow us to serve more guests since we are only able to seat half of our normal capacity. Reservations are highly recommended as the limited seating capacity being mandated will limit our ability to serve walk-in guests.