There’s never a shortage of new and exciting eats across Wilmington. Between the quick pace with which restaurants open and close, not to mention the changing menus at old standbys, it’s no wonder we’ve been referred to as “Little Charleston” per our culinary scene. Spring 2019 is no exception.
Just in the last few weeks, announcements have been made about numerous openings and transformations. Drift Coffee on Eastwood will move into Mayfaire’s old Starbucks location. The Donut Inn is opening in Porter’s Neck. Wrightsville Beach staple Oceanic reopened after being shuttered by Hurricane Florence. Le Catalan will shed its wine focus when Waterman’s old brewmaster Zac Brown takes over and opens it as a restraurant with local and regional craft beer, wine and craft cocktails, plus small plates.
Another drinkery across town on 4th Street, Palate, is expanding beyond merely serving fine wine and craft beer. Though they’ve been known to throw a few oyster roasts throughout the year and welcome food trucks to the lineup, now, they’ve opened a permanent truck for Carson Jewell to churn out locally sourced food stuff Monday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
“We felt a food aspect was missing at our establishment,” front-of-house manager Jeremy Malanka says. “Wilmington needs more laid-back food options but with an honest approach.”
Jewell focuses on southeastern NC flavors and American traditions in cooking. He works out of their commissary kitchen at Rx on 5th and Castle streets. “The camaraderie and community aspect [is great,]” according to Malanka. “It is a wonderful collaboration.”
Like Rx—where Jewell has worked—The Kitchen at Palate sources from local farmers and fishermen. Jewell creates clean flavors, sourced from purveyors like Seaview Crab Company, Terra Vita and Humble Roots. Signature items currently that are moving will include a pickled soft egg with trout roe and smoked bluefish tonnato with salt and vinegar chips.
“It’s essentially an elevated bar snack,” Malanka adds. “Also we have been doing a crispy whole trout la plancha with creme fraiche-dressed potatoes, seasoned with dill and topped with sunflower shoots.” Their menu changes daily, too, so the freshness can never be questioned. And Malanka is doing pairings with wine and beer for patrons to showcase the best of Palate.
“Everything that leaves the truck is compostable,” Malanka adds. “We are working with Wilmington Compost Company to be the greenest restaurant on wheels in the area. The farmers’ soil is made of that compost, so it’s a full circle.”
Over on 2nd and Dock at the new Dram Yard, general manager and chef Kat Myhand works with almost a dozen local farmers to keep the bite of her new 20-item menu (and three desserts) scrumptiously enticing with every bite. She gets her strawberries and asparagus from Britt’s Farms, her garlic leeks and cucumbers from Black River, and her red radishes from Cottle, along with goat cheese from Holly Grove, and chicken and duck eggs from Muenster’s.
“Our seafood is being provided by Seaview Crab Company daily,” the chef notes. “We are using Smooth Press Roasters for our French-pressed coffee, and our finishing salts are by Sea Love Sea Salt Company. . . . Recently, at the Feast Down East symposium at UNCW, it was dramatically clear that sourcing local, sustainable menu items is no longer a catch phrase, but just how we do business here in Wilmington.”
The intel of product helps provide the best flavors to every customer. Their grand opening last weekend had folks fawning over Myhand’s chickpea panisse “fries,” Carolina gold rice congee, char siu cauliflower, and orange-lavender panna cotta.
“It’s really a variety of flavors from all spectrums. The dishes themselves are conversation starters and memory makers.”
The menu touches on Southern cuisine, Peruvian flavors, even Cantonese, across the 36-seat dining area. They plan on changing their “from scratch” menu often and have a craft cocktail program, too.
Dram Yard is attached to the old Wilmingtonian hotel, which is being renovated into ARRIVE Wilmington hotel complex. The boutique hotel is planning its opening in June; however, the restaurant is up and running early. It features original windows, custom wallpapered ceilings of tropical foilage, and exposed brick. A slew of vintage mailboxes are stacked near the bar to symbolize all the letters sent and recieved to and from sailors docked in Wilmington. An outdoor gazebo bar welcomes diners to enjoy a beverage in the garden.
Reservations can be made at arriveenterprises.com/restaurants#/dram-yard or via Yelp.