Every July, when the temps are nice and scorchy in our beach town, we at encore cull a list of what’s hot now across Wilmington. We take into consideration new businesses, trends, national issues, and especially eats and drinks that folks are partaking in. While we know this isn’t even a tip of the (melted) iceberg as to the many awesome things going on, it is—at least in our opinions—a good starting point as to what’s sizzling in the Port City.
EAT AND DRINK
Doughnuts and Carolina Beach go hand in hand. Most everyone in southeastern NC flocks to Britt’s Donuts upon their spring opening every March. For more than 60 years, they’ve been churning out their handmade, traditionally glazed doughnuts on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk. Lines snake around the building, as folks gobble up the drippy, sweet dough by the dozens. When Danny Tangredi and his wife decided to open a doughnut shop of their own on the island, they took a cue from the local support.
“Britt’s has a long reputation of drawing in a loyal following,” Tangredi says, “and we figured people who like hot glazed would also like an alternative, and the vibe of the locals was exactly what we thought would fit with our vibe.”
Wake N Bake (1401 N Lake Park Blvd., Suite 46 ) opened last fall, but the doughnut shop takes the sweet treat to enormous heights of decadence. They do craft doughnuts in all sorts of wacky and wild flavors, from Fruit Loop-topped doughnuts to crème brulee filled ones that ooze a creamy surprise.
“The craft doughnut craze is the opportunity to push the limits of our imaginations,” Tangredi notes. “We have the ability to test ‘off the wall’ ideas, like stuffing a Cadbury egg inside a doughnut and selling it on Easter, or stuffing a Pop Tart inside a doughnut and letting the customers decide.”
Currently, they sell 31 varieties, along with an assortment of fritters. And they have four stuffed doughnuts to boot, including Snickerbomb, Swiss Roll, Pop Tart, and Oatmeal Cream Pie.
Wrightsville Beach is now getting in on the action, too. With the opening of Loops Homemade Donuts a short few months ago, beach-goers can flock to the 32 North Lumina Avenue store to get a taste of red velvet cake doughnuts, oozing with cream cheese icing, as well as a chocolate and peanut butter variety, bursting with peanut butter cups on top. Brothers Colby and Dylan Domnick run Loops and make doughnuts using a multitude of batters, with endless toppings and glazes. They also offer premium coffee, organic and fair trade, to make for the perfect accompaniment with every bite.
Tacos. We love ‘em in the PC. And with the numerous joints speckled across town, they’re certainly not hard to come by. With Taco Week upon us—thanks to encoreGO (your handy-dandy smartphone app that puts you in the know with all the happenings across town)—eating tacos on the cheap will come easier than ever from June 24 to July 1. Sealevel City Gourmet, Dead Crow Comedy Room, Islands, Halligan’s, Firebelly, and Beer Barrio are all onboard, ready to top corn and flour tortillas with a host of goodies, for carnivores and herbivores alike.
The new Beer Barrio downtown may be one of the hottest spots to attract attention since opening a few short weeks ago. Owned and operated by Haley Jensen and her husband, Chef Stephen Durley, along with managing partner (and Hayley’s mom) Carol Jensen, the renovated 34 N. Front Street location makes it easy for folks to enjoy seven varieties of tacos and lots of craft beer. Unique flavors consist of: house-smoked pulled pork, homemade slaw and vinegar BBQ sauce; grilled local fish, which is beer-brined, grilled and topped with lettuce, pico de gallo and sour cream; and chopped beef with lettuce, pico de gallo and chipotle sour cream sauce.
“Most of our tacos are double-wrapped, with a soft tortilla surrounding a crunchy shell,” Jensen says. “We purchase our tortillas from a local purveyor, and we take the fresh corn tortillas and fry them to make chips, tostadas and hard shell tacos in house.”
Soon, they’ll be expanding to offer vegan varieties, too, including cheese for nachos and quesadillas. ”We also pride ourselves on serving people with food allergies,” Jensen says. “We have lots of gluten-free options, and operate a nut-free kitchen, so we are a great place for people with strict dietary needs.”
To see all the Taco Week deals, flip over to page 3 of the paper, and eat, drink … indulge!
The saying goes: “All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.” The difference, basically, is any whiskey made in America is called “bourbon”; though, whiskeys exist worldwide, from Scotland to Ireland to Canada. In Wilmington, however, some of the best bourbon and whiskey cocktails are coming out of Manna (123 Princess St.), thanks to head bartender Ian Murray. They stock 75 whiskeys and keep them in full rotation, all hand-picked with careful attention. Old Weller 107, Eagle Rare 10 and Colonel E.H. Taylor are only a few of the bartender’s favorites.
“Obviously Pappy Van Winkle has a tale behind it and rumors to be the best whiskey in the world,” Murray tells. “In my opinion, you can get a matched quality, handmade American whiskey for less than $80 a bottle. That bottle is George T. Stagg, and it’s awesome and we have plenty of it at Manna.”
To find the best for your palate, Murray says research comes first and foremost. He also reminds that not all good whiskey comes from the Bluegrass State of Kentucky. “There are so many distilleries that are scattered throughout the country that are killing the game!” he says.
Currently, Murray is mixing up an assortment of old and new cocktails, including the New Orleans classic, Vieux Carré, named for the French Quarter. He suggests mixing it with 1.5 ounces of rye whiskey, 0.5 ounce of Benedictine, 0.5 ounce of French red vermouth (preferably Dolin Rouge, according to Murray), 0.5 ounce of V.S.O.P. Cognac, with three dashes of Peychaud’s bitters and three dashes of Angostura bitters. “Stir this bad boy, and strain it over one big cube and garnish it with a flamed lemon zest!” Murray instructs.
For summer, folks may also want to try Murray’s Song of the South: 2 ounces of Old Weller 107, 1 ounce of Carpano Antica (Italian red vermouth), 0.25 ounce of Fernet Branca, 0.5 ounce of a housemade black-tea-and-rose-petal syrup (bring two parts sugar and one part water to a boil, and steep the rose petal and black tea while boiling for 2 minutes), and three drops of Bittermens Orange Cream Citrate. Stir and strain over a big cube. “Cheers!” Murray says.
Most definietly, 2014 and 2015 have become the year(s) of the bottle shop and brewery in Wilmington. From midtown to downtown, north Wilmington to Carolina Beach, it’s impossible to drive a few blocks without seeing a new place to imbibe craft brews and specialty wines.
Hey! Beer opened at Kerr and Wrighstville avenues in the spring. In fact, they took over Wilmington Homebrew Supply’s old space (4405-A Wrightsville Ave.) once the shop moved and opened a brewery, Wilmington Brewing Company (824 S. Kerr Ave.), only a few blocks down the street. “[John and Michelle Savard] got so many people into the process of brewing beer here in Wilmington,” Hey! Beer owner Mike Duffy says. “We think that really tuned more people on to the whole scene and made it accessible.”
Duffy and his wife live nearby and wanted to continue the convenience of picking up craft brews to take home. Hey! Beer has nine coolers, filled with over 400 singles of IPAs, sours, ales, and lots of things with heat. In fact, spicy suds are hard to keep in stock. “Ballast Point’s Habanero Sculpin, an IPA with habanero peppers, never stays on the shelf for long,” he says.
Over at Wilmington Brewing Company, Michelle Savard says both the Sneaky Goose Double IPA and Blair’s Breakfast Stout have been two of the most popular in house. Currently, they brew 600 gallons of varieties a week in a three-barrel system. “We just added a bigger system, 25 barrels, so in a few months we will be able to brew much, much more and start to keg our beer!” Savard notes.
In north Wilmington, Broomtail Craft Brewery (6404 Amsterdam Way) is making family with all the neighbors surrounding them in and around Dutch Industrial Square Park. Their most popular beer thus far has been “Moe-beer”—named after owners Lisa and Barry Owings’ black lab.
“We typically brew six barrels a week,” Owings says. “The local brew scene is very exciting. The people here support the craft beer movement and are very knowledgeable; People appreciate good-quality beer and the hard work that goes into making it.”
Ironclad Brewery (115 N 2nd St.) owner Ted Coughlin praises and welcomes back the culture of the 1800s to the millennium. In the 19th century, villages and communities socialized in breweries and imbibed on sips made by the local brewmaster frequently. “There were more breweries in the 1800s than there are in the USA today,” he notes. “That is quickly changing and I want be a part of the boom.”
Ironclad’s Fish Tale Pale Ale is their signature brew. Concocted in a 10-barrel system—they brew roughly 930 gallons of beer a week—Coughlin hops to have the pale ale available in cans before the end of the year.
From The Brewer’s Kettle (4718 Oleander Dr.) to Brooklyn Arts District’s Palate Bottle Shop and Reserve (1007 N. 4th St.), small-batch and micro brews and bottles of wine are a short drive in reach. “Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin and NoDa Hop Drop and Roll are two of our bestselling beers,” says Andrew Bopes, general manager of Palate. “For wine, especially in these past of couple months, it has been rosé. People are finally coming around to the idea that pink doesn’t mean your grandma’s sweet white zin.” —Shea Carver
WEAR AND TEAR
Making, building, collecting, treasure hunting, moving, shaking—they all have been in the wheelhouse of Suzi Drake, Whistlepig Jewelry proprietor. Though Whistlepig has been a concept for some time now, it wasn’t until January 2014 that she officially stepped down from local graphic designing firm Moxie to focus all her efforts on jewelry.
The idea for the jewelry, which has become one of Wilmington’s hottest items, stemmed from her crafty gift-giving. “For Christmas one year, I started making these necklaces and earrings out of vintage jewelry and salvaged leather and just never stopped,” Drake says.
Since opening, the response has been overwhelming. Fashionistas of all different styles and aesthetic inclinations turn to Drake’s jewelry to accessorize every outfit. Earthy tones and neutral hues characterize her vintage style, which is made from salvaged metals, stones and eclectic treasures. Stevie Nicks, Sissy Hankshaw (“Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”) and a hint of Barbarella served as inspiration for the line. An avid wearer of denim, cowboy boots, native prints, big hats, and flowy dresses, the jewelry complements a simple, timeless feel.
“My goal is to make every piece effortless to wear—no rules,” Drake tells. “I’ve made custom necklaces for a bride to wear down the aisle that they later pair with jeans and a T-shirt. Foxfire earrings can go from Sunday brunch right into the ocean, and come out looking even better (as long as they don’t fall out). Most pieces use mixed metals, so there’s no worrying about silver, gold, brass, etc. Oddly, I’ve never worn tons of jewelry because I didn’t know how to wear it. I hope Whistlepig makes it a no-brainer.”
The process behind her creations truly epitomizes a labor of love. The flea market or the metal scrap yard is her first stop. Then, Drake takes her finds back to her workshop where the magic begins. With the soft hum of “Star Trek” or “Magnum PI” on the TV in the background, the mixing, mingling and pairing gets underway.
“I sift though my treasures—old coins, vintage turquoise, tiny compasses, 1930s military sports medals, keys to old Ford trucks, conchos from a belt my older sister wore in high school—and decide which I want to use and then start to build around them,” Drake informs.
Her “Crossfire” necklace process is more fluid. She deconstructs the vintage necklaces and intermingles different materials, weights and textures until it feels right. Her “Foxfire” earrings undergo a similar course. It’s all about blending the perfect balance of color, length and texture. After completing her hammering, shaping and cutting, she often finds her original vision has been superseded by a superior item.
Her jewelry can be found at Annex Surf and Supply. “They are amazing [and] super supportive of the local creative community,” Drake says. “They realize there are oodles of talent in this little town, and they do a darn good job of helping Wilmington’s creative community thrive.”
Additionally, Whistlepig branched out into selling cowboy boots, belts, bags, belt buckles and turquoise rings, at a few holiday markets last year. Drake’s closing in on refrubishing a 1974 Dodge Sportsman RV, which will create a mobile venue for Whistlepig.
“I’m trying to get better at the business side of things,” she reports. “I’d love to expand Whistlepig’s reach, find more retailers to carry Whistlepig and find a way to develop a mobile presence in Wilmington. Coming up, I have a show at Annex on June 25 with artist Cheryl Kent, [called] ‘Eternal Summercamp.’”
Exercise is becoming a little more tolerable thanks to The Wilmington Training Center—a free support group that offers upbeat encouragement and a space for folks to reach success on their health journeys. It opened in Monkey Junction in a garage space in November 2013 by a group of friends, including cofounder Sandi Nehila, who committed themselves to better living.
“It is through all of our efforts that we started a coaching network so that we could mentor each other to reach our goals,” Nehila informs. “It was soon discovered that there were forgotten folks who were too embarrassed to join a gym or didn’t feel comfortable in a traditional atmosphere. Holding private workouts at each other’s homes provided the support we all needed to get started and the motivation to reach goals.”
Wilmington Training Center puts emphasis on everyone by offering an array of the latest trends among workout reginmes, such as obstacle-style races, high-intensity interval training or on-demand fitness via Internet videos or Facebook pages. As well, they offer meet-ups to do walks, clean-eating challenges, and engage in water sports, like kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding. Most importantly, they offer free, online support, wherein the training center’s coaches are on-hand to provide motivational guidance and advice. From menu-planning to compiling shopping lists, they guide on achieving an accessible, affordable healthy lifestyle.
“One thing we all have in common is that we all have a desire to be healthy, to help others get heathy, and we do not give up,” Nehila says. “We don’t give up on ourselves and we don’t give up on others. We are just ordinary people with those common traits. We meet with people and talk about their health and fitness goals. Then we determine how to get them there.”
And it’s free. However, they soon will debut a home health telemedicine service for only $30 a month. It will encompass families being able to avoid the long waits at local healthcare providers by speaking to a licensed medical practitioner via webcam for non-life-threatening issues. Folks can learn more by heading over to http://www.livingwellint.com.
SEE AND DO
Literary Walking Tours
Old Books on Front Street (249 N Front St.) owner Gwenyfar Rohler thrives on local living and literary splendor. It’s no surprise she combined her loves to create the Literary History Walking Tour, which occurs every Saturday at 1:30 p.m. (tickets are $8 and can be reserved at www.oldbooksonfrontst.com) takes attendees from Old Books, to the riverfront, to 5th Avenue, to Ann Street, to Thalian Hall, and back.
“I think that people don’t realize the depth and breadth of what we have here,” Rohler says. “We talk about Oscar Wilde, William Jennings Bryan, three presidents of the United States, John Sayles, the filmmaker, Oscar Meceaux, the African-American silent film impresario, Inglis Fletcher (one of my personal favorites), Rudyard Kipling and family, Claude Howell, Nicholas Sparks, and 10 authors currently living and writing.”
The tour discusses everything from newspapers to printers, authors to book settings and, yes, film adaptations. Rohler’s personal favorite site is Thomas Godfrey’s grave. Even Rohler divulges how she has learned from the tours she hosts. But nothing gives her more pleasure than the lit-up faces of folks she’s enlightened. “The kindest response I have gotten was after we walked out of Thalian Hall, one gentleman said, ‘I thought I knew this building, but you have completely changed my perception of it,’” Rohler says.
“It is basically a video game brought to life,” David Mark Chiprut, operations manager of Battlefield Live Wilmington, explains. Beginning last year, New Hanover County’s first mobile combat simulation service took hold of the Port City. The company revamped the laser tag of yesteryear. No vests are required; it simply uses a cable with hit sensors, which utilizes patented SATR technology from Battlefield Sports in Australia.
“Our laser combat games can be played indoors or outdoors, day or night, rain or shine,” Chiprut describes. “The minimum space required would be the size of a tennis court.”
Folks can get the battle started at their physical location (3910 Market St. behind PawnUSA) or take advantage of their mobile services (www.battlefieldlivewilmington.com). Also, they will host a Kid’s Summer Boot Camp, beginning June 29, in honor of their one-year anniversary. The cost is $200 per week.
Officially opening in 2014, DefyGravity (6431 Market St.) is the first trampoline park to hit southeastern NC. They already had locations in Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte; Wilmington seemed a natural next stop.
“DefyGravity is unique because it is an activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages,” manager Lauren McCullen says. “Parents and kids can enjoy having fun while being healthy together. The goal is to have a safe, clean park where we have obstacles that can be utilized by all age groups.”
On a given weekday, DefyGravity hosts around 500 jumpers, which becomes 1,500 on the weekends. Outfitted wall-to-wall with trampolines galore, participants can reserve 30 minutes to 2 hours of fun. The jumptastic activity works out the whole body. Their prices range from $8 to $20, depending on age and time. They also offer birthday party packages (any day of the week), which include reservations for 11 jumpers, a private party room, pizza, drinks, paper products, and shirts and socks for jumpers.
“Patrons always say how much fun it is and how big of a workout they received,” McCullen says. “When you’re having fun, you don’t realize that you are sweating and using your muscles as much as you really are.”
One of the truly lacking aspects of human evolution has been people’s inability to perceive and empathize with those who are different. For some reason, sexuality, race, gender, and nationality have become controversial topics—not because these differences exist, but because others are so up in arms about their mere presence. As such, one trend that will never go out of style is supporting human rights.
If anything demonstrates the persisting, blatant racism in America, it’s last week’s shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston—or the increased visibility for the numerous unarmed black men who are gunned down by police officers every year (Baltimore, Ferguson, et al). These are only a few examples of recent headlines; every second of every day an act marred by prejudices happens in our country. The Port City’s own chapter of the NAACP works tirelessly to meet issues head-on.
This summer the organization will be hosting a sixth annual free summer camp, Sankofa, for youth aged 12 to 17. With the 2016 election gearing up, the local NAACP also will extend efforts to end voter suppression. The organization, along with anyone who would like to become involved, will be traveling to the opening of the Suppression Federal Trial on July 13 in Winston Salem. Plus, they will participate in the “Journey for Justice,” an 860-mile march taking place countrywide, designed to raise awareness regarding the lives of African Americans equality.
These upcoming events come in conjunction with their continued work, which includes the parents’ council for New Hanover County schools. The organization provides a voice at school-board meetings. District 16 director of the NC NAACP, Deborah Dicks Maxwell, aims to focus on educating on candidates’ stances.
“We are tasked to focus on the five game changers: economic sustainability, education, health, public safety and criminal justice, and voting rights,” she says
Likewise, Cape Fear Equality (CFE), a Southeastern affiliate of Equality NC, is helming the advocacy for equality among the LGBTQIAA community. Though NC legalized same-sex marriage last year, the NC House’s decision to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto this month implemented a measure that allows court officials to get out of performing gay ceremonies because of religious convictions. Headed by CFE president Ryan Burris, the organization has rallied against this legislation to ensure government officials are required to respect any and all individuals and do their jobs.
“From the business community to local leaders to the governor, North Carolinians have stood up and said Senate Bill 2 is deeply problematic and discriminatory legislation,” Burris informs. “While it targets same-sex couples, in the process, it creates problems for all North Carolinians who seek use of taxpayer-funded public services.”
Though there will be no Wilmington Pride Week this year, Burris notes there are 10 statewide. Locals are working on reorganizing the event next year.
“We will continue to fight for many issues that affect the LGBT community, including marriage equality, parental rights, inclusive anti-bullying policies, employment discrimination, hate violence, privacy rights, sexuality education, adoption, domestic partnerships, and HIV/AIDS,” Burris says.
CFE also will champion equality and tolerance in the local school system. This comes after Orange County teacher Omar Currie read children’s book “King & King” in class after one student repeatedly was called “gay” in a derogatory manner. A select number of parents and board members scrutinized the teacher’s decision and argued he was pushing his own values in the classroom.
With Caitlyn Jenner having transitioned, a previously invisible sect of the population is finally reaching a point where people are discussing transgender issues more openly. From homelessness to job discrimination (and by effect poverty), hate crimes to the mental anguish derived from bigoted views, the tansgender community’s myriad obstacles at last are being laid on the table. The nationwide whirlwind of awareness being raised has led to a local trans woman Chasity Scott bringing her own voice to the forefront. Scott knew she was a woman when she was merely 4 years old. She recently underwent a two-part interview with WECT to tell her story. According to Burris, another recent win in the transgender community is CFE’s push for gender-neutral bathrooms, which are now at Cape Fear Community College.
Women’s rights continue to present an ongoing battle as well. Though women have been making their name in the job force for decades, wage discrimination is still in effect and being fought tooth and nail. Whether in the work place or merely walking down the street, there clearly are noticeable leaps and bounds to go before men and women are truly equal.
Women AdvaNCe (www.womenadvancenc.org) started in 2012 to combat issues and crusade against governmental oppression of women’s health rights, even examining the intersectional sexism issues that arise among minority women. Their 2015 Women’s Summit will be held Thursday, September 24 at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, and will feature keynote speakers Elissa Harris-Perry, executive director of WFU’s Pro Humanitate Institute, and Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress.
As well, Women Organizing for Wilmington (www.facebook.com/WomenOrganizingForWilmington/timeline)—a group for women and men in Wilmington working to advance legislation for women—takes strides to bring these national concerns to New Hanover County. They are currently crusading against recently depleted rights in NC women’s healthcare—including a bill the Senate just passed, which forces a woman to wait 72 hours before receiving an abortion. —Christian Podgaysky