Le Catalan may have closed its doors, but former Waterman’s brewmaster Zac Brown is keeping some of the little bistro’s traditions alive with his new restaurant and bar, Stalk + Vine. The cruvinet is still behind the bar for wine service, and the quiche springform pans are now wall art. Brown wants to call back to when the Riverwalk space was Le Catalan because he understands and appreciates the nostalgia of tradition. Outside of a couple design components and the overall “old-world feeling” Brown is working to accomplish, the new restaurant has a very different feel.
The brand is simple: classy, crafty, casual. It’s an amalgamation of Brown’s life experiences and travels. From the trendy cocktail bars of San Francisco to tiny cafes tucked in the jungle of Puerto Rico, it’s all there. And he plans on being friendly to people with food allergies.
Anyone who has ever met Brown may have noticed a holster on the right side of his belt. No, it’s not a gun or a prehistoric cellphone case. It’s an EpiPen. He has an allergy to lactose that could send him into anaphylactic shock, so he’s prepared … always. His menu at Stalk + Vine reflects as much, but not in a way that lacks creativity or flavor. The menu is very easily made dairy-free, vegetarian and gluten-free. And folks who love pickled things will adore the table snacks portion of the menu. (I’ve never had a pickled quail egg, but am very excited to try one alongside a cold glass of white wine.)
“Time is also part of the brand,” Brown says. “I want to make sure that’s accentuated throughout the experience here. That we have people leaving [and] thinking this is a timeless location.”
The menu isn’t so much chef-driven as it is Zac-driven; Brown wrote the menu and is in the process of hiring kitchen staff. Yet, he didn’t go at it alone. Dean Neff, James Beard semi-finalist and former PinPoint chef, consulted him on the new project. “To be clear, it isn’t Dean’s new restaurant,” Brown clarifies. “I wrote the menu and Dean went through and ‘Neff-ified’ it.”
It will change quarterly, according to Brown—such as the hummus and charcuterie dishes. “The first hummus is a take on red beans and rice, including components from the classic New Orleanian dish,” Brown says.
As tourist season winds down and locals begin to catch their breath, Brown will launch a more events-focused space. He wants to include chef pop-ups and beverage-pairing nights. He declined to offer what chefs have agreed to participate, but assures future customers can expect nothing but goodness.
The beverage program is humble and rooted in tradition. There will not be Pét-Nat on the wine list, at least not at first. The cocktails, while inspired, aren’t using homemade tinctures or shrubs … just yet. One of the major inspirations Brown looked toward in creating his cocktail list was The Alembic—a bar on Haight Street in San Francisco. He brewed at the brewery down the street that belonged to the same restaurant group. Brown has a fantastic story about being “forced” to sit at The Alembic bar for five hours one night, drinking on the company tab and diagnosing a draught system issue. Thus his cocktail program was born.
Brown’s robust brewing background will drive the beer list. He’s already lined up a tap takeover for two West Coast breweries: Cellarmaker Brewing and Sante Adairius Rustic Ales. They’ll make their Port City debut in August. While Brown is concerned with supporting local and representing delicious beers the Wilmington area has to offer, he also wants to provide customers with flavors from places they may not have been and may not get to in the near future. His years on the West Coast and in New England helped him forge the relationships to offer such one-of-a-kind opportunities to locals and out-of-towners.
Impatient Wilmingtonians need only to wait a little longer, as Stalk + Vine is expected to open mid-July. Brown is in the process of putting finishing touches on his menus, and hiring both front- and back-of-house staff. Once it’s up and running, business hours will be 11 a.m. through 11 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. While there isn’t a brunch menu just yet, there will be, so stay tuned for more weekend fun eating and drinking to come.