Rosa here. Maybe you’ve noticed my recent absence from the digital pages of encore. Or maybe you haven’t—there’s a lot going on. While I’ve been cooking up a storm, perfecting my takeout ordering skills, and oh-so-carefully dipping my toes in the dining out pool (mask on, hands washed) now just doesn’t seem like the right time for restaurant reviews. Who has time for advice or criticism when the notion of going out to eat is so sacred in a time like this? When restaurant workers are putting their lives on the line for others to have a date night or brunch?
In the meantime, we’ll be re-running some of my previous reviews—the ones where there’s a lot of gushing about what’s great. These restaurants are open for business, in various states of takeout, curbside, delivery, and in-house dining, and we at encore encourage you to patron them and enjoy. As always, if you’re feeling sick, stay home, keep at least 6 feet apart from others, wear a mask, and wash your hands.
Until we meet again, happy eating.
My love letter to Carolina Beach began over the summer after I was gushing over the amazing ahi tuna nachos at SeaWitch Café and now continues with even more fanfare over The Southerly Biscuit and Pie. Ever heard of it? It’s part of the Coastal South Hospitality Group, a collective that also includes Surf House Oyster Bar and Surf Camp. I’ve never been to either spot, but after a visit to The Southerly, I am chomping at the bit to pull up a seat at Surf House.
A girlfriend mentioned how The Southerly is a routine spot for her and some friends. First, the head to The Southerly, then to Island Beverage next door for the mimosa bar offered on the weekends.
Done and done. My husband and I instantly made a plan.
We cruised down Sunday morning with another couple to the Carolina Beach strip mall that houses both spots. We spent the summer cruising into Island Beverage before trips to the beach. Everybody had a whisper of a hangover due to the previous day’s Oktoberfest antics, so the thought of lots of biscuits was very appealing.
The space itself is adorable. It checks a lot of boxes. Local honey and hot sauce for sale? Check. Sustainable practices in supporting local farms? Check. Food origin traceability? Check. Super cute merch like tote bags and camping mugs? Check. The only thing the restaurant lacks is seating, but that’s why Island Beverage is here. Benches line the storefronts, so if eaters don’t have the patience to take home their snacks, they can just plunk down and dig in.
There was a humble selection of cookies and pies, most of which we indulged in. We opted for a cherry hand pie, a slice of bourbon pecan, and a buttermilk chocolate cookie (just imagine clapping emojis in between all of these words.) They. Were. All. Amazing. I’m not shy about my disdain for cherries, despite my Michigan roots, but holy cow was that hand-pie special. Maybe I’ve just been eating the wrong cherry pastries for the entirety of my 30 years. I guess I have some catching up to do. The crust was buttery with perfect amounts of chew and crunch. The filling was impeccable, not too syrupy, but not too chunky, and there wasn’t anything dry about the pie overall. Splitting one between two couples was criminal.
I’ve also never been a big fan of pecan pie (I know, am I even American?). Most of the versions I’ve had can only be described as congealed and bland. This was neither. Warm pie spices of cinnamon and nutmeg gave the sugary filling depth and the topping was delightfully candied. The crust, again, was buttery and soft, but it still supported the integrity of the pie. That’s right: This pie has integrity. And you will, too, after a slice of this pie. I also appreciated the bourbon component wasn’t overly boozy.
The buttermilk chocolate cookie reminded me of chocolate chess pie, which diners actually can get on Fridays. The tang of buttermilk mixed with creamy, sweet chocolate makes for a dang yummy snack. Plus, it has a crispy crunch and a gooey center. Remember that thing about checking a lot of boxes? Still true.
Like I said, our hangovers were making the decisions here, so we ordered the lion’s share of the menu. We got (deep breath) biscuits and gravy, a country ham and cheddar biscuit, a pimento cheese biscuit with an over-medium egg on top, a fried-chicken biscuit, and both grits bowls. Whew!
On the subject of the biscuits themselves, they made the perfect sandwich. They were hearty and structurally sound enough to not fall apart mid-bite. Flavor-wise they were perfectly buttery.
My personal favorite was the country ham and cheddar situation. Country ham is ultra salty, which offered a delicious balance to the tangy cheddar. A lot of time, the offering at other restaurants can be one sad piece of country ham on a too-small biscuit. At The Southerly, they slice the ham a little smaller and stack it up with cheese in between each slice to create a tiny tower of delicious.
The fried-chicken biscuit featured Sriracha mayo and hot sauce, but managed not to be overly spicy. The chicken batter was anything but bland, and the fry job on the bird resulted in an extra-crispy crunch. We fought each other for leftover crispies on the paper.
The pimento cheese was delicious and not at all runny, but the over-medium egg was just as runny as it should be, so everyone definitely needed extra napkins. Kudos to the member of our group who suggested we add an egg; the sammie didn’t need it but it definitely benefited from it.
Our biscuits and gravy were to die for, but the gravy was smoother compared to the chunkier versions I’d experienced previously. I appreciated it because like I said, the biscuits are pretty hearty.
The Gritty Hippy Bowl is one of the healthier offerings on the menu, featuring kale, mushrooms, onions, and lindale cheese. It was definitely the grit bowl that our crew favored. There was tang, texture and plenty of spice. Overall, it was just done very well.
Conversely, the Guile n’ Grit Bowl sort of let us down. It included sausage, bacon, and cheddar and ultimately fell flat. We ended up wishing we’d asked for hot sauce. To quote one of my friends who joined us, “I mean, if you ask me to complain, I’ll complain. Otherwise, everything was fantastic.”
He’s right. It was.
What really brought it together was the “Southerly” hospitality that hit us when we walked in the door. Josh, who was working the counter, was super friendly even when we came back a few times for extra silverware and to-go containers. It’s worth noting that even though the restaurant packages everything to go, they have been thoughtful about making sure everything is eco-friendly. The only piece of plastic that walked out the door with us was a knife.
Needless to say, I can’t recommend The Southerly enough.