I was running a little early for check in and decided to stop for lunch when I got near Surf City. I was keeping an eye out for something that looked local rather than fast food or a franchise. I saw the Village Cafe in Hampstead, NC and decided to give it a try.
There weren’t many cars in the lot but it was a little after the prime lunch hour so I wasn’t that concerned. When I walked in it took a few moments for anyone to see me waiting and when they did I got a lady who walked over and smiled and asked “Can I help you?” “I thought I might get some lunch,” was my response and that got a surprised “Oh, OK.” I don’t know what she thought I was doing there and I’ll admit I wasn’t sporting my dress shorts and beach polo shirt but I don’t think I was channeling my inner hobo either. She offered a seat at the empty bar first and then reluctantly offered to seat me with the other patrons if I really wanted. I flirted with asking to sit right next to one of the two other occupied tables just to freak her out but I preferred the bar anyway.
After sorting this out and spending a minute with the menu I ordered the chicken Gouda sandwich with house made chips.
The sandwich was not bad. The avocado was an interesting touch but the chicken breast was really small, chips were probably made the day before and the bun was meh. Definitely not a great start to a culinary week.
Sunday morning I decided to venture forth for breakfast and set out walking towards the business area. I passed up a place I visited last year and was lured in by the aroma of the Xanadu Market bakery.
The shop is split into two sections customers can wander around in. As you enter there are a few tables and the bakery case, coffee urns and cashier in the first section. A large opening lets you into another section where you can see the bakers busily going at it and the products on cooling racks plus some being packaged.
Unlike most bakeries I’ve visited these had a lot of items already wrapped in plastic wrap and labeled so grab and go was certainly quick. From the case I got a cranberry orange muffin and just because I love them a blueberry scone. The cranberry orange muffin was good, a little moist and enough of both flavors to enjoy but let the batter taste still make it through. The scone was not as pleasant. The flavor was ok but it was too dry and crumbly and the consistency was not quite sconey (I’m sure that’s a word) enough. I also got some croissants to take back for the family and discovered they were the real deal. I got plain, chocolate, spinach, and red pepper & cheese. I had half of a spinach and half a red pepper & cheese and they were both great. They were buttery, sweet and savory with a fantastic texture. Definitely better than the scone.
The next new experience was lunch at Surf Dog with my sister, brother-in-law and nephew. Another place in walking distance so we got a little exercise strolling down to the shopping plaza where Surf Dog is located. They atmosphere is beachy. They have a decent number of tables and a good size bar / counter to eat at. The menu isn’t complicated but they certainly embrace the dog theme with the names of the hot dogs. I settled on a Boxer & a Mutt with homemade chips.
I liked the presentation of the dogs with the interesting bun that was like a cross between Texas toast and a top sliced bun. It did a good job of holding the grilled all beef dogs and the toppings. The Boxer was topped with pimento cheese, bacon, onion and jalapenos while the Mutt sported their secret sauce and sauerkraut. The pimento cheese was warm but not messy like I’ve had when it’s been a topping on burgers I’ve had in the past. The secret sauce wasn’t special but the kraut was tasty. Both were delicious. In summary the dogs were tasty and toppings were plentiful without being too messy. The chips were thick, fried enough to be crunchy, and based on the nice color in oil changed reasonably often. My sister gave the fried chicken sandwich a thumbs up. Surf Dog definitely worth a do-over unlike the next contestant.
We had just about the whole crew rounded up and carpooling to Coastal Wing & Spirits Co. We had high hopes for this place and they were across the street from a brewery so it felt like it should be a twofer; good food and local craft beer. It was barely a onefer. We were seated relatively quickly by the one person working the floor when we walked in. She pulled some tables together so we could sit in a big group so the initial impression was good, from the service point anyway.. The first bump came when the other server came to get our drink orders. They didn’t have any of the beer from the place, literally across the street, and the one beer I tried to order they were out of. At noon. On a weekday. Spoiler, it wasn’t going to be the last disappointment.
We got our food order in after determining they were out of something else, I can’t recall what. I ordered Uncle Carter’s Chicken Bog.
So the description on the menu was Long Grain Rice, Pulled Chicken, Smoked Sausage, Spices, Roll. That’s lifted right from the menu. The rice was long grain and the sausage might have been smoked at some time, there were some grey bits. The chicken was pulled alright, from a can. It still had the rounded contours from the can on some hunks. The main flavor was salt with stray hints of other spices. I never saw a roll so that might have been a warning to roll on out of there but I wasn’t smart enough to decode it. On the other hand the fries were competently done and the tea didn’t suck. And to be fair the waitstaff was very nice and friendly trying to work with what they did have. In case you haven’t guessed I’d not recommend this spot.
The last place I want to mention is Topsail Steamer and the food we got there. We take turns cooking supper for the whole group and my folks know how to make good grub. Each year I do a low country boil which other folks know by different names but it is essentially shrimp, sausage, corn & potatoes all boiled together with seafood seasoning. In the past I purchased the ingredients and we always had local shrimp. The issue in the past has been big cooking pots at a rental spot. Last year I saw Topsail Steamer (it’s next to the doughnut shop) and had been mulling that option for a year. In addition to the combo I wanted they have several others varying or adding the seafood plus you can add additional amounts of this or that ingredient. The big deal is they put all of this in a light single use (but you can find other uses for them) pot and they use local shrimp and have options for the seafood spice as well. Simple steaming instruction and a few containers of butter and cocktail sauce not to mention the brown paper for the table. It’s not as cheap as buying all the ingredients yourself and putting it together but I loved walking in, paying for it then coming back and picking it all up at the time I wanted. The end result was fantastic. This is the first of 3 piles to hit the table.
The quality of all the ingredients was good. The shrimp were a nice size, we had two kinds of sausage and they both had good flavors and the corn was sweet and the potatoes did their potato job and filled you up. They will be my go to next year on my night to cook.
This year I didn’t try as many new spots and my luck wasn’t as good as last year but as the saying goes, “just wait ’til next year.”