Wednesday, July 27, 2011

CB Brew Thru feels the love

The Brew Thru at Carolina Beach is getting some love from Wilmington's Encore publication.

Having first originated in the Outer Banks back in the late ‘70s, the Carolina Beach location opened in May 2009. Store owner John Childers explains it’s “the original drive-thru convenience store, where you can actually drive into the store and be waited on by our ‘cartenders.’”

Yes, it’s true. Customers drive through the store, as rows of coolers align either side, along with snacks, ice, tobacco products, kegs and even tchotchke beach memorabilia like t-shirts. In the coolers aren’t only bottles of water and soda, but the finer adult beverages so many associate with beach lounging.

Outside of the establishment, the building resembles the colors and architecture of a car wash. When pulling through, customers are greeted with a huge selection of craft beer, domestics and imports, and a friendly cartender who aims to provide a unique and personal experience. Anyone who’s in a rush to get home after a hard day’s night will find Brew Thru’s to-go convenience top notch. “One of the things we really love about North Carolina is that it is one of the top states in the craft beer movement,” Childers says.

Presently, the Carolina Beach store carries 50 different craft beers and they hope to keep expanding in that department. “Just in the last couple years, we have seen customers come through who previously only drank domestics, gradually move into the more complex flavors of craft beers. It is really exciting watching the change and seeing our customers’ knowledge increase. At the store, the staff and managers continuously educate themselves, so that we can make suggestions and recommendations to customers who want to explore the world of craft beers.”


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Some CB food thoughts

I don't know Don Lesser, who has a blog devoted to seemingly food and eating, but he recently visited Carolina Beach (and is still there?) and wrote about his experiences there. You can read the full post here.

[M]y brother offered us his condo in North Carolina and we both thought a change would be good. Not to mention water that is actually warm enough to get in. Anyway, the trip included a BBQ stop off 95 in North Carolina and then on to the home of sweet tea and fried food, Tiki bars and “Island” cuisine.

I’ll leave out the duds for the moment. We did find two places that I’d call worth visiting. Bowman’s at the Beach we found on our own. It looks old-school, a brick building nestled on the strip, and inside, it feels like it’s been there for a while. The staff is incredibly friendly and, yes, most of the food is fried, but unlike a lot of the places at the beach, the food feels like it was made in the back rather than defrosted. I had some fried oysters, with mac n cheese and fried okra. Sarah had the BBQ pork. The basket of hushpuppies accompanied the meal were the best I have had on this trip. The oysters were fried but greaseless and the BBQ pork tasted meaty. The sweet tea was also the best we’ve had this trip. Sarah, who normally eschews anything with sugar, has been scarfing down the sweet tea like a pilgrim at the holy waterfountain. Sarah pronounced the fried okra great, so I’ll go with her. She makes it rolled in cornmeal, which is the way I’ve gotten used to it. Around here, they cover the pieces in batter. Still, the frying was pretty greasefree–not much grease left on the plate when we were done and I never got the “whoa, too much grease” feeling hours later. ...

The other place we liked was Gulfstream Restaurant, another old-time place. We got that recommendation off of and it was good. I’m a little overloaded on fried food, so I opted for the broiled flounder covered with deviled crab stuffing. Not exactly diet food, but the broiled fish at the previous night’s Deck House had left me ready for something with a little flair. The fish was fresh and the crab stuffing had crisped up nicely without extending the cooking time into the overdone phase. Good cole slaw and the baked potato I opted for over the french fries was wrapped in foil but OK. Hushpuppies and sweet tea not as good as Bowmans, but there was a Shrimp Creole on the menu that I want to try. There is someone cooking out back, not just some college kid with a fryolator and a freezer. ...

Thursday nights there are fireworks on the boardwalk. The boardwalk is small and slightly seedy, like all boardwalks I’ve been to since I was a boy. But there is live music. A good Southern rock n roll band was playing before and during the fireworks which were going off behind their stage. The fireworks were low and some of the shells seemed packed with a little more explosives, leading to a big POW as it blew apart the chrysamthum shells. But listening to good rock n roll while they were going off was a real treat. Aside from some choreographed fireworks in New Orleans that were “big city” fireworks, this is the first time I’ve heard that at local fireworks. Highly recommended.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Column: Carolina Beach is 'my beach'

Came across this touching column from Carolina Beach native Kris Worrell, editor of the Utica Observer-Dispatch about her memories of what she called "my beach."

... I’ve lived at (and visited) many beaches in my day – Virginia Beach, the Outer Banks, the Cape, Galveston, Ocean Beach in San Diego – but nothing compares to “my beach.”

My beach is Carolina Beach, a small, unpretentious place about 15 miles outside Wilmington, N.C., between the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Fear River. My grandparents built a house, which my grandmother designed, and two cottages next door during the 1950s. My mother and aunt spent summers there, then my cousins and I did the same. The four-bedroom house never had air conditioning other than the breeze blowing from the ocean but we could always keep cool with a dish of Grandmother’s homemade peach ice cream.

All summer long, Grandmother would rent the two cottages out, mostly to families from West Virginia or Kentucky who saved up all year for this one week in the sun. They would drive up in their cars, the kids pressing their faces to the windows as they saw the ocean for the first time. After they got the key, and often before even unpacking the car, the whole pack would run, stripping off shirts and shoes, arms outstretched, into the waiting surf.

I was born in Wilmington, but only because Carolina Beach, where my parents lived at the time, didn’t have a hospital. Years later while I was pregnant with my first child, my cousins went to the beach house and scooped up a container of sand and shells, then mailed it to me in New York. My husband placed it under the hospital bed (both times) so my children would be born over Carolina Beach soil.

The last time I saw the house and beach was 2001. Monday, Sept. 10, 2001, to be exact. We had gone to meet my cousins and show my new husband this place I’ve talked about for years. The vacation didn’t turn out as planned, as we spent most of the week trying to contact our friends in New York City and watching news of the terrorist attacks instead of lounging in the sand.

My kids had never seen the beach or the house, which my grandmother sold decades ago when the upkeep became too much. So, on this trip, we drove over the bridge and into the small town. The boardwalk, though a bit bigger, still had the obligatory arcade and the wonderfully simple Britt’s Donuts shop, voted the best in the country by numerous magazines, tourists and natives alike. They’ve been selling one kind of donut – basic, glazed, perfect – since 1939. Donuts, coffee, milk. That’s all that is on the menu. What else do you need? ...

I snapped pictures of my kids in front of the house, with the same view I used to see spread out behind them. There were lots more people on the beach than I ever had to tolerate, the tide was coming in and we got caught in a terrible lightning storm that sent us under the porch for a time.

Still, like a sweet, delicious donut, it was perfect.