At least three food trucks traded their wheels for brick-and-mortar restaurants; Murchison Road welcomed a salad bar; Hope Mills got a Halal eatery; a culinary veteran struck out on his own to open a Japanese street food joint; and Bordeaux Shopping Center got a new Mexican place.
In the alternative, Gray’s Creek lost a beloved watering hole; Spring Lake said goodbye to a wing joint; and a turkey shortage shuttered a downtown lunch spot.
Here are 15 of the notable openings and closings in the area food scene this year.
Opening: Sushi at Sunfish
Fresh seafood has long been a calling card for Fayetteville’s Sunfish, which started about a decade ago at Sun Asian Supermarket on Santa Fe Drive. In the summer of 2021, the Sunfish got its own Yadkin Road spot. This year, the fish market took a chance on a new specialty that has customers hooked — sushi.
Since April, chef and owner William Randall has sold more than 500 rolls a week, made fresh each morning. The rolls go quickly, and regulars know to stop in early to get their fix. The best-seller is the Aloha, a crab salad California roll topped with poke tuna and house-made mango lime sauce for $13.
Customers can round out their meals with grab-and-go sides. Randall’s Korean-born mother, Myung, makes a rotating assortment of Korean “banchan” or sides like pickled radish, potato salad and fish cake, starting at $4. Most popular is the sweet and spicy cucumber salad.
“She’s the magic behind the Korean food,” Randall said.
Sunfish Market at 5352 Yadkin Road is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Call 910-867-5995 or visit instagram.com/910sunfish or facebook.com/910sunfish.
Opening: Ichi Kaku
Kamiya, a chef for two decades who grew up and worked in Japan and New York City before moving to North Carolina, was the chef at Menkoi Ramen House in the Bordeaux Shopping Center before starting his own venture.
In March, Kamiya opened the Japanese street food restaurant Ichi Kaku on the outskirts of downtown Fayetteville.
Along with ramen, Kamiya serves other Japan street foods, such as takoyaki, fried battered balls laced with octopus; stir-fried yakisoba noodles; kaarage fried chicken; okonomiyaki, a savory vegetable pancake; and grilled yakitori meat skewers.
Ichi Kaku at 350 N. Eastern Blvd. is open 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, Saturday 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Call 910-229-2682 or visit ichikakufay.com.
Opening: La Catrina Burritos Y Mas
The spot formerly known as Skrimp Shack and Chickenville in Bordeaux Shopping center became La Catrina this spring.
The menu is built around customizable burritos, including breakfast burritos, tacos and a few starters.
One popular item is the Mexican pizza, a tostada with refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and a choice of chicken, steak, chorizo or meatless. It is topped with a “secret” chipotle sauce, restaurant manager Rebecca Macias said.
The quesabirria, taco boxes and burritos are also customer favorites, she said.
La Catrina at 1816 Owen Drive is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. Call 910-491-4704 or visit lacatrinaburritosnc.com.
Opening: The Salad Box
Tonya McNeill, 53, who also owns NZone Social Bar and Entertainment, opened the Salad Box in April.
The 2,500-square-foot, eight-table, fast-casual restaurant in the Murchison Marketplace shopping center serves customizable salads, wraps and sandwiches. It offers more than 40 toppings, including tofu, vegan “chicken,” blue cheese, banana peppers, grapes and eight dressings. Salads range from about $8 to $15.
McNeill said she wanted to fill a need for fresh food options in Fayetteville’s historically Black corridor.
The Salad Box at 3421 Murchison Road is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Call 910-849-3628 or visit thesaladboxnc.com.
Downtown Fayetteville’s Pan is a fresh take on a classic deli, offering sandwiches, salads and paninis made with high-quality ingredients.
Brian Graybill, who also owns Napkins in Hope Mills, opened Pan in early June on Hay Street, formerly the Downtown Deli. The counter service restaurant focuses on local ingredients, fresh flavors and “breaking the rules,” Graybill said.
San Giuseppe Salami Co., an Italian salami purveyor in Elon, supplies most of the meat. Bread is sourced from two Fayetteville bakeries: Bread & Sugar by Dali and Superior Bakery. Cheeses vary but are mostly from Wisconsin and Italy.
“Our meat and cheese list reads like a wine list,” Graybill said.
Each sandwich or panini is named after a person or place significant to the shop.
The “Stace” is named after Graybill’s wife, Staci, who he said was “instrumental” in opening the restaurant. The sandwich is balsamic vinaigrette, lettuce, tomato, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, artichokes, and basil pesto on fresh bread.
Side salads like summer pasta, tortelloni and pesto, wild rice and greens, and cucumber and tomato round out the menu.
Pan at 105 Hay St. is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Call 910-491-3105 or visit facebook.com/panfaync for more information.
Opening: Barbara Ann’s Fried Chicken
Barbara Ann’s Southern Fried Chicken, formerly the popular food truck Babann’s Southern Fried Chicken, opened a catering and takeout restaurant in Hope Mills in June.
Owner Barnisha Ragin-Graham said the name change from Babann (her mother’s nickname, pronounced “Bob-Ann”) to Barbara Ann, her mother’s full name, was intended to give the restaurant a fresh start and its own personality.
Along with the fried chicken and gizzards that Ragin-Graham said she can barely keep in stock, the restaurant serves chopped turkey barbecue, red velvet waffles and plenty of sides and desserts, all made daily from scratch.
Barbara Ann’s Southern Fried Chicken at 3740 S. Main St. in Hope Mills is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p,m. Sunday Call (910) 491-5859 or visit facebook.com/barbaraannsnc for more information.
Opening: R Kitchen
The food truck R Burger is known in the Fayetteville area for its fresh ground burgers and house-made ranch.
In August, owners Mary and Robert Russell expanded their business to R Kitchen, a Person Street restaurant serving the same specialties as the popular food truck.
The Russells started the food truck about nine years ago, and always hoped to open a restaurant, Mary Russell said.
The counter service eatery offers items like a jalapeno burger with colby jack cheese; the Southern burger with pimento cheese, grilled onions and mustard; and the cheddar bacon ranch burger topped with house-made ranch.
R Kitchen at 1006 Person St. is open 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Call (910) 527-1467 or visit facebook.com/Rburgertruck.
Opening: La Isla Menos
Puerto Rican restaurant La Isla Menos — named for the owner’s Puerto Rican hometown of Morovis, “the forgotten city” — opened in July on South Reilly Road.
For owner Ana Arroyo, 39, the phrase is a source of pride. Her mother, Damaris Arroyo, owned and operated a catering business, store and cantina in Morovis under the same name for more than a decade, Ana Arroyo said.
Now, Damaris Arroyo serves “totally authentic food” as the head chef of the Fayetteville restaurant, Ana Arroyo said.
The house specialty is mofongo, plantains mashed with garlic and butter topped with octopus, shrimp and conch in criollo sauce — a sauce of finely sliced onions, vinegar, tomatoes, cilantro, chili peppers and other herbs and spices. The dish is served in a “pilon,” a wooden bowl with a pedestal.
La Isla Menos at 594 S. Reilly Road is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Call 910-920-2477 or visit facebook.com/La-Isla-Menos-Restaurant-100941905731911.
In limbo: Chillz Intergalactic Donuts
Chillz Intergalactic Donuts, a Fayetteville food truck serving specialty donuts since 2019, closed unexpectedly in August, leaving fans disappointed. Owner Muhammad Shams said he hopes to reopen as soon as possible.
On Aug. 30, an announcement on the truck’s Facebook page said that it may be their last day in operation because a major investor had backed out.
The donut truck, which is usually parked at 5001 Raeford Road, has more than 4,000 followers across Facebook and Instagram.
Made-to-order donuts with extravagant toppings were Chillz bread-and-butter. Items like apple fritters topped with cinnamon sugar, caramel apple, crunchy graham crackers and vanilla icing were $22 for a dozen.
In the meantime, Shams said he is working to launch an online store with items like donut batter, Italian ice and branded clothing shipped to customers. The business began as an Italian ice cart, which he is now back to operating.
Closing: The Fried Turkey Sandwich Shop downtown
At least one area restaurant felt the pinch of a recent turkey shortage. Basil Hasapis, the owner of the Fried Turkey Sandwich Shop, said he had to make big changes because suppliers could only fulfill 60-70% of his whole raw turkey orders.
The menus at the restaurant’s two locations on Bingham and Owen drives remain unchanged, but the location downtown on Person Street pivoted away from turkey to a quesadilla menu in response to supply issues. It operates under a new name, the Quesadilla Gallery, which opened in September.
Quesadillas aren’t new to the restaurant; they were on the menu before Hasapis streamlined offerings during the pandemic shutdown.
He said the current downtown location will continue to serve quesadillas with no expectation of converting it back to a turkey shop, but Hasapis hopes to open another Fried Turkey Sandwich Shop downtown in the future.
Opening: Melvin’s at Riverside
Sheldon China spent three decades in the food industry before returning to his native Fayetteville to open a restaurant of his own.
He and his wife, Joyce, opened Melvin’s at Riverside in September along the Cape Fear River east of downtown. The Person Street restaurant and bakery bills itself as serving “Southern comfort food,” and is open for lunch and dinner, serving sandwiches, seafood, barbecue, and dessert. It is not affiliated with Melvin’s Hamburgers & Hot Dogs in Elizabethtown.
China said the restaurant has a more approachable price point than the restaurant previously housed in the 4,000-square-foot space, Chef Judy’s Riverside Seafood. The average price for an entree, drink, and dessert is about $25.
The house specialty is marinated and smoked ribs served with cornbread and a side for $18. Entrees start at $11.
Melvin’s at Riverside at 1130 Person St. is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Call 910-339-3059 or visit melvins-atriverside.com/.
Opening: Shish House
Shish House in Hope Mills opened in early October.
The Yemeni and Lebanese Halal restaurant serves dishes like chicken and lamb shawarma, shaved meat roasted on a vertical spit and topped with fresh herbs; marinated beef or lamb kebabs; tannour, and pita breads; and an assortment of fresh juices. Entrees start at $8.
Co-owners Sal Abulebdeh and Adeb Obaid came to Cumberland County from Detroit, where they run several restaurants, including La Shish in nearby Dearborn. Abulebdeh is of Palestinian and Egyptian background and was born and raised in Detroit, home to one of the largest Middle Eastern populations in the country. Obaid is a Yemen native.
Shish House at 3041 Main St., Hope Mills. is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 10 a.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday. Call 910-725-5555 or visit facebook.com/shishhousenc/.
Closing: Saucy Wings
Saucy Wings at 600 N. Bragg Blvd. in Spring Lake closed at the end of October, owner Michelle Bryant said. She and her husband Bennie opened the business in 2008.
The restaurant served wings and seafood, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and yams.
Bryant said that rising food costs, supply chain issues, and difficulty retaining employees made it “nearly impossible” to remain in operation.
“I hate that we are closing,” she said. “We’ve had some great customers that traveled great distances for our food that will be missed.”
Closing: The Creek Bar and Grill
A beloved restaurant in Gray’s Creek closed its doors for good after serving the community for nearly a decade.
Everybody ate at The Creek Bar & Grill, owner Casper Critchfield said, but Nov. 13 was the restaurant’s last day in operation.
Critchfield, 41, said that he was forced to close the eatery at 4351 Chicken Foot Road because the landlord refused to replace the failing septic system and will not sell the property to Critchfield. As a result, the Cumberland County Health Department has revoked the restaurant’s permits, he said.
“We’re not leaving because we want to, we’re leaving because we have to,” Critchfield said.
Critchfield and his wife, Eleanor, 39, took over the restaurant in 2017. As a family-friendly restaurant by day and karaoke bar by night, it meant different things to different people, he said.
Churchgoers ate breakfast there before the service, and lunch afterward. First responders counted on the restaurant to serve hot meals during emergencies like hurricanes and snowstorms. Local teachers knew it as a fundraising partner and after-school hangout.
In December, Critchfield opened a new restaurant, Critchfield’s Grill, at 1810 North Pine St. in Lumberton.
Opening: La Perla
The former El Burrito Mexican restaurant on Glensford Drive retained its staff and owners but got a name change and a new menu when it reopened in November as La Perla Cuisine of Nayarit.
The restaurant serves dishes from Nayarit, a state along Mexico’s western coast. Grilled octopus, prawns, crab legs and lobster are just a few of the new offerings.
La Perla at 310 Glensford Drive is open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. Call 910-263-8825 or visit laperlanc.com.
Opening: Kwon’s Korean Kitchen Fusion Cuisine
Chef-owner Vanessa McKoy of Kwon’s Korean Kitchen food truck opened a Bragg Boulevard restaurant serving Korean barbecue, fusion food and authentic flavors this month.
The restaurant offers McKoy’s calling card — Korean hot dogs. Available in mozzarella, beef, chicken and cheddar variations, each is battered, fried and topped with sugar, white sauce, green onions and cabbage.
McKoy is expanding her bulgogi offerings to include chicken, beef or spicy pork, served on tacos or loaded fries. Kimchi, cucumber salad, Korean barbecue wings, bulgogi burgers and cheesesteak fries are also on the menu.
Kwon’s Korean Kitchen Fusion Cuisine at 5173 Bragg Blvd. is open Monday-Wednesday and Friday 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 to 7 p.m.; and Saturday noon to 8 p.m. The food truck will close in January and February, but reopen in March, she said. Call 910-273-2789 or visit facebook.com/KwonsKitchen.
Food, dining and business reporter Taylor Shook can be reached at [email protected]. Want food news in your inbox every Thursday? Sign up for the Fayetteville Foodies newsletter.