Bert’s Surf Shop Surf City – Icon of the Carolina Beaches

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by Donna Byrd

 

There are some things that just go together: beach towels and beach chairs, sunscreen and sun glasses, bikinis and coverups, Coronas and lime slices, sand pails and shovels, fried shrimp and cocktail sauce, beach vacays and Bert’s Surf Shop…

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Bert’s Surf Shop? You know it! If you’re like me, you grew up taking your summer vacations and weekend getaways on one of the many pristine beaches of North or South Carolina. And there would have been no way in the world you would have left your summer paradise without purchasing some proof that you had actually been there. Even though a sunburn with peeling skin was proof enough that you had been to the beach, you needed a little something extra that would brag to your friends about your recent whereabouts. You would have to have a Bert’s tee shirt.

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The Bert’s Surf Shop empire was established in 1965 by Bertram and Gloria Pearson. Headquartered in Kinston, North Carolina, Bert’s Surf Shops soon began springing up in many North Carolina beach towns, including one in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Today, there are seven shops still in operation, serving their beach communities name brand beach wear, including bathing suits, wet suits, shorts and tee shirts and a huge selection of  footwear. They also carry many brands of surfboards and skate boards plus the paraphernalia that goes along with them.

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When I moved near Surf City,  I was excited to discover that it had a Bert’s Surf Shop (actually the first surf shop on Topsail Island, established in 1969!) When I was young, I would have given anything to live at the beach and be able to shop at Bert’s anytime I wanted. I can remember, many times, after we had packed up the cars and were headed home from the beach,  we’d have our parents pull into the Bert’s parking lot and we’d pile out of the car, with the last of our vacation money jingling in our pockets. We’d always make sure we’d have enough money to buy at least one Bert’s tee shirt to take home with us. We could always wear them long after our tans had faded to remind us of our great summer adventure or just to let all of our friends know that we were “cool that way.”

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Each year our Bert’s collection grew and one day, sometime when we in our late twenties, we realized we had not only been on many beach vacations, but we also had some  vintage tee shirts. We could be anywhere; at home in eastern North Carolina, Disney World or at a mall in Nashville, Tennessee,  and see a fellow Bert’s aficionado wearing a  tee shirt. Of course, that would lead to our having to stop them to ask which beach they had vacationed at or how they wound up with their  Bert’s tee shirt. The tee shirts would be like magnets, drawing us together like old friends, discussing our favorite vacation towns and hangouts.

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Yesterday, I stopped by our local Bert’s Surf Shop in Surf City.  I hadn’t  been there since last year when I bought (you guessed it) a tee shirt and bathing suit for my two year old granddaughter, who lives in Nashville. Since it’s off season and the store wasn’t quite as busy as it is in the summer,  I was able to talk to Marissa McClain and Austin Yates, the two employees who were minding the shop. I asked them if they had met the famous Bert. They told me that he came in frequently and still had his hand in the operation of the store.

I had always wondered about “Bert.” Was he a real person or just a name on the store’s sign? Did he surf and open his store for others like him to provide quality items for his sport?

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The answer was absolutely  “yes!” Even though Bert is now in his eighties, he surfed up until five years ago, when he had to give up his beloved sport for health reasons. I was impressed with the name behind the iconic beach surf shop.

If you’re on Topsail Island, do yourself a favor and check out Bert’s Surf Shop in Surf City, especially if you surf or skateboard. However, if you’re like me, you’ll need a tee shirt or some type of beach wear that will prove you’ve been to the beach or (if you’re vain like me,) that you are still “cool.” Somethings just go together like, Bert’s Surf Shop and me!

 

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Batson’s Galley Family Restaurant: A Local Favorite

 

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by Donna Byrd

I had a chance to stop by Batson’s Galley and Family Restaurant in Surf City last week. I can’t tell you how many times I had driven by the restaurant, a favorite of the Surf City locals. Every time I did, I would look over at the unassuming white building and notice that its parking lot was always crowded with cars and trucks. It seemed to be a thriving business with a repeat clientele, which translates into happy customers!  If a restaurant is always busy it means it has great food!

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Bill and I pulled into the parking lot around 1:00 p.m. As always, the parking lot was full; this time of year made up mostly by Surf City locals.  We walked into the building and were greeted by the wonderful aroma of country cooking and fried seafood. We found an empty table (lucky us, there were only a few) and a friendly waitress brought us our menus.

 

I kept watching the wait staff as they brought other patrons their food so that I could get an idea of what looked good and what I wanted to order. The “problem” was that every dish they brought out from the kitchen looked scrumptious! Would I order some good ole eastern North Carolina fried seafood (although you could also get it broiled or grilled) or would I get one of the daily lunch specials? Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

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Our waitress came to our table to get our order. Bill went with the special of the day: pork roast with dressing and steamed cabbage. I decided to get one of their popular sandwiches: a Philly Cheesesteak. The waitress pointed out that their burgers were amazing too. They were big, juicy and hand-pattied. I wavered a bit on my decision but stuck with the Cheesesteak.

 

Our server brought us out a basket of hushpuppies as we waited for our entrees. In eastern North Carolina, a restaurant can be judged on their hushpuppies alone! After eating a few, we knew that if the rest of our food was as tasty as those little hunks of fried goodness, then we were in for a treat.  They were delicious!

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As we munched on our hushpuppies, we had a chance to check out the restaurant. The atmosphere was definitely what I would consider as the family, fish camp style with beach murals painted on the back wall.  I thought that vacationers would love the beachy vibe and casual setting. It seemed like Batson’s Galley and Family Restaurant was the essence of “pure” beach! Good atmosphere, seafood and fun!

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Our waitress brought out our entrees and as we expected, it looked like comfort on a plate. There’s a reason lunch specials are called “special.” Bill’s choice of pork roast with dressing and steamed cabbage was country cooking at its finest! (Yes, I couldn’t help but taste some off of his plate.) My Philly Cheesesteak proved to be an excellent choice and the french fries were hot and crisp.

 

Larry and Linda Batson opened up their restaurant thirteen years ago. Larry started out as a local fisherman and worked with the Thomas family who own and operate Thomas Tackle and Seafood,  which is just down the street from the restaurant. I think it’s so interesting to see how closely knit our local businesses actually are. Fishing families not only brought seafood to our region but also served it up in some of Topsail Island’s  best restaurants.

 

Batson’s Galley and Family Restaurant is open seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.  On the weekends, breakfast is served until 2:00 p.m. The lunch specials on the weekdays are amazing. I called and asked this morning if they would be open on New Year’s Day and they said “YES!” They will be serving up their special of ham, blackeyed peas and collard greens. It seems like southern traditions are served up everyday at Batson’s!

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Batson’s Galley and Family Restaurant is located at:

14260 NC Highway 50

Surf City, North Carolina
(910) 328-4426
https://www.facebook.com/Batsons-Galley-Family-Restaurant-330637717085/

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Swingbridge: Fine Wine, Craft Beers, and Local Talent


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The Swingbridge Beer and Wine Shop

by Donna Byrd

 

Ok guys. We’re getting down to the wire. December 25th is almost upon us and it’s time to take a look at your Christmas “to do” list.

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Let’s see…You’ve finished decorating the house, which by the way, looks marvelous! Check.  Gifts are wrapped and under the tree. Breathe a sigh of relief! Check. The stockings are hung on the mantle waiting for Santa’s magic touch.  The Christmas turkey and ham are in the refrigerator, ready to go into the oven early Christmas morning. Little Johnny’s favorite sugar cookies are cooling on the counter and that family favorite, Aunt Sarah’s coconut cake, is hiding in the buffet cabinet waiting until the moment it makes its grand entrance at dessert time at the Christmas dinner table.  Check, check and check! Oh no…did you forget something?

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The wine and beer? How can you “make merry” without your favorite spirits to fill your cups of good cheer?  And where can you find someone to give you the right advice about what kinds of beer and wines to pair with the special dishes you have planned for that meal from which memories are made?

 

Don’t panic! I have just the right place to send you to for specialty wines and beers! Swing Bridge Beer and Wine! It’s on Topsail Island, right in Surf City and it’s been serving the local islanders and vacationers for the past eight years.  I stopped by this jewel of a wine and beer shop a few days ago looking for a little something different for a special dinner. The owners, Tim and Gerry Horner’s granddaughter, Sara Kenna, happened to minding the shop that day and I was happy to find out that she was well acquainted with the merchandise.img_4225-large

 

“We have three to four hundred types of wines, some made at wineries right here in North Carolina.  We also carry California and west coast wines, South American, Australian, Italian, French, German…Well, really we have great domestic AND international selections! And, if we don’t have what you’re looking for or if it’s a hard to find wine, we’ll track it down and order it for you. If you want it, we’ll get it!”

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Sara then pointed out that they had a large selection of $10.00 – $20.00 bottles of wine. “Those are the table wines most of our customer’s order for regular type meals, but of course, we have more expensive bottles for very special occasions and more expensive budgets.”  I was happy to realize that they catered to folks like me – a person who enjoys drinking different wines and learning about them as I try them, one bottle at a time. Sara was happy to teach me as I asked about different varietals and how to pair them with my menu.

 

My husband, Bill, was impressed with the selection of beers and asked Sara about them. “We have several hundred beers on the shelves. There are lots of North Carolina brews but also many other domestic and imported beers to choose from. Believe me, if you are a beer aficionado, we will have your favorite!

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The average specialty six-pack is about $12.00, but look at what else we have,” she pointed out. We always have twelve to fifteen beers on tap!” We walked to the back of the shop and saw that you could buy beer by the glass – wine too (there are eight wines always on tap.)  Sara said you could have your glass or take a bottle of your favorite spirit out on the patio to enjoy if the weather is nice. They even have a small selection of fine cigars to enjoy with your favorite beverage.

 

She also let us know that they often have beer and wine tastings. These events draw pretty good sized crowds. Usually, they have special live music from some local favorites, Jason Murphy or Donna Pietrogiacomo for their tastings or every other weekend on Friday and Saturday nights. Sounds like The Swing Bridge Beer and Wine Shop is also a gathering place for people who like to have fun.

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Speaking of fun…New Year’s Eve is going to be a big night: The Customer Appreciation New Year’s Eve Party and Oyster Roast is a happening event for the beer and wine shop! There will be live music and a champagne toast at midnight! The Horner family loves their customers!

 

Now, that you know about the Swing Bridge Beer and Wine Shop, you can visit and pick out your holiday party beers and wines. Go ahead! Check that off of your “to do” list. Donna’s making it easy for you!

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The Swing Bridge Beer and Wine Shop is located at:

106 N New River Dr, Unit D
Surf City, North Carolina
Get Directions
@swingbridge
Message Now
Call (910) 328-5005
Find them on Facebook @  https://www.facebook.com/swingbridge/

 

Rick’s Restaurant and Sports Bar: Topsail Island’s Go To Place for all things Awesome!

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By Donna Byrd

There are times when you just don’t feel like cooking! Believe me, I know what that’s like! Yesterday after baking dozens of Christmas cookies and finishing up our holiday decorating around the house, I felt a tremendous need to get away from the kitchen and let someone else do the cooking instead. Do you want to know where I told Bill I wanted to have dinner? Rick’s Restaurant and Sports Bar! Everybody who lives in Sneads Ferry or the North Topsail Beach area knows that Rick’s is the place we go when we want good food, cold drinks and crazy fun. It’s a no brainer!img_2915-large

With the locals, Rick’s is a popular dining spot. Located only one mile away from Topsail Island, many of our vacationers have also discovered Rick’s and make it a point to schedule a lunch or dinner there while vacationing at Topsail. Open year round, it’s consistently busy catering to its ever growing number of thirsty and hungry patrons.  Click Here

We arrived last night about 6:30 p.m.  As our server seated us, she informed us that it was our lucky night! On Tuesday nights, wine is half price! Who knew? We did feel lucky indeed! Bill ordered his favorite entree, fish and chips, and I decided to “go for it” with one of the nightly specials, stuffed pork chops with my choice of two sides. I was excited about that!img_4161-large

As soon as our waitress left with our order, another server stopped by our table to ask us if we wanted to participate in “Tuesday Night Trivia.” Now…just for the record, we already knew about the trivia nights at Rick’s. We had played several times before while we were eating and I must confess, we were not good at it! But, because we could not help but be intrigued with the possibility that this might be our night to show off and flex our brain power, we signed up to play. After all, didn’t our waitress tell us it was our lucky night?img_4174-large

Our dishes came out in a timely manner. Bill’s fish and chips (battered and fried cod with sweet potato fries,) was exactly what he expected. I looked at his plate with a bit of jealousy until our server sat my lovely stuffed and grilled pork chop dish in front of me. The  plate was beautiful! The thick pork chop was butterflied and stuffed with cheese and spinach and then grilled to a golden perfection. My broccoli was exactly the way I preferred- not mushy but not crunchy either and the baked potato was perfectly predictable: my buttery, salty version of comfort food. Heavenly!img_4175-large

Suddenly, I was overcome with a feeling of gratefulness. I looked around the dining room and saw happy young men and woman, many of them serving in our military, sitting with their friends or their families. They were all laughing, eating and making good memories. Rick’s Restaurant and Sport’s Bar was providing a wonderful environment for us all to experience good food and fun times. I was glad it served our community!img_4160-large

As soon as we finished eating, the trivia game began. The first part was about sports. As I suspected, we didn’t get them all right but we got seven out of ten correct! Part two was about music. I just knew that they’d be asking about newer pop songs I had never heard of  but I was wrong! Instead, they played clips from classic country songs and we had to write down who the singers were.  I thought, “Here’s our chance! We should know all of the classic country songs.img_4157-large

Of course, we didn’t. I left the restaurant telling Bill that I had to go home and learn the difference between George Jones and George Strait, David Allan Coe and Hank Williams, Jr. You see, Rick’s does this to me every time I eat there and play trivia! It makes me want to be a smarter person! I suppose I’ll need to eat more of their seafood dishes. My mom always used to tell me that fish was brain food.img_4168-large

Did you know that Rick’s has more lined up for us in the way of entertainment? For those of you who have an inner rock star just waiting for an opportunity to shine, Wednesday is Karaoke Night! It would be interesting to see who shows up for that!  Friday and Saturday nights are for those of you who like listening to good, live music. They have a corner stage set up on the bar side for some of the best local talent in Eastern North Carolina.img_4153-large

Of course, since Rick’s is a sports bar, you can catch your favorite teams playing on their big screen or many of the TV’s spaced throughout the restaurant. They have all ABC permits, a variety of red and white wines and many beers on tap. Linda and Rick Bumgardner, the owners of Rick’s, are avid sports enthusiasts and are huge Steelers fans. Actually, Rick’s is an official “Steel City Mafia Hangout.” For more information click here.img_4169-large

Rick’s Restaurant and Sports Bar has the top rated steaks in our area. It offers daily lunch and dinner specials along with a variety of daily drink specials. Also, you can consider Rick’s for catering your special parties and get togethers.

Rick’s is located at

510 Pete’s Way

Sneads Ferry, NC 28460

910-327-230

 

 

Rick’ has a great rating of 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor!!

 

 

2017 Wells Fargo Championship Comes to Wilmington

 

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This is an opportunity that doesn’t come along every day – or year – or decade.  But it’s happening next year and you do not want to miss it!

Save the date immediately.  May 1-7, 2017.rory-wfc

The Wells Fargo Championship, a premier PGA tour event, it coming to Wilmington for 2017.  That’s right.  The tournament is normally held at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte.  But this one year, while Quail Hollow hosts the PGA Championship later in the year, PGA golf returns to Wilmington for the first time in four decades.wfc-golf-balls

The Wells Fargo Championship is one of the largest, most prestigious sporting events in the Southeast. Champions for Education, a non-profit organization, operates and manages the tournament and has donated over $18 million to local and regional charities since 2003. Now leading up to its 15th year, the tournament is intended as an annual tradition that will bring players and patrons back each year for an unforgettable golf experience.

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The 2017 Wells Fargo Championship will be located in Wilmington, NC at Eagle Point Golf Club. Eagle Point, which opened in 2000, was designed by Tom Fazio and is currently among the Top 100 Golf Digest courses in America. Fazio has overseen alterations and redesign of Quail Hollow Club for several years. While it is obviously in a different region of the state and on the coast, several TOUR players have played Eagle Point and believe it will be well received by the TOUR players. The club is just north of downtown Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach.

 

Here’s the really good news.  Eagle Point is located on the north side of Wilmington.  That means it is imminently practical to bring your best buds or the whole family to Topsail Island for your beach accommodations.  You can enjoy the tournament while the family enjoys the pot load of awesomeness that is Topsail.

 

It’s crazy!  The trip to the course will only be 20 to 25 miles from your beachside retreat.  You can literally be parking your car at the course in less than 30 minutes.  Sweet!

DIRECTIONS!!

click it!  I dare ya.

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You can secure some pretty fabulous vacation homes from 4 bedrooms all the way up to 10 bedrooms.  Treasure Realty rentals are plentiful and flexible.  All you need to do is figure out how many folks are coming, how many bedrooms you want, and click on this website to secure your accommodations.

Then click on this website to buy yourself some primo tickets to the tournament.

Actually, there is even still time to sign up as a volunteer. I did!  You will get to see the best of the best up close and personal.

https://wilmington.wellsfargochampionship.com/volunteers

If you have never been to a real PGA event, you owe it to yourself.  The month of May is spectacular at the beach and all the prices are so, so right!  Make your plans today.

Ten Things I’m Grateful for on Topsail Island

image1-2-largeby Donna Byrd

 

Since I have been living in Sneads Ferry and the Topsail Island area, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t stop and thank God for something that I get to see, eat or observe that is unique to our beautiful coastal community. So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to give you my Top Ten List of things I’m most grateful for on Topsail Island. If you have a favorite one that I didn’t list, please feel free to leave it in the comment section after the blog. We have so much to be thankful for!img_0877-large

1.  The view of the island and sea from the top of the high-rise bridge.  To me, the reason people come to Topsail Island is because of that view. The iconic view of the string of houses and rooftops by the edge of the sparkling blue ocean is breathtaking.  Businesses say “That view is money.” To me, that view is life-giving. When I travel up the bridge and reach the pinnacle, I can only think, “Wow, God’s beautiful earth!”img_4015-large

2.  You can get fresh seafood anytime you want!  Really, isn’t it great that there are seafood markets right by the docks? You can buy a fish in the afternoon that was literally swimming in the ocean that morning. There are little fish markets scattered about the island and the mainland communities. You can even get fresh seafood in the parking lot of the grocery store, not to mention walking the planks on one of our fishing piers to drop in a line. Isn’t that something to rejoice about?img_3132-large

3.  Speaking of piers…We have THREE awesome fishing piers in our Topsail Island towns that offer fishermen a chance to fish to their heart’s content while they take in the fresh sea air and the views of our amazing beaches and deep blue ocean. I love to stop under them when I go for my beach walks. My husband and I have decided that the pilings and the structure of the piers (from underneath) look like cathedrals. We call the piers our “cathedrals by the sea.” Each time I pass by one, I take a look at my “beach church” and thank God for this special part of his creation.

4.  No traffic jams…Come on folks, five cars in a line at a stop light is not a traffic jam! For an east coast vacation destination, we have amazingly light traffic and since I live here year round, I’m pretty grateful for that!img_0876-large

5.  The sound of freedom…When I moved to Sneads Ferry, I’ll never forget the first day I heard what I thought was rapid gun firing and bombing noises. I had just hung pictures in the house and I noticed that suddenly, they were crooked.  Also, I heard my china and stemware rattle in their cabinets. My cousin, a long time resident, saw the expression on my face and said, “Don’t worry, Donna. That’s what we call the Sound of Freedom. Camp LeJeune has training and practice ranges nearby and I know that it sounds like War War III is just a few miles away, but it’s military training.
The troops are learning how to fight the enemy!” Over the next few years, I learned to love the big booms and rat-a-tat-tats, knowing that our Marines were learning to protect our country. Also, I got used to the never ending sky parade of helicopters and those funny looking helicopter/airplane oddities,Osprey, that fly over our houses and beach every day. Give them a wave next time they fly over you!IMG_1908zoomed

6.  Speaking of osprey…Some of the things I enjoy the most about coastal living are the nautical birds that are an everyday sight here! In my neighborhood of Chadwick Shores, we have huge osprey nests on top of the high pilings out by the bay. It’s common for “sea owls,” (osprey) seagulls,  pelicans  and other sea birds to fly over your house everyday when you live on Topsail Island or Sneads Ferry. If you look really hard, you may see eagles too! It’s easy to be a bird watcher in our little part of the world!img_3962-large

7.  I’m thankful that we get to have “beachy” Christmas decorations…If you travel up and down the beach roads here on Topsail Island, the Christmas decoration and lights that are hung up on the light polls are not your typical holiday fare. We actually have lights in the shape of pirates, sail boats, sea shells, crabs, seahorses and starfish! I can’t help but smile at our “special” customized decorations, especially made for beach towns!img_0882-large

8.  Sunrises on the beach and sunsets on the sound…There’s nothing as beautiful and awe inspiring as the way our sun comes up over the Atlantic every morning and sets in brilliant glory every evening over the sound and Intracoastal Waterway.  ‘Nuff said.

9.  Walks on the beach…TIMG_2188he shore line of Topsail Island has given me more pleasure and free therapy than any place I can think of. A walk on our pristine beaches is something I cherish. Plus, I have taken great joy in collecting sea glass and other beach treasures as I walk off my troubles and enjoy the beauty surrounding me. It’s good to feel small standing beside the ocean. Wait a minute…aren’t those words in a famous song or something?img_3147-large

10. When you live on Topsail or in the Ferry, you always seem to have plenty of house guests! For some reason, you’re house draws friends and family like a magnet! Of course it does…You live at the beach. Lucky me. Lucky you!

 

 

 

 

 

Sugar Island Bakery, Surf City’s Little Taste of Heaven

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by Donna Byrd

Saturday morning, I experienced a rare occurrence. I walked into a shop with the intention of writing a blog; a bakery that I thought you would like to know about,  to help you with your holiday cooking needs. I had no idea what I was about to walk into.

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First of all, the Sugar Island Bakery is in the plaza in Surf City  where the Corner New York Deli is located. This time of year, shops in Surf City aren’t too busy, but this day was an exception. There were folks milling about on the sidewalk and it was hard to find a parking space. I noticed that the doors to Sugar Island Bakery were flung open and baskets of fresh, fall apples were piled in baskets by the doors. I waited for a knot of talkative, happy ladies, crowding the doorway to disperse so that I could make my way into the bakery. As I peered inside from the threshold, my eyes were filled with the sights of things I loved: beautiful foods, books, local, artisan crafted jewelry, embroidered linens, exquisite  baby clothes and, I know this may sound strange, but local, North Carolina specialty brewed beers.

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The next thing I noticed was the smell. It was divine,  heavenly.  The essence of fresh, locally roasted coffee wafted up to greet my nose and lead me into the arms of this utterly charming shop. There was a buzz about, of soft laughter and humming conversation. The room was filled with little clusters of ladies and gentlemen, choosing bakery delicacies and specialty coffees and ‘making over’ the local jams and honeys. I looked around for someone who could have been an employee, but they all looked like employees. You could tell they loved the shop.

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“Do you work here?” I asked a pleasant lady with a chic, white bob stationed behind a table by the door. “No, I don’t. But maybe I could answer some questions for you,” she offered. “There’s a book signing here this morning and I’m the North Carolina author, Kaye Barley. I come here twice a year and if I could, I’d move here. It’s just such a nice town and full of friendly people.” I agreed and realized once again,  that I was so lucky to live on Topsail Island!

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I noticed that a small stack of her book, “Whimsey,” was on the table in front of her.  Making a mental note to pick up a copy before I left the bookstore, I thanked her and before I began to explore the magic bakery/bookstore, Kaye Barley pointed to the woman behind the bakery counter. “The lady at the counter is the bakery chef’s mom. Her son-in-law is at the back of the shop doing a beer and foods pairing and the chef is hard at work in the kitchen.”

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I took another look around me to get my bearings. “You mean, the bakery’s having a beer tasting?” I asked. “Yes, honey. You’ve come to the Holiday Open House. I know it’s a bit busy, but it’s just wonderful, isn’t it?”

 

I had to agree. It was. It was the most wonderful shop I had been to in years. It was like my favorite shops: a bakery,  coffee, gift shop and a book store all rolled into one! My knees went wobbly, my hands started to sweat a bit and my mouth went dry. Remember, “The Little Shop Around the Corner,” in “You’ve Got Mail?” It was like that but with even more enchantment. I felt like twirling.

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I could go on and on about the irresistible charm and magic of the place, but I know I’m writing this to help you, my reader,  with your holiday cooking load. I’ll make this simple. Go on line to http://sugarislandnc.com/holiday-specials/ and choose some of their holiday dessert offerings to grace your Thanksgiving or Christmas table. Pick up some of their local North Carolina beers to pair with your favorite cheeses, your turkey and dressing and even your desserts. You’ll be the hostess with the mostest! Everyone will want to come back to your house for a holiday meal to remember next year!

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Believe me when I say, “They are the best!” I tasted their goods. I swilled their beer. (Do you “swill” beer?”) Their baked goods are made with the freshest local ingredients. They call it, “from farm to Island!” It’s true.

 

It’s not too late to pick up a Sugar Island Bakery southern pecan, chocolate bourbon pecan, pumpkin or sour cherry pie for your Thanksgiving dessert. Maybe, you’d prefer a poundcake. They have pumpkin nut, cranberry orange and gingerbread to offer also. Pick up a nice load of fresh bread for turkey sandwiches on Thanksgiving night or some specialty “cheesy” things to make your cheese tray a success. I won’t even tell you about their cakes because I don’t have room to explain why they are so special. Read about them online.

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Alright, mission accomplished. I hope I’ve helped you find places on Topsail Island to help you with your holiday cooking needs. Maybe after the holidays, I’ll tell you about some places to help you get rid of the extra pounds you gained while partaking of these wonderful, luscious baked foods. Hope your Thanksgiving is wonderful!

Sugar Island Bakery and Supplies is located at:

206 N. Topsail Drive, Surf City, NC 28445

910-254-1110

http://www.sugarislandnc.com

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Gallagher’s Sports Bar and Grill, Let Them Handle Your Thanksgiving Meal

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by Donna Byrd

 

That holiday vacation you’ve dreamed about for months is almost here! You took advantage of the “off season” rates Treasure Realty offers this time of year and booked yourself a fabulous house or condo on that idyllic island that boasts beautiful sunrises over the Atlantic and splendid sunsets on the Intracoastal waterway and marshes. You imagine yourself driving up over the high-rise bridge, seeing the island you love laid out before you like a present to be opened. The ocean has never been bluer. The beach houses are strung like pearls on a necklace, waiting for someone to adore them. You come down the bridge and turn onto the beach road. You’re almost there. Thanksgiving on Topsail Island has finally come!img_3970-large

Rolling down the car windows, even though it’s a tad chilly, you start breathing in that fresh, salty air. Your breathing starts to match the rhythm of the ocean as it rushes to the shore and you know before you even get out of the car your vacation has begun. The cares of the world start falling away, like God’s just handed you a big “chill pill.” Topsail Island is already working its magic!

Smiling to yourself, you get out of the car, stretch and look up at your temporary Shangri La. This time vacation will be different. You’ll not work so hard, ensuring that everyone has a good time. Slaving in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day? Not you! You made a promise to yourself to not spend your day in the kitchen but on the beach, hunting shells, taking long walks and dreaming of the “happy days of Yore.” This year, you are actually going to Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV and not just listen to it while you’re stuffing a turkey in the kitchen. You are officially taking a day off from Thanksgiving! img_3943  img_3956

The family has been updated on the new Thanksgiving meal status.  Everyone is going out to Gallagher’s Sports Bar and Grill for a “winner, winner, turkey dinner” feast to remember. It’s only down the beach road in Surf City so you don’t have to go far. It’s casual (after all, it IS a sport’s bar) but the food is so exceptional, you could close your eyes and trick yourself into thinking that  you’re eating at Grandmother’s house. You’ve been the protector of family traditions forever and don’t take lightly that your need to “switch things up a bit” could put the rest of the family in shock! But you don’t worry. Gallagher’s  has a traditional, Southern Thanksgiving meal that everyone will be happy with. Especially you! No stress. No mess. No worries. The perfect Thanksgiving vacation!img_3953

You’ve done your homework and found the perfect restaurant to host the most important meal of the year. Gallagher’s Sports Bar and Grill is one of the beach’s most popular restaurants. On any given day, they serve up award winning appetizers, great burgers, salads and some of the best prepared seafood in Surf City.  The chef is amazing, so the special holiday menu should be spectacular. They are totally rearranging their kitchen to accommodate the menu and the staff is excited about it. It’s the one time of year that they go “off menu” to make your Thanksgiving holiday feel like “Thanksgiving!”

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Oven Roasted Turkey or Honey Glazed Ham

Traditional Herb Stuffing

Sweet Potato Souffle or Mashed Potatoes

Green Bean Casserole

Fresh Cranberry Relish

Freshly Baked Cornbread

Pumpkin or Apple Pie

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All of their wonderful appetizers will be available for ordering, but the rest of the menu will be traditional Thanksgiving dishes. What could be easier? The family will feel right at home at the fun, busy restaurant.  You do a little happy dance just thinking about it!img_3951-large

 

Oh yeah…the guys won’t miss any NFL football games because yes, it IS a sport’s bar. Did I say it was a sport’s bar? I believe I did!

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Gallagher’s is open Thanksgiving day at 11:30 a.m. and closes at 11:00 p.m. You can come in a stay for awhile. It’s fun, busy and the food is great.  The drinks (specialty beers, wines and handmade cocktails) will be flowing and YOU will be “chillin’ like a villain!

Yes, Thanksgiving on Topsail. Learn how to celebrate it!img_3947-large

Gallagher’s Sports Bar and Grill is located at:

614 New River Drive B, Surf City, NC 28445

910-541-0877

http://www.gallagherssurfcitybarandgrill.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Baking in ‘the Ferry!’

img_3904-largeby Donna Byrd

 

It’s my favorite time of the year! The calendar tells us it’s well into the fall season in Eastern North Carolina and FINALLY…it feels like it! Summer has finally released its control over our warm temperatures and cool, chilly weather has slipped in. It’s now officially “sweater weather!” I’m actually in the mood to nurse a hot cup of pumpkin spice latte. All of the debris that fell from our trees during Hurricane Matthew is now making its way into our fire pits on these perfect fall evenings. Any morning now, I’m believing I’ll look out my front door and see some frost on the pumpkin.

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Oh joy! With the frosty air comes the holidays and with the holidays come the things that make me gloriously happy: the sight of a holiday table groaning under the weight of my favorite dishes; the aroma of those wonderful foods permeating the air, giving me heavenly smells that will trigger happy memories to last a lifetime; the gathering of family and friends around my holiday table; the excited hum of conversation as I visit with those I love; the happy, sentimental music I love because of “how it makes me feel” and gosh, I don’t know…the lights, the presents, the sense of peace and goodwill in my community…I could go on forever! I love the “chill down” of fall. It’s the harbinger of good times ahead!

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For some of you, part of your holiday tradition may be coming to spend time with us here on Topsail Island or in one of our coastal communities. You and your family may not want to spend your Thanksgiving Day, slaving in the kitchen. After all, isn’t beach life about relaxing? You may want to leave the cooking up to one of our local restaurants that remain open on Thanksgiving and go out to eat.  Sounds like a good call to me!

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Others of you may want to do the opposite and cook your traditional favorite holiday meal in your vacation home’s kitchen.  What’s a real Thanksgiving without Aunt Emma’s Sweet Potato Casserole or Grandma’s pan of cornbread dressing? It wouldn’t seem like Thanksgiving without our traditions. However, maybe you’d like a bit of help this season in the kitchen with the desserts. Nobody would have to know. It could be our little secret! You could tell them when they “oohed and aahed” over the delicious pies and cakes that it was nothing…Just a little something you threw together when they weren’t paying attention!

 

Anyway, I’ve elected myself to give a fellow holiday home chef a break. Some relief! Throughout the month, I’m going to give you some tips on where to find restaurants in our area that are open on Thanksgiving Day or bakeries or shops that will “hook you up” with holiday desserts will even have your hardest to please, “mother-in-law” type, nodding her head in approval at you as she eats every crumb of that apple pie’s flakey crust!

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This week, I’m going to tell you about Sneaky Freaky Bake Shop in Sneads Ferry. If you’re staying anywhere on Topsail Island, especially North Topsail Beach, this bakery and coffee shop is conveniently located to serve you and bake up absolutely divine desserts!

 

I stopped in Friday morning and spoke with Kristin Waller, the manager and assistant baker at Sneaky Freaky’s Bake Shop. She was so personable and friendly, taking valuable time to come out of the kitchen and from behind the beautiful glass counters filled with her concoctions, to sit with me for a while and tell me about her bakery.

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Kristin told me that Chris Barnes, the head chef and owner of Sneaky Freaky Bake Shop wants his staff to work extra hard this holiday season baking for YOU! Holiday specials will be offered and from now until the Friday before Thanksgiving, special orders will be taken for pumpkin pies ($10.00 a pie) and fruit pies and cobblers ($15.00 a pie.)  Fall themes and colors will decorate luscious cupcakes. By the way, have you noticed that cupcakes these days are not just for children anymore? These cupcakes are mini-me’s of your favorite classic cakes!

 

One of the best features of Sneaky Freaky Bake Shop is YOUR favorite holiday dessert! Yes, you can give them your Aunt Betsy’s Fresh Apple Cake Recipe and they will custom bake it- just for you! You can have your family’s favorite desserts on your table without doing a thing but handing over your recipe to Kristin and she will bake it up for you! Isn’t that amazing? A bakery making your tried and true recipes in their kitchen! At least, you will know exactly what to be expecting when you put a forkful of Cousin Emily’s Fresh Coconut Sour Cream Cake in your mouth. No surprises. Just family favorite recipes!

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Otherwise, you can always buy Sneaky Freaky Bake Shop holiday favorites and bring them home for your Thanksgiving meal and later on, their Christmas specialties. They have almost every pumpkin dessert imaginable: pumpkin pies, cupcakes, cheesecakes, pie pockets, tarts, pumpkin latte bread pudding. Yep, your “go to” pumpkin dessert bakery. Also, they have beautiful chocolate dipped caramel apples and beautiful holiday cookies.  Don’t forget to pick up a dozen of their amazing cinnamon rolls for Thanksgiving morning and perhaps one of their quiches! It all sounds so easy, doesn’t it?

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One more thing: on your way to the island, stop by and pick up some of their specialty coffee beans. They will grind them for you and you can have quality, Kona coffee during your holiday stay. Can you imagine a cup of that rich coffee with a cinnamon bun for breakfast while you’re watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?  What a way to start that special day!

 

I hope I’ve helped you out by setting you free from having to cook too much on Thanksgiving Day. If you’re visiting with us during the Christmas season, please check with Sneaky Freaky Bake Shop for their Christmas specials also.

 

This month, be watching for more Treasure Realty blogs that will help save you time in the kitchen by giving you tips (that only a local would know) during the busiest day of the year!

 

Sneaky Freaky Bake Shop is located at:

1084 NC-210, Sneads Ferry, NC 28460

910-741-0236

Open 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

https://www.facebook.com/Sneaky-Freaky-Bake-Shop-891763604205855/

Mike’s Farm – It’s Kind of a Must See Place Around Here

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by Donna Byrd

 

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Friday night I did something that I had been wanting to do for the last five years. I went to Mike’s Farm!

 

Yes. Every fall since we moved to Sneads Ferry, our friends and family ask us, “Have you been to Mike’s Farm?” Of course, I wondered, “Who is Mike? Does he invite everyone to visit his farm? I don’t think I know him.”

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“Oh, No, no, no! It’s not that kind of farm,” they said. ” It’s a farm that lets families visit. It’s great year round, but in the fall and at Christmas time we like to go and take the kids. There are hayrides, animals to pet, a beautiful gift shop and the restaurant! The food is southern cuisine and it’s amazing! Such a great family place- you guys have got to go!”

 

Why it took us so long to go, I’ll never know but I’m glad we finally went! Everything folks said about it was true! It was fantastic!

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Before going, I did a little bit of information searching on Mike’s Farm. It claimed to be a family-oriented business and that Agritourism was its specialty. I looked that word up and it means, according to Wikipedia, “any agriculturally based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch.”  Hmmm… A new word. A new place. A new adventure for us all!

 

Bill decided to get off work a few hours early Friday afternoon. We knew it would take about forty minutes to drive from Sneads Ferry to our destination in the country, outside of Jacksonville. I always love when I can say, “I’m going to a place in the country.” I know that when I get to that place, there will be a front porch somewhere and somebody will be rocking on it.  There’s a good chance I will hear our Carolina country language spoken in a way that takes me back to my childhood roots. These Carolinians will know what a “mess of beans” are. They will understand where something is when it’s “over yonder somewhere” and I know I will hear someone make the comment, “Bless her heart” at least three times. I was going to feel like I was amongst my people and “fit right in.”

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The restaurant opened at 4:30 and observed country people’s eating habits.  Folks in the country don’t eat supper late because they get up with the chickens.  Plus, Bill and I wanted to have plenty of time to eat and experience the cool things the farm had to offer before it closed at 8:00 p.m. Our expectations were high and we couldn’t wait to get there.

 

Everyone at Bill’s work told him, “Now don’t eat too much today. You’ve got to save your appetite for that country meal you’re having tonight. They serve it “family style.” Needless to say, we were so hungry when we got there, we headed straight for the line that was forming outside the restaurant. All the other activities would have to wait!img_3777-large

 

Now, if you’re from the south you know what a “family-style” restaurant is. The servers already have your farm style table set just like you’d be sitting down at the table for a meal in your home. Then, they bring out generous sized serving bowls steaming hot and heaped high with the things you remember eating at Grandma’s house.

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At Mike’s Farm, each table gets fried chicken, pork loin roast and gravy, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, green beans, sweet corn, and a bucket of homemade country ham biscuits! There’s sweet tea or Pepsi to wash it all down and a variety of desserts that will have you speaking in tongues (even if you’re not Pentecostal!) and the best part about it is (drum roll please….)  It’s ALL YOU CAN EAT!

 

Our dining experience was wonderful. The friendly waitress loaded our table with food until it felt like Thanksgiving. We agreed with everyone. It was delicious and we proved it by eating almost every bit of the food that was brought to our table.. Feeling a bit too full and knowing we had much to see and do before the farm closed, we got up from our table and went back outside.

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By then, it was just a little after 6:00. People were having their pictures taken by colorful baskets of mums and big, fat pumpkins. Some were picking out pumpkins to take home with them. Kids and parents were lining up to get on the next hayride. The trailer was covered in hay and pulled by a tractor. I don’t know how many treks around the farm the tractor-trailer made, but I’m sure everyone who wanted to experience a hayride had their chance before closing time.

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We noticed that the wind had started to kick up a bit and that dark clouds were forming overhead. Oh no! Not rain! I looked over by the barn where the line was for the hayride. I don’t think one person was running for cover. These excited families visiting the farm weren’t going to let a little rain ruin their hayride! Bill and I, however, took cover in the gift shop and bakery. We took plenty of pictures to share this little wonderland with you!

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In most of the gift shop it’s Christmas year round and believe me, it’s charming and magical.  The rest of the inventory changes with the seasons.  I believe I read that after the farm quit growing tobacco, it became a Christmas tree farm. Sometime after that, it opened the gift shop and later the restaurant.

 

The bakery was on the other end of the gift shop. It had wonderful cakes, sweet treats and custom creations. Those who have eaten it’s goodies claim it’s the best bakery in Onslow County! You could watch the bakers conjure up their delights while having a cup of coffee or hot cider in their quaint little cafe.img_3784-large

 

We hated to leave the enchanted gift shop, but big, fat raindrops were beginning to fall on the farm. Bill and I dashed back to our car but were careful not to squish the cake box that contained the bakery’s famous ten-layer chocolate cake. We decided we would have to take a little bit of the farm back home with us!

 

 

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If you can’t make it to Mike’s Farm for their autumn events, they say Christmas on the farm is magical! I plan to catch their Christmas show. Go to their website for coming events.

http://www.mikesfarm.com

 

Mike’s Farm is located at:

1600 Haw Branch Road, Beulaville, NC 28518

910-324-3422

800-820-3276

 

PS… Here are a few hints/suggestions for ya’.

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Number 1. If you have boots, wear them. I went dressy/casual and had on sandals because it was still warm. However, almost all of the women and children had on their cowboy boots. After all, yes, it is a farm!

 

Number 2. Get there before the restaurant opens. It opens at 4:30. They do not take reservations. We got there about ten minutes early and the parking lot was rather full and a line was forming at the restaurant door. We hurried to get in line and had about a twenty-five-minute wait, which wasn’t bad because there were happy, excited and hungry men, women and children waiting with us. That was when I noticed I was overdressed!

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Number 3.  While someone in your party holds your place in line, others of you may get tickets for the hayride, buy pretty, fat pumpkins and take a few photo ops at the picturesque bales of hay, colorful mums and pumpkin displays offered around the farm. The harvest scenes are beautiful, colorful and make gorgeous pictures.

 

Number 4. If you eat too much, you may feel like taking a nap rather than giving the kids the adventure they are expecting. Oh well…it’s only a warning and I don’t expect you to pay any attention to this tip.

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Number 5. Don’t fill up on the ham biscuits. There’s more food coming!

 

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