Welcome to Topsail Island!
by Donna Byrd
Now that you’ve arrived at one of the loveliest places on earth, I am sure you are asking, “Where’s a good place to eat?” Of course, the answers vary, based on your current cravings. But I’m sure most of the residents on Topsail Island and those living in the nearby seaside communities would agree that there are some restaurants we all consider to be local favorites. So here, hot off the press, is my “Top Ten List of Topsail Island’s (and some of the mainland’s) Best Restaurants.” These are not listed in any real order, but they are ten of my absolute favorites. I hope you have a chance to try them all while you’re with us! Bon Appetit!
A top ten list of the best restaurants in any area has to start with the number one most ordered food in America. It’s easy, cheesy, and everybody loves some – PIZZA! I’ve chosen Baked Pizza Company as my favorite to top our menu of Topsail’s most notable eateries.
Located in Sneads Ferry, Baked Pizza serves the best, perfectly cooked, crispy bottomed, hot and cheesy slices of perfection I’ve ever eaten. Adam Baker, owner and chef, knows how to put together the freshest and best ingredients, put them on hand rolled dough and cook them to perfection to make his New York style pizza outshine the competition. Also, his calzones, Stromboli, heroes and wraps, freshly made salads and classic pasta dishes are carefully created by hand right there in the kitchen. The desserts are homemade too! I can’t get enough of their New York Cheesecake. It’s my favorite dessert offered in Sneads Ferry. This year, Baked Pizza has gone through some great changes and renovations. The dining porch has been enclosed and now has heating and air conditioning so that its patrons can dine in comfort during each season. Big screen TVs have been placed on the new enclosed porch for all of the sports enthusiasts. Adam has added some fabulous catering style offerings to serve the bigger crowds. We ate there yesterday for lunch and felt as if we were eating on an Italian momma’s sun porch. The food was outstanding and the atmosphere was laid back and relaxing. Come and eat at Baked Pizza or order online and call for delivery. It’s the best pizza place around!
Second up is always a winner to me! Rick’s Restaurant and Sports Bar
Everyone in Sneads Ferry and the North Topsail Beach area knows that Rick’s Restaurant and Sports Bar, located in “the Ferry,” is the place to go to when we want great food, cold drinks and crazy fun! Anyone for trivia night, live music and karaoke? This pub style restaurant is known for having the top-rated steaks in our area and the best hamburgers! You can build your own burgers and if you feel like having a true taste adventure, Rick has a few “Carolina” additions up his sleeve that can make them magically southern! In the mood for some wonderful seafood? Rick’s extensive seafood menu offers everything from fried seafood samplers to sesame seared tuna and amazing, special lump crab cakes. If you want to keep it simple, try the fish and chips, always my “go to” choice at Rick’s. Of course, since Rick’s is a sports bar, you can catch your favorite teams playing on the big screen TVs. While enjoying the game, have your favorite beverage from their beautiful, full service bar. Rick’s has a great variety of premium beers on tap and some good red and white wines I am sure you’d enjoy. I think Rick’s is a great place to make happy memories while dining with your family. Make it a part of your Topsail Island vacation tradition.
The third restaurant is sure to charm you! The Beach Shop and Grill
The Beach Shop and Grill is my favorite “date night” dinner outing. Located near the south end of Topsail Island on the beach road, this restaurant offers a divine culinary experience. During the summer, when the restaurant is busy, have a glass of wine or drink at their beautiful bar. Take time to enjoy the candle lit ambiance. The inside walls are pine paneled and give you the old fashion cottage feeling the moment you walk through the doors. But don’t let that fool you! It’s feels as sophisticated as an old-school country club, specializing in low country inspired seafood and steaks. My favorite dish is the Delmonico steak with blue cheese crumbles served with herbed butter. “Y’all,” as Paula Dean would say. “It is so good.” My husband always gets something different on the extensive menu so we can share. Last time he got the pasta with seafood, a concoction of mussels, clams, shrimp and the star of the dish, a lovely piece of tuna covered in a herbed, light tomato sauce. It was perfection. The Krispy Kreme donut bread pudding, drenched in an amazing type of vanilla sauce rounded out the delectable meal. Each time I’ve dined at The Beach Shop and Grill I come away loving it even more. They also serve a wonderful breakfast (try the pancakes and hash browns). You’ll not be disappointed with anything the chef serves up at the Beach Shop and Grill. Go! You deserve this!
The fourth restaurant on my list has my heart and appetite! The Riverview Cafe.
I can’t say enough good things about The Riverview Cafe. Located on the New River waterfront, this restaurant has been the scene of countless family get togethers for my people. This Sneads Ferry dining landmark to many of our visitors is quintessential Sneads Ferry. The essence of the Riverview Cafe is woven into the fabric of our sleepy little fishing village. On any given day, you may see members of our fishing families being served the very fish they could have caught in our local waters. Come for lunch and take a look at the chalkboard on the wall. There you will find a daily “Specials” menu that ranges from the best fried chicken tenders you will ever put in your mouth, pork chops and meatloaf like Momma used to make, to any kind of seafood your little heart desires. There are wonderful country side dishes to choose from and there’s always a basket of hot hushpuppies on the table. Beware of the waitress that walks around the room with a dessert tray! Those slices of cake or scoops of banana pudding come with the meal! I always joke with them about setting a “fat” trap for me! If you come for dinner, the menu changes a bit to more of a steak and seafood selection. I’ve heard people swear by their rib eye steaks. So, why do I feel like I just invited you into my home for a family dinner? That must be how I feel about the Riverview Cafe. It’s like eating at home!
Number Five and very important on my list is Surf City BBQ.
For folks who live in Eastern North Carolina, BBQ is a very important and precise bit of goodness. The pig has to be cooked over a pit, low and slow as it’s continually doused with a vinegar based sauce. Everyone has their own favorite BBQ restaurant and is willing to go to war with anyone who might disagree. I think most folks on Topsail Island would agree that their favorite BBQ eatery around here is Surf City BBQ. Guy Royal and his pretty wife Rebecca know how to do BBQ. If they didn’t their restaurant would have closed a long time ago. Instead, business must be booming! They have just moved into a beautiful new facility on the mainland in Surf City. It’s at least four times larger than their old restaurant. That must mean that Guy and Rebecca know a thing or two about cooking a pig. For a taste of good ‘ole North Carolina BBQ at its best, get yourself over to Surf City BBQ. And tell them “Donna” sent you!
Number six on my “Hot Top Ten List” is Sears Landing Grill and Boat Docks.
Can I brag on this restaurant? To me, Sears Landing has one of the prettiest views on the mainland in Surf City. Located just beyond the swing bridge, Sears Landing sits on a little creek that leads into the intercostal waterway. As you dine or even wait for a table while sitting in one of the rocking chairs on their back deck, you can watch boaters pull up to the docks and come into the restaurant for dinner. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve sat in blissful food happiness sharing a meal with close friends and family. Sears Landing is open year around and has a great reputation for seafood, crab cakes, and cocktails. My favorite sandwich is the fresh tuna salad pita, paired with fried plantains and black beans and rice. It reminds me of the food I ate when I lived in south Florida and that makes me have happy thoughts! For cocktails, try their special Orange Crush or their wonderful Mojitos, made with fresh mint grown in their own garden! Breakfast is very popular at Sears Landing too. Go ahead and do yourself a favor and have the pancakes! You won’t regret. I promise!
You’ll be in “seventh heaven” when you eat at Inlet 790 Grill and Bar.
My standout dining memory of this stellar restaurant also happens to be one of my best dining experiences on the beach. That was the night that my husband and I, took our snooty foodie daughter, who was visiting from Nashville, Tennessee out for dinner. I suppose we were trying to impress her and I think we did! As it was a warm summer night, we opted to sit outside by the pool and ocean side, under a starry canopy. Everything about that night, from the warm summer breeze blowing in from the ocean and the sound of laughter from nearby tables, to the taste of our exquisitely cooked dinners and sparkly glasses of wine, created the perfect dinner memory for me. That’s why Inlet 790 Grill and Bar will always be one of my favorite dining spots for special occasions. While the restaurant’s executive chef makes delicious creations of fresh local seafood, steaks and pasta, he also makes great hand-packed burgers and sandwiches. Anything you order, will be lovely. If you enjoy a good cocktail, be sure to try one of their signature concoctions. Wowza! Oh…and if you have the option of sitting under a starry sky, you should!
“With Eight, You Get Eggroll…” Fancy Asian Sushi Fusion
I know that some of you guys can’t make it through your vacation without having your sushi fix. I have good news for all you sushi addicts. Fancy Sushi Asian Fusion, formally Nikki’s, is open year around to meet your every sushi, Japanese and Chinese food craving. It’s located on Topsail Island, right in the heart of Surf City and it’s the only Asian fusion restaurant in the area! Well, you can drive to Hampstead or Jacksonville – but this is it on the island! Fancy Asian Sushi Fusion has absolutely great sushi! Also, it has great authentic Asian food and great service. I don’t crave sushi every night, but if my husband had his way, he would go to this sushi restaurant every day. If you go at lunch, the dishes are $5.00 to $7.00 cheaper than dinner prices. The atmosphere is upscale Asian and I’m always surprised that when I walk in I feel like I’ve been transported to a Chinese hide-a-way. The flat blue building is plain looking on the outside, but inside you’ll find the best sushi for miles around! Try any kind of salmon sashimi or tuna roll. L. O. V. E. in a bite of rice!
Eating at number nine, always makes me feel fine! Gallagher’s Bar and Grill
Gallagher’s Bar and Grill, located in Surf City, is always a good place to go for fun, fantastic food, cold drinks and a casual, friendly atmosphere. I’ve had cozy family dinners at this popular restaurant and have been to wedding receptions and office Christmas parties there, too. It seems as if some of the most important meals and receptions of my life have been hosted by Gallagher’s. That’s saying a lot, y’all! I suppose the thing I like best about Gallagher’s, is that even though it’s a sports bar and boasts wonderful drinks, bar food and appetizers (you must try the Irish Egg Rolls,) it also has a menu that could stand up proudly to any fine dining restaurant on Topsail Island. Of course, they have fine, hand crafted burgers and sandwiches but they also have excellent pasta dishes, seafood and steaks. I’ve had many of the choices on their menu and I suppose the Stuffed Flounder with Crab Imperial is my favorite.
No. Maybe it’s the Sautéed Crab Cakes…Lobster Lasagna? Oh, I know…the Ribeye Steak. It’s always amazing! See? Every dish is a winner in my book! Grab your family and head over to Gallagher’s Bar and Grill. It’s a real Topsail Island favorite hot spot!
Rounding out our top ten list is the quintessential “gotta have” every time you come to Topsail. It’s the New York Corner Deli.
This deli may be in Surf City, but it’s straight out of da Bronx. In 2004, June and Barry Hoffman, deli owners from New York City, decided to turn their backs on the cold north east and set up their shop in our warm, little seaside town on Topsail Island. Tantalizing the taste buds of diehard southerners has been easy for them. The New York Corner Deli is a favorite place for our residents and vacationers to have breakfast and lunch. Continuing in their tradition of keeping everything as authentically “New York” as possible, the Hoffmans order their corned beef, pastrami, roast beef and much of their meats from New York. Some of their breads also come from there too. Folks, this is what makes their sandwiches outstanding! The cheesecakes and desserts are made in house, as well as the tuna, chicken and other salads. Their soups are simply the best. Actually, everything they have is good. So, whatever you order, just like they say in da Bronx, “Forget about it!” You’re going to love it.