Say “I do!” at the Beach – A Wedding at Topsail Island

by Donna Byrd

I’m sure you’ve all heard the statement, “It takes a village.” Well, last week here on North Topsail Beach, we put that old saying to the test!

Bill and I have six children who all live in Nashville, Tennessee. Our daughter, Natalie and her fiancé, Alejandro, decided that they wanted to experience the romantic waters, pristine sands and coastal magic of Topsail Island as the destination rendezvous for their anticipated wedding.  To them, saying,  “I do” at the beach where they fell in love and got engaged made perfect sense.  

Of course, as the happy parents, Bill and I got busy and began planning for their dream wedding -a wedding on the beach. First, we decided on our beach wedding venue. There are several great places to have weddings on Topsail Island, but we opted for renting one of the biggest beach houses we could find. We wanted a house that would host the wedding and reception plus accommodate the wedding party guests. Treasure Realty really helped us in this area, finding us even a few more houses and condos for other out of town guests. (Of course, as a destination wedding, almost all of the wedding guests were from out of town). It was a relief to have the wedding venue and housing settled first. Treasure Realty came through for us!

The second thing we decided was where to host the rehearsal dinner. I looked into every available restaurant open on the island, but I had a stubborn bride and groom who wanted me to make my famous lasagna. I pleaded. I begged. “There are several great restaurants on our island that could offer you all the best menu and atmosphere for a rehearsal dinner,” I reasoned. But no. “Mom…you make the best lasagna there is and that is what we want.” The wedding house also became our rehearsal dinner venue.

I decided I could put on my big mother-of-the-bride pants to make this dinner.  But then my sister-in-love, Kelly, had a brilliant idea! Kelly is the culinary teacher at Topsail High School in Hampstead! She thought her class could make it for me under her supervision. Kelly is the best cook I know and she and her students are always catering meals for teachers and events at the school.  She could make the lasagne and save me a ton of work!

Then, I got another idea. Why not get Baked Pizza in Sneads Ferry to make me a vegetarian dish of Baked Ziti? Their pasta dishes were amazing. Plus, they could make our salad and  desserts- home made cheesecake and lemoncello mascarpone cake.  I got on the phone and in five minutes, I had ordered the other half of our wonderful Italian dinner. I was thrilled with the plan and when we actually executed it, it was delicious and headache free!

The third and very important  decision we had to make was who would cater the wedding reception dinner.  Natalie wanted her Chicago born husband and his family plus their Nashville friends to experience a good, ole Eastern North Carolina ‘Pig Pickin.’ She remembered our family having them when she was young and she had never forgotten the fun and good food. I called Guy Royal at Surf City BBQ and set up a time to meet with him.

Guy was the sweetest and most down to earth fellow! He helped me plan the perfect Pig Pickin’ for our size group. He told me how to avoid unnecessary costs and pitfalls concerning our dinner. I felt like our reception was in good hands.

On the evening of the wedding, Surf City BBQ had its trailer and cooker at the house. They set up while the wedding ceremony was being performed down on the beach. Within an hour or so, the guests had eaten and Guy and his people had taken away the food and put the leftovers in the refrigerator. His crew was gone before the after dinner party started!

Other than the bride and groom being the stars of the reception, what is the other important centerpiece? The wedding cake! Once again, Kelly, her daughter Emily and her stellar Topsail High School culinary arts students came through for us!  They made us a lovely, tiered wedding cake and cake pops for dessert. Natalie and Alejandro were thrilled with it and it was so pretty in the wedding pictures. The cake pops were a huge hit!

Another important decision we made was to use Shoreline Party Rentals in Holly Ridge for our tables, linens and chairs. Becky, a sweet southern lady, knows a thing or two about making a wedding happen! You bring the bride and groom and she has everything you could possibly need to make a wedding a reality. Becky had the tables and things we needed delivered well in advance so that we had plenty of time to set up for the reception.  The morning after,  the company truck was there to load those things up and take them away.  It was so easy! I’d recommend Shoreline Party Rentals for all of your event rentals.

We ordered our wedding flowers from Sam’s Club in Jacksonville, NC. As an out of town bride, Natalie wasn’t here to shop our local floral shops and choosing them online was easy for her. The flowers were sent to my doorstep a few days before the wedding and they were stunning. We were so happy with them.

Natalie’s aunts hosted a bridesmaid’s luncheon at Sears Landing in Surf City. What a beautiful setting for a coastal lunch. The staff was wonderful and friendly and all of the guests were able to order off the menu. You can’t go wrong any dish at Sears Landing and the Mimosas were festive and refreshing.

Oh yes….speaking of alcohol! We got our spirits from The Swing Bridge Beer and Wine Shop in Surf City.  The folks there were wonderful to work with and the store’s location was so convenient.  We ordered several kegs of beer from them and also got a lot of wine. Needless to say, everyone was happy and celebratory by the end of our wedding reception!

I guess you can understand why I said, “It takes a village.” When we pieced a wedding celebration together, the businesses on and around our beautiful island came together to make our wedding a wonderful success.  If you’re thinking about a Topsail Island wedding, I say, “Go ahead! Do it!”  We have enough wonderful businesses and willing folks to give you the wedding of your dreams!






Lovin’ From the Oven at Baked Pizza Company


by Donna Byrd

If you live in the Sneads Ferry and North Topsail Beach area, I’m sure you’ve become a big fan of Baked Pizza. For us, “Baked” is our “go to” pizza choice when we’re craving the perfectly cooked, crispy bottomed,  hot, cheesy slice of perfection that only they can deliver! Usually, we order online and have the hot pizza pies brought to our front door. Friday, however, we decided to stop by their restaurant and have lunch on their updated dining porch. I was so impressed with the renovations!

The owner and chef,  Adam Baker was there to greet us.  He told us that one of his  first jobs as a young man was being a pizza delivery guy. That is when the idea formed in his mind that one day he would own and operate his own pizza company. This June, will mark the fourth anniversary  of the “Baked Pizza Company.” With the new year comes big changes!

Adam showed us around the updated, enclosed porch. He has added heating and air conditioning so that patrons can dine comfortably in every season. Also, within the next few weeks, big screen TVs will be added to cater to sports enthusiasts. The comfy, improved porch is just begging for you to come in and try it’s laid back, relaxed atmosphere while you feast on Adam’s great pizzas and wonderful classic Italian fare.

Bill and I were early and got there before the lunch crowd. We usually opt for the “two slices of pizza and a drink” lunch special when we’re dining on Baked Pizza’s porch. But Friday, we were feeling adventuresome. Bill got the Stromboli and asked Adam to add a little ricotta cheese  to the mozzarella and Italian meats. We watched Adam begin to make that type of “inside out” pizza. Like a craftsman,  he took out a ball of freshly prepared dough and began to pat and spread it out  with his hands, creating the basis for the meats and cheese that would be layered on it. He pulled his masterpiece together into a type of roll and then scored it, putting it in a piping hot oven. I ordered the “Meatball Parm.” I’m always an easy target for a meatball sandwich at any restaurant and when I saw the mouth watering rendition of their meatball parm sub,  I had to order it. That was that!

Adam brought our plates out to us and the food was both beautiful and delicious! The meatballs on my sub were tender and seasoned perfectly and  Bill’s Stromboli was perfect. The bread cooked up to a crispy crust for the melted cheesy, salty meat goodness on the inside. Plus, there was a tasty red sauce that came on the side with it.

Bill paired his Stromboli with an ice cold, Red Oak draft beer and I had some good ole sweet southern tea. We didn’t have room for dessert and I felt a little sad about that!  The cheesecake assortment is ridiculous in the best possible way!

You can order all of these fine dishes to go or to be delivered to your front door. Also, wines and beers can be ordered and delivered with your meals, which I think is awesome. I’d also like to give a shout out to their added catering style services. As a matter of fact,  Bill and I have decided to have them prepare dishes for our daughter’s wedding rehearsal dinner this April. I know we’re going to be so pleased with their food and service!

Baked Pizza has totally up its game in the pizza restaurant sector here in Sneads Ferry. Stop by and have lunch or dinner on their new enclosed dining porch. You’re going to love it! I promise!

Baked Pizza Company is located at:

100 Dunn Road, Sneads Ferry, NC 28460, Tel: 910-741-0701



Top Ten List of Topsail Island’s Best Restaurants


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.



For A Shuckin’ Good Time try Shuckin’ Shack in Surf City



by Donna Byrd


If you haven’t had a shuckin’ good time lately, then you need to hurry over to the Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar located on the mainland in Surf City. Once you do, it just might become your favorite “go to” restaurant and sports bar.

I had no idea that this fresh seafood eatery existed. While I was snooping around the area looking for another restaurant, the Shucking’ Shack’s happy signage caught my eye. I decided right then that Bill and I would come back to this fun place and eat on his next day off. As always, I keep my promises when it comes to trying new seafood restaurants. A few days later, we got “shucked” at the Shuckin’ Shack.

When we walked into the Shucking’ Shack and Oyster Bar,  I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was also a sports bar.  Big TVs and sport gaming charts took up some of the wall space while the rest of it was crammed with surfboards, huge game fish, beer lights and cute surfing and fishing slogans. I love the tastefully tacky decor.

Our waitress seated us at the bar. It was noon and the tables were quickly filling up with what appeared to be mostly local folks. They all seemed to order their dishes with the confidence of return guests. To me, that is one of the marks of a good restaurant. Return guests come back for the meals they like!

As we chatted with our waitress, we learned that the restaurant was owned by Jason and Beverly Simas, transplants from Michigan and West Virginia. They were now bonafide Carolinians and proud locals, just like many of their customers. She pointed over to the “order’s up” window that looked out over the bar from the kitchen. “That’s Jason, in the kitchen. He’s also our chef.” I was impressed that Jason was a working owner. That meant he would personally see to it that each dish had the owner’s seal of approval.

We ordered our food from the menu.  Bill got a shrimp and oyster Po’ Boy and I got fish and chips. Our waitress commented that every dish and sauce was fresh and made in house.  My haddock was hand cut and breaded with a Yuengling beer and lemon pepper batter. Bill’s sandwich was filled to overflowing with lightly battered fried shrimp and fried oysters. There was a spicy mayonnaise sauce that was drizzled over the stacked seafood delicacies. It was a beautiful creation and I wondered how Bill would manage to get the huge pile of goodness into his mouth.  But somehow he did it. Both our plates had crispy French fries and slaw that was as good as homemade. Really!

As we sat at the bar, we watched as one beautiful dish after another came from the kitchen.  We asked our waitress if we could take a few pictures of the plates before they were served to their customers. I think they had some of the most beautiful trays of raw oysters on the half shell I had ever seen. There were tin buckets full of shrimp, corn and crab legs with pretty, handmade hushpuppies rounding out the entree. Honestly, I was blown away by the restaurant’s divine looking food.

The Shuckin’ Shack and Oyster Bar has a full service bar. The waitstaff can make your favorite cocktail or introduce you to something bold and new if you’re feeling a bit daring. Plus, they have a good selection of foreign and domestic beers.  Bill had an ice cold Pacifico, served in a frosted mug. Hey guys, it just doesn’t get much better than that!

In July of 2017, The Shuckin’ Shack and Oyster Bar will be celebrating its second anniversary.  I don’t want you to visit us this summer without knowing about this delightful option for your seafood dining pleasure. Stop by on the way before you get to Topsail or come in and have a taste of the ocean on your way back home. You’ll want to make this seafood eatery part of your Topsail vacation tradition.

The Shuckin’ Shack and Oyster Bar is located at:

Highway 210 B

Surf City, NC

(910) 803-2037

Open until 10:00 PM














Hungry in Hampstead? Here’s Your Help!

by Donna Byrd


For all of you guys who vacation with us on Topsail Island and come to us via I 40 to Wilmington,  I have a suggestion that just might make you very happy.

By the time you get to Wilmington and take that turn north on Highway 17, you know you are almost to your sea side piece of heaven.  You roll your windows down and take a big gulp of salty sea air, turn the radio up a notch and imagine yourself sprawled out on a lounge chair draped with a beach towel, looking out over the mighty, majestic Atlantic Ocean. You can smell the coconut suntan lotion on the breeze and feel the sun’s warm rays on your face as you lift up that cold drink in your hand when all of a sudden you hear a wail that brings you back to reality…”Daddy! I said I was hungry!”

You know you have about forty-five minutes of driving to Topsail before you check into your nice digs. Then, you’ll have to unpack the car, sort out who will get what bedroom and then and head to the nearest grocery store to get you “necessities.” After that, you’ll have to come back to the beach house, unload the car and then put the groceries away and then cook up something to satisfy the crowd. It sounds so hard…

And this is where my suggestion comes in. Why not stop in Hampstead, that little town that flanks both sides of Highway 17 just south of Holly Ridge? It has some top notch restaurants that will cure everybody’s hunger and set you on your way to finish your trip without everyone complaining about being hungry.

The first one you’ll see is on the right: The Village Cafe. I personally love this  restaurant! Its outside front patio, complete with tables and red umbrellas, is charming. The moment you walk in, you will notice that the dining room  is casual, clean and fresh. A pleasant wait staff is there to greet and seat you. There’s a huge chalk board on the back wall that informs you of daily specials and wine offerings.

Honestly, I’ve eaten there many times and each and every meal has been fabulous! Oftentimes, the accomplished chef comes out to greet the patrons and ask how you enjoyed the meal. You’ll know that the meal you’re enjoying has been made with careful pride. Stop by on your way to Topsail. Having a meal at The Village Cafe is a wonderful way to begin your vacation. My  dining tip is order anything you wish on the menu. It’s all good!

The next suggestion I have for you is just across the street. The Burrito Shak is Hampstead’s newest “darling.”   I have to admit, I haven’t had the chance to eat there,  but everyone I know is talking and raving about how good it is. I was curious to see what all the hoopla was about so I stopped by there to do a bit of investigating.  I was glad to be able to meet and talk with David Longo, the manager.

David, who has also been the chef at a few of Topsail Island’s best restaurants, knows a thing or two about keeping hungry patrons satisfied. He explained that his extra- casual Mexican restaurant was set up as a burrito bar, sort of like Chipotle Mexican Grill.  You stand at the bar and tell the staff what you’d like on your burrito or your meal and they customize it to your liking.  I examined the  bar and was blown away by all of the fresh vegetables, meats and sauces that were offered. If a fresh, flavorful, Mexican meal is what  your family likes, then the Burrito Shak is a great way to kick off your Topsail vacation.

My third suggestion is down the street a bit (north) on on the left side of the road. It’s Jebby’s on 17. This restaurant is also one of my all time favorites. (How many favorites can a person have? Several obviously.)  It’s a rather small sports bar with fabulous food. I’ve never had a bad meal there! Honestly! The food is fresh and hot and the drinks are always cold. I’ve always noticed that the wait staff is friendly and very efficient. My husband loves their burgers and sweet potato fries and I’m partial to their chicken pot pie. The fish and chips are always good and you should try their soups and the shrimp and grits. Oh well….everything on the menu’s good! You won’t be disappointed.

I hope these suggestions are useful to you and your family. Keeping your vacation time as stress free as possible is a challenge but can be done.  A restful meal in Hampstead at one of these restaurants may become part of your Topsail Island beach tradition.

The Village Cafe is located at:  Address47 S. Hampstead Village Dr., Hampstead, NC 28443   Phone(910) 821-1234

The Burrito Shak is located at:
Address15489 U.S, US-17, Hampstead, NC 28443
Jebby’s on 17 is located at:
(910) 803-0414






Holly Ridge Veterinary Hospital – Home of Bam Bam’s Favorite Doctor

by Bama Byrd


Hey people!  My name is Bama (aka Bam Bam) Byrd. I know you’re used to reading what my Mommy writes but today,  I told her that I wanted to tell you about my visit to to see Dr. Martin at the Holly Ridge Veterinary Hospital.

For some reason, Mommy never tells me when we’re going to the vet. She just makes sure I’m real clean, takes me for a short walk to help me “get my energy out,” and then she puts me in the car. I get so excited when I’m in the car because where we’re going is always a mystery. I love mysteries. Mommy says I am too curious!

We passed Salty Paws Pet Resort,( which is the place Mommy calls my “home away from home.” Sometimes, they take me there to spend the night when they’re going on a trip. and a few times,  I’ve spent the day at doggy daycare.  I have so many friends there, that I hoped she was going to turn into the parking lot so I could visit a while. Instead, she just kept driving.

Hmmm…I couldn’t figure out if we were going to the groomers or to see Dr. Martin. I was nervous a little bit because I didn’t feel like getting groomed  today. To tell you the truth, I don’t like baths, brushes and getting my toe nails clipped. I was really glad when she passed the turn off and turned left onto Highway 17 S. That could only mean one thing! I was going to see Dr. Martin!

Dr. Martin is a real nice animal doctor. Mommy tells me he’s been a veterinarian for over twenty years in Onslow County. His veterinary hospital is in Holly Ridge, in a pretty new facility (I’m not sure what that word means) but it’s the pretty building that has lots of dogs and cats inside. Each pet is with their mommy or daddy,  just like me.

It’s fun going through the doors of the hospital because you never know who’s going to be there. There are big scary looking dogs, way bigger than me and some tiny dogs, even smaller than my eleven and a half pounds. Did you know there are some kitty cats in their little travel cases?  I love to bark my hello to each and everyone of them when I come in. I don’t know why Mommy gets nervous when I do that, but I’m just being friendly.  She tells me, “Shush, Bam. You’re barking too loud!”

When we got to the hospital today I wondered why we were there.I didn’t feel sick. I felt perfectly fine. Mommy kept me in her lap and kept rubbing my head and neck, speaking in her soft voice…”It’s ok, Bama. All Dr. Martin is going to do today is give you a kennel cough vaccine. It’s not a shot and it’s It’s not going to hurt one little bit. It might even be good!”

There was a real nice lady behind a desk. She told me it was going to be a few minutes and that Dr. Martin was seeing other patients. She would call me in a few minutes. Mommy told me I needed to be patient to be a good patient. Sometimes, human words are really confusing! (By the way, if you look at the pictures on this blog post, the ones of the little white dog is me sitting in the waiting room!)

Soon, another nice lady came out and said my name. Mommy said, “Here’s Bama.”  The nice lady took me from Mommy’s arms and I barked at her a little bit. I was trying to tell her I wanted to stay in the waiting room with the other mommies and doggies. I got nervous a little bit and started shaking. The lady put me on a table and squirted  some tasty drops in my mouth. I swallowed them and she smiled at me and said, “That’s all for today, Bama. You’ve been very brave!”

Dr. Martin didn’t see me today. Mommy said it was because I wasn’t sick and I didn’t need a proper check up.  I know Dr. Martin takes good care of sick animals. He can even do surgery. I heard her talking to Daddy one day and she said Dr. Martin has been known to make house calls. I’m not sure what that means either, but it must be important.

All I know is that Mommy knows if something happens to me, she has a doctor she can trust to sort me out. She says Dr. Martin and his staff can help her take better care of me. They  told her how to prevent me from having bad diseases. I’m glad I have a mommy and a doctor that care about me.

We left Dr. Martin’s Holly Ridge Veterinary Hospital after we were there for only a very little while. Mommy told me she was so proud of me for being a good boy.  She even gave me a treat!

If you just moved here or are visiting Topsail Island, Mommy wants you to know about my Doctor Martin and his hospital. She says sometimes people have to take their sick pets to a veterinarian and Dr. Martin is the best one in the whole, wide world!

The Holly Ridge Veterinary Hospital is located at:

324 US Highway 17 N. Holly Ridge, NC 28445








Lo-Re-Lei’s Pub and Grill – What’s in a Name?

by Donna Byrd

I have a little confession to make. I’ve lived here for six years and although I know it’s hard to believe, today was the first time I visited Lo-Re-Lei’s Pub and Grill.

Now, for all of you guys and gals out there wondering, I happened to look up the definition of the word “pub.” I’m a true believer in thinking that a place should live up to its name, and I wondered about the “pub part” of Lo-Re-Lei’s PUB and Grill.

Wikipedia says that, “A pub, or public house, is an establishment licensed to sell alcoholic drinks, which traditionally include beer, ale and other brewed alcoholic drinks. It is a relaxed, social drinking establishment and a prominent part of British culture, Irish culture, New Zealand culture and Australian culture. In many places, especially in villages, a pub is the focal point of the community.” Ok, of course we’re not a part of British culture or anything, but Sneads Ferry DOES have a culture. So, that’s good, right?

As for the “Grill” part in Lo-Re-Lei’s Pub and GRILL, I looked that up in the Oxford English Dictionary and it said “a grill is a restaurant that serves food cooked on a grill.” I had every expectation that this Pub/Grill was going to be the “real deal.”

Other than all of the above, there were three other reasons I wanted to try out this restaurant.  Number one… I was supposed to meet my sister-in-law, Kelly, for breakfast and there are not many breakfast restaurants in Sneads Ferry. Number two… it’s very close to my house and number three… I heard they made good omelets and pancakes. I talked it over with Kelly and she was up for the new culinary, neighborhood adventure.

Kelly met me at Lo-Re-Lei’s crowded parking lot on this cold, Saturday morning. Trying to escape the cold, stiff, north wind, we rushed up to the door and entered in a hurry, shaking off winter’s chill. A happy, warm tinkle of laughter and a low buzz of pleasant conversation rose up to greet us as we stood inside and gave the dining area “the once-over.”

Many of the tables were filled with hungry locals and there was one huge, specialty group of about twenty-five or so, seated in a long line of put together tables, awaiting  their breakfasts. It certainly seemed to be a community gathering place!

We took the booth next to the door and as we waited for our waitress to arrive,  looked around the room. It was a bit dark, even with the windows banking one of the walls, but in keeping with the pub theme, it was exactly like it should be: half dark/kind of private and at the same time, cheerful with a touch of whimsy.

Mermaids and nautical themes adorned the walls but the most cheerful decor were the garlands of red solo cups and twinkling lights strung across the bar area and along the rafters. They were even strung outside, hanging from the porch. A sign over the bar, “Proceed to Party” explained their significance. That night, Lo-Re-Lei’s was having a Red Solo Cup Party. I think they were celebrating the pub’s anniversary.

We looked at the menus while we waited for our coffees and couldn’t believe the number of dishes that were offered.  We had a full breakfast selection to choose from and we both went with the scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon and pancakes. There were also other dishes from which to choose:  great looking sandwiches, burgers,  hand-cut steaks and lots of fresh, local seafood! I will have to come back with my husband for a date night and check out one of the steaks!

Our breakfast was served to us by our friendly waitress. It was good and exactly what we expected. Since I haven’t had any of the other meals offered on the menu, I checked out some of the food reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp. Lo-Re-Lei’s Pub and Grill seems to have good ratings from local and vacationing patrons. Most of them are return customers.

Kelly and I left Lo-Re-Lei’s with full bellies and a satisfaction that comes from sitting with a good friend over a good meal in a pleasant place. I was glad that this little pub and grill lived up to its name!

I’d like to return soon for a late dinner. I hear that after the kitchen closes, oftentimes, they have a DJ play all-time favorite party tunes. I think that would make for a fun night! I mean…come on! Red solo cup decorations? The “pub” part of Lo-Re-Lei’s Pub and Grill must be begging for a party!

I do feel a strange and mystical allure to return.  Perhaps that’s in the name as well.  Lorelei is a lovely Germanic name evoking the image of the mermaid, siren, and muse.  What’s in a name? Now you know.

Lo-Re-Lei’s Pub and Grill is located at:

1019 Old Folkstone Road, Sneads Ferry 28460

Kitchen Open 11:00 am – 10:00 pm Monday – Sunday
Pub is open till 2:00 am Every day!!
Phone: (910) 327-0900‎

Lo-re-lei Pub & Grill


Max’s Pizza: The Italian Restaurant that Does Surf City Proud

IMG_4350 (Large)by Donna Byrd


It was the “it” restaurant last week; the restaurant that seemed to be on everyone’s lips. “Bill, have you and Donna ever been to Max’s Pizza in Surf City? What? You haven’t? Oh my goodness! You have to go! They have the best pizza on Topsail Island!”IMG_4363 (Large)

Bill said that he’d heard at least four or five good comments about Max’s during the week. Co-workers seemed to randomly drop the restaurant’s name until he came  home Friday and announced that we were going to try a pizza place in Surf City that got rave reviews from people who’d lived in the area for years. “Donna, these girls have grown up here. They’ve eaten at Max’s since they were kids and they still think it’s the best pizza around. I think we need to give it a try!”

So, we bundled up on a cold, rainy night, got into our car and drove down the beach road in search of Max’s Pizza. I was up for the adventure.IMG_4368 (Large)

We found it easily. It was on Highway 50, or Roland Ave, right before you crossed over the swing bridge in Surf City. I must have been by that building countless times before and not realized that it was the famous, Max’s Pizza.

Trying to hurry out of the rain and cold, we ran up the steps and opened the door. Warm air  and the smell of yeasty, cheesy pizza greeted us. I was so glad we had decided to come. A good Italian restaurant can make you feel like you just walked into Grandma Maria’s kitchen even if you’re not Italian! That’s how I felt as the waitress seated us.IMG_4356 (Large)

We asked the waitress to tell us the two most popular items on the menu and she said, “Max’s House Pizza and the Steak and Cheese.” Needless to say, that’s what we ordered and we weren’t disappointed. After about ten minutes, the hot, bubbly pizza was brought to our table. The dough was of a traditional, medium thickness and could hold the weight of its many ingredients (four meats, five vegetables and blended cheeses.) It was the cheesiest pizza I have had in years and I could have eaten more, but I had a huge steak and cheese sub sitting in front of me too! There was a wonderful Italian sauce drizzled over  the sandwich that took it a level above other steak and cheeses I have tried. I ended up eating half the sandwich and two pieces of pizza and Bill ate the rest. We loved everything we ordered and vowed to come back.IMG_4357 (Large)

Max’s Pizza was established by the Laurie Lefler family in 1985. Previously,  this family owned other restaurants in the area and obviously have a knack for knowing how to make hungry folks happy. Whether you dine in or have carry-out, this Italian restaurant has something for everyone. From pizza, pasta dishes, salads, subs, and a variety of burgers, Max’s Pizza will satisfy everyone.

Max’s Pizza is located at:IMG_4352 (Large)

602 Roland Avenue
Surf City, NC 28445
Tel: 910 328 2158




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


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…


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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?


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



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!


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!


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!


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!


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!


Batson’s Galley and Family Restaurant is located at:

14260 NC Highway 50

Surf City, North Carolina
(910) 328-4426