by Donna Byrd
When I was growing up, my family spent one magical week at the beach each summer. All week long, we’d spend those golden days on the beach, collecting shells, making sandcastles and body surfing in the warm Atlantic Ocean. Around 5:00 we’d collect our towels and beach toys and make the long four block trek back to the beach cottage, hungry as little bears.
About half a block away, if the wind was blowing in our directions, we’d smell our supper cooking. My mom and aunts, classic southern cooks, would be creating their masterpiece meals for us in the little cottage kitchen. Every night we’d have the best dishes the south had to offer: fried chicken, meatloaf, pot roasts, mashed potatoes, fried pork chops, okra, fresh butter beans, homemade ice cream and cobblers.
We loved everything that was set before us and relished each bite. But one night a week was set aside for the highlight of the vacation: eating dinner out at a family seafood restaurant. That night, my mom and aunts left the seafood meal up to the professional cooks. It made for some of my best childhood memories.
This weekend, my dad and my brother both spent their birthdays here in Sneads Ferry with me. They wanted to relax all day in low slung chairs with their feet dangling in the warm ocean water and that night, they wanted to eat seafood in a restaurant that made them feel as if they were truly at the beach. I knew exactly where to take them: The Breezeway Restaurant.
Located in Topsail Beach on the south end of the island, The Breezeway Restaurant is right on the Topsail Sound. Almost every seat in the dining area has a spectacular view of the water. Huge picture windows flank the back and side walls of the building and offer the diner the best sunset and boating views on the island.
We arrived a little before sunset and were able to catch the orange-red globe of fire drop into the water as we stood on the little pier by the boat slips behind the restaurant. It was a nature show worthy of applause and mixed with the smells of fried seafood and salt marshes, we were led back to memories of family dinners at the beach.
The hostess came outside to tell us our table was ready. We made our way through the crowded, noisy dining room, passing happy, sun kissed vacationers that had huge plates of shrimp and flounder laid before them. It was a room full of contentedness!
There were eight of us and we were seated at a large, roomy table. I looked around the room and realized we were surrounded by beauty. Evening was settling in on the water and the pink and salmon glow left by the sunset was mirrored on the still water. From time to time, a slow, pontoon boat would pass by, filled with people taking in the twilight sights of Topsail Sound. They would wave to the folks on the dock.
A friendly server named Glenda, took our order. We asked her about the history of the restaurant. She told us that The Breezeway Inn and Cafe had opened in 1949, after War War II. It was housed in the “Project Bumblebee” barracks and mess hall. The servicemen from local Camp Davis in Holly Ridge, loved the seafood and spread the word. After a few decades, as Topsail Island was developed and populated, The Breezeway Inn and Cafe buildings were replaced. In 1972, the Inn and The Breezeway Restaurant moved into the buildings that are now there.
Glenda went on to tell us that the restaurant has been owned and operated by the William Cherry family since 1971. The entire staff is like one big family. Glenda said that she worked in the restaurant as a teenager, but then grew up and moved on. She worked in the corporate business world, retiring three years ago. We couldn’t believe (and neither could she) that she came back to serve at The Breezeway and work for Mr. Cherry. She loves the family she’s made there and is happy serving up seafood for hungry vacationers and locals. I love employees that are dedicated to serving others!
What makes The Breezeway Restaurant so good that people return season after season? Well, other than the friendly, helpful staff it has to be the fresh, local seafood that’s cooked to order! The wonderful seafood comes straight from eastern North Carolina waters, right out of our “backyard!”
The hush puppies are fried up, golden brown, with a slight sweetness that tastes almost like a dessert. You can actually buy the mix right there in the restaurant if you’d like to take some home with you. Watch out! They can be habit forming!
Our dinner arrived, piping hot and fresh! My brother got the She Crab Soup because it was his birthday and that was his favorite!
He also loved his lightly battered, crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, scallops.
The rest of us had combination seafood platters; shrimp, flounder, oysters…yum, yum, good! Glenda kept the baskets of hush puppies coming, even after we were too full to eat anything else.
To top off the evening, the waitstaff brought out (as a surprise) slices of Key Lime Pie, complete with lighted candles as they sang “Happy Birthday.” The whole restaurant joined in the celebration, singing and clapping.
A group of bridesmaids were behind us, having their own little party. There was a fun spirit afoot and we felt blessed that the staff made such a big deal over our family and birthday boys!
Later that evening, after we all arrived home, my brother told me, “Donna, thanks for taking us to The Breezeway. It felt like we were at the beach!” That, my friends, is the best compliment a restaurant on Topsail Island can get!
The Breezeway Restaurant is located 6.2 miles south of the Surf City stoplight at:
634 Channel Blvd.
Topsail Beach, NC 28445
During the Summer, it’s open everyday at 5:00 p.m.
Thursday through Monday nights: Spring and Fall.