Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vacation Day 2, Southport, NC

When we woke up this morning the weather was looking lousy, with the forecasters predicting rain and clouds both today (Thursday) and Friday, with some clearing on Saturday. Not good. We decided that we would drive around downtown Southport and Oak Island, get ourselves more familiar with them, and possibly do some shopping at the antique stores.

Breakfast was at the hotel, and rather blah. Rather than the full cooked buffet available at my own hotel, this Comfort Suites' breakfast is little more than a glorified continental breakfast, with pre-packed biscuit sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs for the guest to pop into the microwave. Ugh.

After breakfast we got underway, heading to Oak Island to do some exploring. It was grey, overcast and there was a drizzling rain coming down, so driving around was pretty much all we were prepared to do. The island is a mix of some moderately luxurious homes on the beach and in some of the newer neighborhoods, but there are plenty of trailers and prefab houses on the island that a working family can afford. Places right on the beach command a premium, as you might expect, with prices over 1 million dollars being commonplace for rather ordinary-looking houses.

After our exploration of the we drove around a bit more, heading up NC 87 and NC 133 in a generally northerly direction. We decided that, having driven that route on a previous visit to the area, that there was no point in continuing in that direction (it's mostly rural wooded area) and turned around, headed back to Oak Island for lunch.

Lunch was at The Bar-B-Que House on Oak Island:

It's a small place, with about a half-dozen booths and some wallside barstool seating. It seems to cater to local residents. Sitting down, I was immediately impressed by the smart array of sauces:

Here's the menu:

We both ordered pork plates, Sara a regular, a large for myself. Here's mine:

Sara's was similar, except for different sides. The pork was good, a nice mixture of outside brown meat with inside white meat, a smoke ring much in evidence on some of the outside brown pieces. It was reasonably moist and very flavorful.

The sauces ran the gamut of Carolinas sauces: Eastern NC vinegar-based sauce, Lexington-style dip, South Carolina mustard-based sauce, and a sweet Memphis-style tomato-based sauce. None of them were particularly good, I'm sorry to say.

Hush puppies were good, being sweet, small and shaped like crescent moons. The hush puppies are also used to make "redneck doughnuts," a dessert in which the pups are rolled in cinnamon sugar immediately after being taken from the oil. Here are some redneck doughnuts, along with some fresh-made banana pudding that Sara had:

I actually liked this restaurant, and the food was good. The waitress was pleasant and attentive, and the management went the extra mile by offering four different sauces, even if they weren't particularly distinguished as sauces go. A fun touch was that the restrooms were labeled boars and sows. They were good, clean restrooms, not pigsties, thankfully.

I'll give The Bar-B-Que House a 4 out of 5 on my rating scale: 4 out of 5: good; tasty, well-prepared food, staff alert, restaurant clean.

After lunch we went down to the Southport downtown to shop, as it looked like the clouds might break and some sunshine break out. This proved to be the case, so we managed to get in a bit of antique shopping. I purchased a "famous Southport Pickle Fork" for $10, here's a pic:

Fork You.

You'll notice that it appears to be a left-handed pickle fork.

Sara, a rabid fan of the old I Love Lucy show, scored bigtime with 3 tin signs and 2 electric switch coverplates.

The weather by this time had gotten so nice that we decided to try visiting Brunswick Town and Orton Plantation Gardens. We thus headed back up NC 133 for the second time of the day.

Brunswick Town is a ghost town of a Revolution-era town on the banks of the Cape Fear River. It was burned by the British during the Revolution to prevent the Patriots from shipping naval stores to the other colonies. During the Civil War the Confederacy built a fort over the ruins as a backup to the defenses at Fort Fisher. The site was preserved mostly unmolested because the owners of nearby Orton Plantation owned the land that the ruins were on.

Archaeological excavations have been done at the site, laying open various homesites; there are also graves from the time of the Revolution and earlier, and the ruins of St. Philip's Church which lie open to the sun and stars:

One of the houses showed evidence of one of the old battles, as a cannon ball is embedded in the brick wall (click the image to get the full sized photo and a helpful arrow pointing at the cannonball).

The weather in this mid-March has been fairly warm; probably the reptiles are stirring a bit, although we didn't see any on our walk around the site. I did find an alligator wallow, where one of the large reptiles regularly enters the water and possibly built a nest nearby:

The visitor's center is informative; one of the artifacts on display is a cannon from a Spanish privateer, the Fortuna, that blew up in the Cape Fear River when its powder magazine exploded during a battle with the Brunswick Town colonists in 1748:

Also in the visitor's center is a wonderful mosaic showing scenes from the history of the colony:

We also saw some dolphins in the Cape Fear River, which was pleasing to both of us.

After leaving Brunswick town we returned to the hotel. Sara had a nap, while I began this entry. I finished it after dinner, which was at a local restaurant, the Surfer. I had a steak and Sara some pork chops; rather ordinary, about the level of a Western Sizzlin or Ryan's. And so back to the hotel and the end of our second day of vacation.

1 comment:

Borepatch said...

We really likes the Bar-B-Que House, but then again, we're stranded in Yankeeland, and you have to look for decent BBQ.

And we actually looked 3 or 4 years back at Oak Island houses, but people seemed to want crazy money. I mean, it's a barrier island, for crying out loud.

Southport also seems to have some crazy property values, although the town is beautiful.

We also liked Mr. P's restaurant (a lot), but it's pretty upscale and spendy.