Pleasure Island is a breathtaking coastal community that has many unique treasures to offer both residents and vacationers, including some tantalizing eateries. From authentic Italian cuisine to fresh seafood with a Caribbean flair, Pleasure Island has something for all kinds of foodies. So the next time you find yourself feeling peckish, make sure you save some room to explore these unique options.
By Naari Honor
Situated just minutes away from Kure Beach Pier, Jack Mackerel’s Grill—located at 113 K Avenue in Kure Beach—offers patrons a unique Caribbean-inspired dining experience complete with outdoor deck seating and picturesque views of the ocean.
The restaurant’s eight-page menu includes fresh seafood, calabash platters, baby back ribs and USDA Choice Grade steaks. Head Chef Danny Rose suggests first-time guests try the Pork Belly Bites, BBQ Dry-rubbed Wings or the Prime Rib on Thursday nights.
Rose, who got his start at Sambo’s Breakfast House on Market Street at the age of 13, brings with him the knowledge and experience acquired from cooking in restaurants in the Bahamas and working as a private yacht chef in the South Pacific. “I love feeding people and bringing them pleasure through my food,” Rose says. “I also love to eat food!” The chef’s favorites include the fresh tuna and prime rib. Jack’s also offers exotic tropical alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, a kid-friendly menu, and Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For those looking for a bit of an adventure, ask about the legend of the great Jack Mackerel and visit the “Skiff Room” to view a replica of the boat that leads him to a cave of Sirens and a mysterious hidden chest.
Jack’s is the perfect place to grab a nice lunch or early dinner. The restaurant does take reservations for parties of eight or more; however, during the busy summer season, seating is first-come, first-served.
Hot Candy Sauce (used on the Pork Belly Bites)
½ gallon of honey
2 lbs of brown sugar
1 stick of butter
1 bottle of Sriracha
4 cups sweet chili sauce
In a medium saucepan, over a medium-high heat combine all ingredients. Sir until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
Chef Rose warns that when making the Hot Candy Sauce, do not allow the mixture to boil, or it will turn into actual candy.
Pleasure Island lost a well-respected member of the community when restaurateur Michael McGowan passed away in October of 2012 from Cystic Fibrosis. His passion for both the community and exquisite food lives on through his wife, owner Shelly McGowan and her team of Culinary professionals led by Executive Chef Brandon Stark and General Manager, Chilaya Moore.
Michael’s Seafood Restaurant, located at 1206 N. Lake Park Blvd. in Carolina Beach, serves fresh seafood, robust salads, flatbreads, steamer pots, specialty martinis, smoothies and milkshakes. But the seafood chowder—Captain M’s Seafood Chowder, to be exact, is definitely the star of the show. The recipe has won the restaurant many awards including the International, the Chowder Cook-Off in Newport, Rhode Island and the International Seafood Chowder Cook-Off three years in a row. “We made it to the ‘Chowder Hall of Fame,'” McGowan boasts. For out-of-state visitors who fall in love with creamy goodness, Michael’s ships its chowder nationwide. Another local favorite is the Shrimp & Grits entrée, which also happens to be a favorite of Chef Stark. Chef Stark started out at Michael’s as a dishwasher and moved his way up the restaurant ranks with the guidance of the late Michael McGowan. Additionally, Chef Stark invested in his own cooking ability by attending the Charlotte campus of Johnson & Wales Culinary School. “I wouldn’t say that I chose cooking,” Chef Stark says. “I believe cooking chose me.”
One of the other restaurant features includes a free shuttle service for island guests between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Guests are encouraged to call the restaurant to confirm the hours of shuttle operation. Another surprising fact is that Michael’s Restaurant is a fryer-free zone. “We do not do any fried food,” McGowan emphasizes. “We do not even have a fryer in our kitchen.”
Michael’s Lobster Roll
2lbs knuckle and claw lobster meat
1 stick celery, chopped
¼ cup chives, chopped
2 oz. lemon juice
2 oz. mayo
1 teaspoon salt, pepper
½ teaspoon garlic
8 New England style hot dog buns
½ cup butter
Mix the first six ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
Separate the hot dog buns and coat the outside in butter.
Sear the buns on a hot pan so the outsides get caramelized until golden brown.
Fill with four ounces of lobster stuffing and enjoy.
For foodies looking for a romantic and authentic Italian dining experience, Freddie’s Restaurant, located at 111 K Avenue in Kure Beach, fits the bill perfectly with its intimate 13-table dining room and freshly made pastas and desserts. “The room is unique, to say the least,” current owner Robert Gargan explains. “It’s not unusual for friendly interaction between tables of complete strangers.” Gargan has worked at the family-owned restaurant for 21 years and had the pleasure of learning the art of cooking from family friend Fred Shambora, who opened Freddie’s with Gargan’s mother, Barbara in 1994. In 1998, just a few short years after they opened the restaurant, they lost Shambora to a heart condition. However, the Gargan family decided to continue with Shambora’s dream. Freddie’s is now celebrating their 25th anniversary. The extensive menu includes veal, steak, chicken and pasta dishes and several Italian desserts, but many restaurant-goers come for the delicious grilled pork chops. “Our chicken parmesan is probably our top-selling single dish,” Gargan says. “ But whenever I meet people outside the restaurant, the first thing they’ll mention is how much they love our pork chops”.
Head Chef Rod Haltom has worked at the restaurant for six years and boasts that the entire menu is worth trying. “The Italian Gumbo is a very flavorful dish,” Chef Haltom says. “But you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, so try them all.”
Freddie’s is open Monday through Saturday from the hours of 4:30 p.m. to 9 pm. The restaurant does take reservations for parties of five or more, but on the off-chance one must wait a bit to be seated, it is conveniently located just steps away from the Kure Beach Pier.
Freddies Shrimp Barrachina
8 peeled shrimp
1 teaspoon salt & pepper
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
3/4 cup baby spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Choice of Pasta
Crispy bacon for garnish
Season shrimp with salt and pepper, sauté with diced tomatoes and garlic in olive oil.
Add crushed red pepper flakes to taste. Deglaze with white wine and reduce heat to simmer. Add fresh spinach and parmesan cheese. Toss with your favorite pasta. Garnish with chopped crispy bacon.