Island Dining:  Island Perks Coffee Shop and Café

By JOY CRIST



On Hatteras Island, it’s strange to see a crowded parking lot in January. But Island Perks, the small restaurant at the north edge of Buxton, has been staying steady, with cars zipping in and out, since the doors opened in December for two very important reasons.

They’re open. And they’re good.

The original Island Perks, owned by Isaac Williams and located in Frisco, opened its doors in 2007 and built a healthy following for its great coffee and indulgent pastries and bakery items. Williams, a Hatteras native, had already seen success in the island sweets market with Uncle Eddy’s, the ice cream shop he opened in 1997. And after the success of the Frisco Island Perks coffeehouse, he helped open a second location, where he now works as co-head chef and co-manager, along with Richard Hendrick.

But unlike the Frisco location, which sticks to gourmet coffees and desserts, the Buxton location, with its on-premise kitchen and restaurant seating, offers a full breakfast and lunch menu. Expanding the menu was almost required with the new location, the former home of Wahini’s Surf Grill, but according to Carol Dawson, co-owner with John Parker of the Buxton Island Perks, it was all part of the plan.

“We felt like the locals and tourists wanted something they could eat quick and reasonable,” says Carol. “Wahini’s had closed down and it was available. We had already been looking, and that was a perfect venue for us.”

Once the new location was chosen, the menu was finalized, and the restaurant was ready to open its doors, it was all a matter of hoping the locals, by this time about the only folks left on the island, would come. They did.

“Business has been great. We started out slow, and we’re slammed now. It’s unbelievable because we never thought it would take off like this,” says Carol.

Carol attributes part of the popularity to the fact that the service is quick, and for busy construction crews or people who can barely escape the office for a lunch break, they can go in, eat, and get out quickly.

The other reason is, naturally, the food. For a small coffee house, there are a lot of goodies on the menu, and the best part is that, basically, they are all homemade.

On the breakfast menu, there are a variety of breakfast sandwiches, homemade home fries, and traditional breakfast plates with local names like the Kinnakeeter and the Cape, with eggs, bacon, and sausage, and the occasional not-as-typical item, such as breakfast wraps.

“Just the other day we had a breakfast burrito wrap with eggs and rice,” says Carol.

When it comes to lunch, Carol recommends the 8-ounce burgers on new-to-the-menu European kaiser buns with a number of variations, including a Greek version with Feta cheese, fried onions, and spinach. Although, with everything made from scratch, the burgers are not her only favorite.

“I recommend everything to be honest. The tuna salad is fresh, not canned, and so is the pasta salad and the coleslaw - everything is made daily.”

For lighter fare, the menu features a variety of soups and salads, including a daily soup, chili, and traditional Hatteras-style clam chowder.

Island Perks also has a daily lunch special for $7.95, which always varies, but is typically composed of good comfort food to ease a cold beach day. Sometimes the special is lasagna with salad and garlic bread, sometimes meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

“We don’t always know what we’re going to do for the special when we come in,” says Carol.

But even with a heavy comfort food lunch, you owe it to yourself to stay for the dessert. True to form, Island Perks also offers homemade desserts, changing daily, such as Dutch apple pie, homemade bread pudding with cream sauce on top, fresh carrot cake, and even homemade cheesecake.

How is such a variety of food from scratch accomplished? The answer is that the chefs start early.

“Isaac and Richard come in at 5 a.m. and just start working in the kitchen,” says Carol. “When we close for lunch, we also use the afternoon for prep time for the next day.”

It’s a full-time job. Although the Frisco location has seasonal hours, the Buxton restaurant is open every day from 6:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. And the small crew that runs the Island Perks in Buxton doesn’t mind all the hard work and busy lunch hours.  They’re delighted by it.

“We really want to thank the locals for their support,” says Carol. “We couldn’t have been successful without them. They’re the backbone of our business, and we welcome them to keep coming back.”

And it’s a pretty sure thing they will, even after the winter is over.


ISLAND PERKS COFFEE SHOP AND CAFÉ

Buxton.  986-2111. Open Monday through Saturday at 6:30 a.m. for breakfast and lunch.  Open Sunday at 7 a.m.

Frisco.  995-5977.  Seasonal hours for the winter. Closed until Feb. 8 and then open for coffee and breakfast on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  Open every day in season.


Click Here To View Buxton Location Menu








    

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