Updated: The Magic Bean Coffee Bazaar was open but is closed while the floors are being replaced.
Food is nourishment and Daphne Bennink, owner of the Back Porch Restaurant, is helping to nourish Ocracoke again following the devastation of Hurricane Dorian.
Getting islanders back to work fast was key when Bennink gathered the restaurants and hoteliers for a meeting following the storm.
After being contracted to feed the dozens of professionals who are cleaning out, remediating and restoring Ocracoke’s buildings, Bennink saw the opportunity for locals to partake as well.
Her building did not get damaged the way more than 75 percent of the buildings on the island did, she said.
“I didn’t flood, and they said they’d pay,” Bennink said as she took a break from preparing the evenings fare.
And that was an opportunity to get some islanders back to work.
“I have staff members who lost everything,” she said.
Two of the cleanup contractors contracted with Bennink for lunches and that was enough to get a few people back to work. Though she can’t afford the overhead right now of opening the restaurant, she can cover her food costs and payroll for about six staffers. She’s not paying herself.
Bennink saw the opportunity to mobilize, albeit abbreviated and despite the island still being under a mandatory evacuation.
“A solid half of the restaurants aren’t functional,” she said. “But all these contractors are coming in and we need to own it.”
Bennink and the other restaurants and hoteliers have met and formed an alliance following the storm to discuss going forward.
She also realizes that islanders want and need good food.
Starting today, she will have a menu of regular items–fish, spaghetti, bourbon chicken, poke bowl–plus a daily special.
“I have to keep it simple, but I can accommodate special diets upon request,” she said.
All meals are take-out and include bread, salad and dessert. Specials will be priced more ala carte, she said, and the menu has options where you can spend less money.
Bennink also offers Back Porch Lunch Box-style sandwiches (pre-ordered) for lunch.
Call or text Bennink at 252-928-8032 to place orders by 3 p.m. Pick-up is at 6 p.m. at the back door.
Sorella’s Pizza and Pasta will open on Wednesday and thereafter Wednesdays to Sundays with a limited menu. Lunch will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 8 p.m.
Menu items will consist of all the pizzas, calzones, Stromboli, house salad, chicken Parmesan sandwich and a Mexican special each day.
There’s no wait staff, said manager Daniela Gilbert. So, diners can take the meals out or eat inside at the tables.
Gilbert credits her “right hand and left hand” Edith “Chelly” Trejo with getting the place back open.
“I’m so happy to bring some normalcy,” Gilbert said. “Chelly was a huge part of being able to open.”
She came up with the recipes and marshaled some of the Latino community to help get the place ready.
“They’ve been phenomenal,” Gilbert said, noting that her “little building” does not have underneath insulation or wiring and thus didn’t get damaged the way other buildings have.
“We were cleared to open,” she said.
Not so with SmacNally’s, the other restaurant she manages. Smac’s lost everything, she said. There was three feet of water in the kitchen, trashing all the equipment and the dock needs to be repaired.
“Smac’s will be next spring,” she said.
Plum Pointe Kitchen inside 1718 Brewing Ocracoke also will open this week, Friday, Oct. 4, said owner Aaron Gallaher.
Food will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 8:30 p.m. The brewery will not be open because the “no alcohol” sales ban is still in effect on Ocracoke.
Plum Pointe is partnering with Helios Hideaway, which while its shop in Spencer’s Market is being repaired, will offer breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m.
Plum Pointe will offer lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 8:30 p.m.
Saturday hours will be from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., with a brunch at 10 a.m., Gallaher said.
The Magic Bean Coffee Bazaar is open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday, but as the floors get redone, it may close for a day or two for that work, said Katy Mitchell, owner.
The Baptists on Mission, who took over from the Salvation Army providing free meals on Ocracoke, are scheduled to leave Oct. 12