Changes Afoot for Southern Pines, Pinehurst Restaurants
The restaurant carousel in Moore County continues to spin, with The Red Door Cafe in Pinehurst closing, nearby Too Blonde Tavern opening, and Rue 32 in Southern Pines about to change ownership.
Local restaurateur Mark Elliott is selling Rue 32, which specializes in serving small-plate meals paired with selections of wines, to Timothy and Shannon Smith in a deal expected to close Feb. 1.
"Shannon is my controller and has been with me for three years, so she knows the business," Elliott said. "I'm going to consult with them during the transition, but they're going to make the restaurant their own."
Timothy Smith said Monday that Elliott presented the husband-and-wife team with the "opportunity of a lifetime."
"It would have been silly for us not to take chef Elliott up on the offer," Smith said. "He's an incredibly generous person and has a real knack for grooming people to move up. We're flattered, honored and excited."
The Smiths plan to add some entree-size choices to the menu and eliminate foie gras, which is made from the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened.
Animal rights and welfare groups contend that foie gras production methods, especially force feeding, constitute cruel and inhumane treatment of animals.
"We were passing out menus at the Southern Pines Police Department and someone told us about it, so Shannon and I watched some YouTube videos," Smith said. "We were shocked. Taking foie gras off the menu is the responsible thing to do."
The Smiths are retaining chef Caine Lambert and are also sticking with the menu's international theme.
"There's nothing pretentious about my wife and me," Smith said. "We're just a husband-and-wife team that will hopefully have a business to pass on to their kids or grandkids."
Smith said they were "up to our armpits in work" as the Feb. 1 transition approaches.
"This is a full-time commitment for us," he said. "We want people to come back and try us if they've had a bad experience in the past. We'll do right by them this time."
Elliott, who also owns Elliott's on Linden in Pinehurst and The Sly Fox in Southern Pines, said selling Rue 32 will give him more time to focus on Elliott's Catering Co., which was selected last fall as a preferred caterer for the Cape Fear Botanical Garden in Fayetteville.
The facility hosts more than 100 events annually, including weddings, receptions, corporate meetings and other special events.
"My business is growing exponentially," he said. "We're doing well, so I'm pretty happy."
Over at Too Blonde Tavern in Pinehurst, the atmosphere in the Theatre Building is cozy; there are only eight tables in the dining room and four tables in the bar area.
Pictures of famous blondes - from Jean Harlow to Marilyn Monroe to Christie Brinkley - adorn the walls. There are also posters for movies such as "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "My Favorite Blonde" and "Blonde Bombshell."
"Our decor plays on the whole blonde thing," General Manager Cetera Martin said. "We wanted to do something different, something fun. 'We have more fun' is our slogan."
Martin and owner Tammy Leach - both blondes - have known each other for several years and worked in the restaurant industry in the past.
"When this space became available, we just decided to go for it," Martin said. "We're excited to be here."
Too Blonde Tavern had a quiet opening Dec. 21 and will celebrate its grand opening tonight from 5-9 p.m. as part of a Pinehurst Business Guild after-hours.
"Business has been great so far," Martin said. "Lunch has been awesome, but we're still trying to draw the night crowd."
She expects things to pick up once the outdoor furniture arrives.
"Then we'll be rockin' and rollin'," Martin said. "We have a great patio area, so once it warms up we'll have live music on the weekends."
The Red Door Cafe, around the corner from Too Blonde and next to The Villager Deli in downtown Pinehurst, closed earlier this month. Before it closed, the cafe served a mix of coffee, breakfast items and light lunch.
Owner Betsy Hamilton could not be reached Monday for comment.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or email@example.com.
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