Cajun restaurant opens with Fat Tuesday celebration

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Tina and Dustin Wiseman enjoy the fisherman's catch steampot and steamed oysters Tuesday at the soft opening of Da Bayou. The new eatery celebrated Fat Tuesday with live music and a limited menu, but will be open seven days a week starting Saturday. Brie Handgraaf | Times
Tina and Dustin Wiseman enjoy the fisherman's catch steampot and steamed oysters Tuesday at the soft opening of Da Bayou. The new eatery celebrated Fat Tuesday with live music and a limited menu, but will be open seven days a week starting Saturday. Brie Handgraaf | Times

Wilson’s newest restaurant served up authentic Cajun and creole cuisine during a Fat Tuesday grand opening celebration.

“Mardi Gras is the biggest celebration in New Orleans and Fat Tuesday is the last day of Mardi Gras before lent,” said Da Bayou owner James Fountain. “We are an authentic Cajun and creole restaurant, so we’re happy to celebrate our opening on Fat Tuesday.”

Fountain has spent the past two months transforming the eatery at the corner of Goldsboro and Barnes streets from a sports bar to a unique restaurant that pays homage to the Big Easy. Wood plank walls, rustic signs and a new game room liven up the 5,000-square-foot space, but it is the menu that truly sets Da Bayou apart from previous restaurants at 124 Barnes St. SW.

“Everything was perfect,” said Greg Godard, CEO of the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments. “The butter, seafood sauce and horseradish was just beautiful. And the oysters were steamed to perfection.”

Da Bayou’s first customers said they were pleasantly surprised when they found the restaurant by happenstance while trying to decide on a place for dinner. Tina Wiseman said the family loves seafood, but she is particularly fond of Cajun and creole. She ordered the fisherman’s catch with mussels, crawfish, snow crab legs, shrimp, corn and red potatoes and also shared a bucket of steamed oysters.

“Normally you’d have to drive to Raleigh or somewhere to get something like this,” she said. “It is nice to get some fresh seafood and a beer here in Wilson.”

An abbreviated menu was created for Fat Tuesday, but when Da Bayou opens for good at 11 a.m. Saturday, favorites from the opening like steam pots and gumbo will be served alongside po’ boys, gator bites, jambalaya and dirty rice.

Da Bayou also has a full menu of drinks from the bar — such as the hurricane and Bayou’s Best Mimosa — and classic desserts — beignets and bread pudding — to round out the offerings.

“Customers are not treated like a number. They are treated like family,” Fountain said. “They should never leave here unhappy.”

Fountain has brought in Chris Lavoie, his co-owner at Savannah’s Oyster House in Blowing Rock, to manage the downtown Wilson restaurant, but the duo still are hiring for bartenders, waitresses and kitchen staff.

Starting Saturday, Da Bayou will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays. For more information and a full menu, visit www.dabayourestaurant.com/.

Behind-the-scenes development

Members of the Wilson Economic Development Council attended their annual retreat Tuesday.

In addition to going over financial reports and reviewing marketing plans, the council approved a recommendation to withdraw membership from the NCEast Alliance. Wilson currently is a member of the NCEast Alliance and the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, which helps local officials meet site selectors and make the case for locating expansions in Wilson.

“Money is scarce, so we’ve got to prioritize, so I would lean toward the RTRP,” said council vice chairman Keith Merrick. “I think our money is best spent taking advantage of our proximity to Raleigh and our proximity to Interstate 95.”

Membership for Wilson is $25,000 a year for each group, but the council’s budget only includes funds for one membership this year. When the council voted to recommend the RTRP membership, Merrick said he’d support staying in NCEast if funding is available.

Wilson Economic Development Executive Director Jennifer Lantz also distributed a chart of average county wages for 2017 across the state with Wilson County ranked 10th with annual pay of $42,376.

“Wilson is truly a community of haves and have-nots,” she said.
Council member Lee Stephenson noted the dichotomy is present in many communities.

“The whole urban-rural divide is not unique to here,” he said. “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer to a degree. It can be a frustrating dynamic depending on which side of the fence you’re on.”

Lantz said the county unemployment rate could drop by a few percentage points if Wilsonians took advantage of training opportunities and certification programs. With that said, the members highlighted the successes of the economic development staff’s efforts.

“Congrats on 2017. It was a wonderful year,” said Tom Cozart. “If we could continue that for the next two years, it would change this community forever.”

Extra! Extra!

Touch of Country owners recently rolled out a new name: Downtown Boutique.

“When Touch of Country started, it was more of a garden store located in Kenly,” said owner Brooke Best. “With the move to Wilson and especially since the fire, my vision has changed.”

For more information and a look at some of the merchandise, visit www.facebook.com/shoptouchofcountry/.

Another Wilson eatery is having a grand opening this week. Mason’s Restaurant in Brentwood will host its opening celebration from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday with Southern home cooking to go. For more information, call 252-296-8232.

Got an idea for news to include in next week’s Main Street Minute? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at 252-265-7821 or bhandgraaf@wilsontimes.com.