Rx restaurant on Castle Street opens to diners
July 11, 2012By Liz Biro
When Rx Restaurant and Bar staged a trial run Sunday night, July 8, chef James Doss stacked the dining room with his toughest critics: Wilmington’s best chefs.
“Maybe I’m crazy,” Doss said, with his signature maniacal laugh, just hours before the doors opened to names like Catch’s Keith Rhodes, Cameo 19 Hundred’s Kirsten Mitchell, Yo Sake’s Joshua Woo and Manna’s Kyle Lee McKnight.
Doss and business partner/longtime friend Josh Novicki (the pair met as kids growing up in Goldsboro), developed Rx Restaurant and Bar in downtown Wilmington’s emerging, in some minds questionable, Castle Street neighborhood. They picked the old Hall’s Drug Store, at 421 Castle St. in the area’s antiques district, following the recent demise of three restaurants there, some in-and-out so quickly that diners never realized they existed.
Doss and Novicki remodeled the entire space, doing much of the work themselves. Hall’s changed from a dull, green and vanilla shell to many shades of warm brown on new tile, a wooden bar and inlaid-wood tables, one bearing the Rx name. They put a garden on the roof and crowded herbs in the window sills.
Then, Doss filled the menu not with usual burgers, fish tacos, fried shrimp and steak but contemporary and crispy pig ears hot-sauced Buffalo-style, blue crab hush puppies, pork belly with roasted pattypan squash and sheepshead with old-school Southern summer stew: okra, corn and tomatoes.
Behind the bar, Doss and Novicki tapped Wilmington’s Good Vibes Brewing, which at Rx just introduced its new Tallboy, a go-down-easy American pale ale.
Doss’ resume includes time at downtown’s Elijah’s, midtown’s late Harvest Moon and Lumina Station’s deceased Max’s Prime Steakhouse. Charleston, S.C.’s Husk, which Bon Appetit magazine in August 2011 named America’s best new restaurant, was his last stop (Doss cooked the chicken on the issue’s cover).
Novicki worked Wilmington restaurants too, but he’s also a DJ dividing his time between North Carolina and New York City. Rx has a small DJ booth.
Rx opens at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Closing time will depend on the crowd, but Doss said his and Novicki’s goal is to serve until 2 a.m. The seasonally changing, Southern-leaning menu pulls from traditional and contemporary recipes. Prices range from $5 to $8 for appetizers and $14 to $25 for entrees.