Esteemed Triangle restaurateur Giorgios Bakatsias has been tapped to helm the food and beverage program for a floating restaurant coming to Wrightsville Beach in 2024.
Currently in the early phases of construction, The Commodore Club at Wrightsville Yacht Club will operate atop a specially designed barge at Wrightsville Beach Marina with panoramic views of the Intracoastal Waterway. The private social club will feature three separate dining areas, including an umbrellaed terrace open for the public to dine – all of which will be designed under the direction of Bakatsias Hospitality Group.
Bakatsias, who was also the creative force behind Kipos Hellenic Cuisine in Lumina Station, is known to play an active role in developing the full aesthetic experience of his restaurants from interior design to menu development.
Bakatsias said he feels “enormous gratitude” to be selected for the project.
“It’s going to be a very exciting destination,” he said. “I love Wilmington. I love the kindness of people. I love the community. You’ll see me come in that direction more and more.”
Bakatsias promised a detail-oriented approach to the food and described his influences as “freshness and excellence with simplicity.” Still in the early stages of menu creation, he said the fare will be “classic American” cuisine with select cuts of meat and seafood, which he plans to “take to another level of freshness” given the kitchen’s proximity to the ocean.
“My approach to fish is to keep it very clean, very simple, very non-complex,” he said. “There’s a lot to be said about the simplicity of food on the water.”
The ambiance of the dining areas will reflect the tranquility of the environment, Bakatsias said, with “beautiful wood” accents.
Bob Benson, Commodore Club board member, listed Bakatsias’ reputation for quality and his ability to execute a diverse range of culinary styles as driving factors for the partnership. Beyond his professional repertoire, which includes dozens of restaurants and a James Beard Foundation nomination for outstanding restaurateur, Benson said Bakatsias seemed like a good fit for the “very festive, fun” experience planned for The Commodore Club.
“It’s also the man himself. He’s quite the entertainer as well,” Benson said, adding that Bakatsias brings “a lot of energy” to the project.
The Commodore Club’s main dining room and upstairs cocktail bar will only be available for members. About 300 memberships are on the books, Benson said, with a limited number of spots left. The initial fee for members is $20,000 with annual dues of $2,500.
Monteith Construction is heading up the build for the superstructure, which will occur in three phases. Construction of the barge is the first step, which Monteith president and CEO Bryan Thomas said is currently underway by a team near Jacksonville, Florida. The barge should be finished around January, at which time team members will inspect the barge and transport it to a boatyard in downtown Wilmington, where the two-story restaurant will be built on top of the barge.
Thomas estimated about 85% of construction will happen there, with the finishing touches added when the superstructure is moved to its permanent home in the Intracoastal Waterway.
Thomas described the project as unique but said he enjoys managing a team of experts across a range of disciplines – architects, structural engineers, interior designers, plumbers, electricians, specialty kitchen designers and more.
“We’re able to take all these groups and put them under one umbrella to figure out all the details,” Thomas said.
One especially important detail is ensuring The Commodore Club will withstand storms from its vulnerable position atop the Intracoastal Waterway.
“We’re really building this thing to endure the harsh conditions you could expect on the water down there. A lot of extra thought is going into waterproofing, longevity of materials, structural supports so that this thing lasts for 20-plus years,” Thomas said.
First presented to Thomas as a “napkin sketch” years ago, he said he was immediately sold on the project.
“It’ll be a landmark for Wrightsville Beach and for our area,” he said.