In a move meant to embrace its coastal locale, Flying Machine at Wrightsville Beach is preparing to launch a new concept within its space, christened with a new name to represent the change: Flying Machine Oyster Bar.
Located at 530 Causeway Drive, the restaurant first opened in 2021 by Flying Machine Brewing Company co-founders Grant Steadman and David Sweigart. In the next couple of months, the business will add an on-site raw bar featuring a rotating selection of local oysters and other creative menu items designed to showcase the briny bivalve. Steadman said he has noticed oyster bars opening in other places, including Charleston, South Carolina, where his family lives.
“We’re excited to bring this concept to Wrightsville Beach. I think it’s the perfect place for it,” Steadman said. “The industry, particularly through oyster farming, has grown so much in North Carolina in the past few years. We’ve seen oyster bars popping up in Raleigh and Charlotte. Why not have one right off the waterways where these oysters are actually being harvested?”
The eatery has always featured local seafood, including daily specials and a selection of baked oysters dressed with toppings like miso-laced honey butter, Parmesan cheese and biscuit crumbs crisped up in pork fat. But as the name suggests, the restaurant will soon implement a “daily, more intense focus on it,” according to Steadman.
Central to the concept is a raw bar, soon to be installed where the business’s current draft bar is located, where the daily offerings of about four types of oysters will be displayed atop a glittering bed of ice. Behind the bar, Steadman expects to staff a shucker or other team member who can walk guests through the tasting notes of the oysters and the environments where they were grown or harvested.
“We’re going to put up a glass partition and have oysters on ice, and we’re going to make sure that all the front-of-house has an intense knowledge of local seafood so we can really engage our customers,” Steadman said.
For those partaking in oysters on the half shell, classic accompaniments like mignonette, horseradish, lemon and hot sauce will be available. Additionally, Steadman teased a creative selection of oyster shooters, traditionally served as a raw oyster with a splash of vodka and tomato-based mixer. The goal is to provide plenty of ways for guests to sample the restaurant’s offerings.
“There are a lot of different ways to enjoy oysters. Some people prefer to have them raw and just taste the oyster, to taste why the oyster is different. Other people like different flavors that accentuate the oyster. It’s such a unique thing to the coast and there’s a lot of fun and creative ways to show off what we have in our waterways,” Steadman said.
Steadman hopes the new name will help distinguish the Wrightsville restaurant from the brewery on Randall Parkway. With the two businesses linked under the Flying Machine banner, he said some people aren’t sure whether Flying Machine at Wrightsville Beach was simply a taproom for Flying Machine’s beers.
“With the current name, I think there was some confusion. Are we another taproom to the brewery? Are we a restaurant? What kind of food do we serve? I think the name change helps with that,” said Steadman.
The new focus and name represent enhancements to the existing eatery, Steadman emphasized, rather than a full replacement of what is already offered.
“We’ve got some dishes that people have really embraced, and we’ll continue to offer those. This is more of an addition rather than a complete revamp of our restaurant,” Steadman said. He listed executive chef Ryan Jankowski’s crab cakes, crafted with North Carolina lump crab meat, as an example, but noted the restaurant will continue to offer casual fare like burgers and sandwiches as well.
Have a tip for Restaurant Roundup? Email us at [email protected].