This Napkins: Farm(ers Market) To Table In Hope Mills post is sponsored.
There seems to be so much less community now than there has been in the past. Sure, social media has a way of bringing the world together, but it also draws us away from our local community.
So that’s why it makes me super happy to see things that are hyper local, like Sunday brunch at Napkins, the on-site restaurant at Dirtbag Ales.
Chef and owner Brian Graybill shops the local farmers market that’s on-site on Sundays, cooks the food right there, and serves it to people who are at the brewery. Can’t get more local than that unless he himself was growing the food.
And, actually, as we were talking to him outside of Napkins, both Pete and I noticed kale growing in large potting urns, but neither of us thought to ask if it was going in our brunch. But maybe it is that local.
Napkins: Farm(ers Market) To Table In Hope Mills
Napkins (5435 Corporation Drive, Hope Mills) is the brain child of Fayetteville‘s Brian Graybill. He spent the majority of the last decade and a half working in three restaurants, starting in the inflexible world of a corporate restaurant. It was good as far as large corporations go, he said, but there was no creativity. You had to make the same meals using the same recipes and ingredients as every restaurant in the chain.
So he left after almost five years to work at a local Italian restaurant and then its sister shop. There, his window was still narrow (he had to make Italian food, after all), but he was able to be creative with the specials. As long as they were Italian.
Fast forward about nine years. He had become friendly with the owners of Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Taproom. They would come into the restaurant, chat about how construction on the new 5-acre brewery was going, and pick his brain about the on-site kitchen that was already allocated to someone else.
“If it doesn’t work out with that guy, let me know. I’d love to do something there,” Brian said (roughly; this isn’t an exact quote.) See, after nine years at the Italian restaurants, he was getting itchy. That was longer than his marriage, longer than his time in the service, longer than anything he had done. So he shot his shot.
And, as luck would have it, he was told that it actually wasn’t working out with the original restaurant.
So Napkins at Dirtbag Ales was born.
Go for the farmers market, stay for the food
Every Sunday, Dirtbag Ales hosts a local farmers market. There are vendors who sell fresh farm products, like chorizo and eggs, and ones who sell handcrafted wares like Upcycle Candle Company.
Wait … let me take a small aside for a minute.
We walked through the farmers market on Sunday, as Napkins owner Brian Graybill does each Sunday. And we stopped and smelled the candles and flameless freshers at Upcycle Candle Company. The Champagne Pear fresher was amazing. I had absolutely intended on picking it up and bringing it back to Wilmington with us. But we got so distracted by our food and drinks (plus Sunday football), lost track of time, and next thing I knew the market was over and we didn’t go back to buy anything.
Anyway … where was I?
Yes. Shopping the market.
So Brian will shop the market when it opens at 10am … and he’s basically on an episode of Chopped. He generally doesn’t know what the vendors will have before they get there. So he will shop and see one of the vendors has catfish. But not just a handful of catfish. Enough catfish that Brian can purchase it, serve it as fried cornmeal-crusted catfish to some of the hundreds of people who are at Dirtbag Ales on a typical Sunday, and then show them the vendor who sells is so they can buy some.
Because as much as Brian wants to sell his food (I mean, that’s the goal of any restaurant that wants to succeed), he also wants to help the vendors sell their products too. So he prepares meals where the ingredients stand out. They’re not hidden under sauces.
Customers can eat these amazing meals, knowing the products came from within 50 miles of their home, and then pick up the ingredients, bring them home, and eat local. Again.
Brunch is served at Napkins from about noon until it runs out, which is typically around 2pm. Napkins closes for an hour as the restaurant flips over for lunch. And, for about an hour or so, customers can get lunch items like the cheeseburger (seriously, get the cheeseburger, it comes highly recommended) and whatever comes into Brian’s brain that day.
See, half the menu is similar every day — including burgers, like the Dirt Burger made with house-made kolsch beer cheese and IPA mustard using Dirtbag Ales’ beers, and wraps — and the other half changes daily. So you can order something completely different every time you’re there.
And I really appreciate that. Because if you have a favorite restaurant, eventually you memorize the menu. You get one when you sit because that’s just how restaurants work, but you already know what you’re going to have as soon as you decide to go there.
But with Napkins, there’s an element of surprise. Maybe you’ll get a burger, or maybe this is the day chicken sausage-stuffed pastelitos are on the menu. Or ceviche. Or barbacoa eggrolls. Or crab-topped tater tots.
I’m serious about all those, by the way. Including the crab tots. Which were n the menu, but we missed them by about a week and the regret of not living in Fayetteville so I can eat Napkins every day, like the regret for missing the aforementioned air freshener, is real.
What we won’t miss is Napkin’s German Christmas Market menu. Dirtbag Ales is hosting its annual German Christmas Market on December 12 and 13.
Napkins sometimes has to flip its menu based on events, which is cool. In September, Dirtbag Ales held a Puerto Rican festival and Napkins served authentic cuisine. And the following week, Napkins was transformed into a German restaurant because of Oktoberfest. So that creative space Brian was missing from his past jobs? He made it for himself here.
Want to check out Napkins?
Address: 5435 Corporation Drive, Hope Mills
Save at Napkins Restaurant
You can save at Napkins Restaurant when you purchase a Restaurant.com certificate for the restaurant. Click that link and you can get a $10 certificate for $4, a $15 certificate for $6, or a $25 certificate for $10.