Evans and Nikki Trawick started the Cape Fear Seafood Company in 2008 to provide fresh, locally caught seafood and Southern-style hospitality. Their dream has now expanded to three restaurants in the Cape Fear region and two franchised locations in Raleigh. But life threw the entrepreneurial couple a curve ball when their 7-year-old daughter, was born with a single ventricle heart and had to endure several open heart surgeries. It inspired the Trawicks to partner with Duke Children's Hospital and establish The Trawick Pediatric Cardiology Research Fund. We spoke to Evans Trawick about Cape Fear Seafood and the journey along the way.
By Rebecca Clothier
Tell us the backstory to Cape Fear Seafood Company.
Fifteen years ago, Wilmington and the surrounding areas needed a seafood restaurant. When I looked around, I didn't see one. That's when the idea behind Cape Fear Seafood Company really was born. Growing up in Pender County and having eaten at some of the institutions Southeastern NC and the NC and SC coastal areas had to offer, I felt it was needed in the market. So we set out to fill that niche. I had been in the restaurant business since I was 17 at that point and still had the energy to come up with a new brand (CFSC) in my early 30's.
What was your background in the food business?
I got my start washing dishes and delivering pizzas in Burgaw at a small-town pizzeria. Eventually, I learned to prep, cook, manage and learn what it would later take to run a successful restaurant. I worked in several kitchens and developed my own style both culinarily and business-wise. I opened my first restaurant at age 27 after returning to the area after college. After running that successfully with my wife Nikki for five years, we decided that a new direction was needed and began opening our original Cape Fear Seafood Company location in Monkey Junction.
What is The Trawick Pediatric Cardiology Research Fund, and what does it do?
This is where our hearts are. My wife and I have been blessed with two beautiful children. Our son Jarrett is a Sophomore in High School and is the best son a father could ask for. He has been the best big brother to his little sister Ande and continues to amaze his mother and me daily with his kindness, passion, and bravery. Ande, our 7-year-old daughter, was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome or a single ventricle heart in layman's terms. She has had to endure three open-heart surgeries since birth, but today looking at her, you would never know it. She is fun, energetic, and a whirlwind of what's exciting at every turn. Nikki and I partnered with Duke Children's Hospital after Ande's birth. The Trawick Pediatric Cardiology Research Fund furthers pediatric cardiology research, not just for single-ventricle patients but also for children with all types of congenital abnormalities heart defects. With the help of the doctors and researchers at Duke, we hope to one day contribute to the lives of those with similar conditions as Ande, based on the research we can help perform.
What makes Cape Fear Seafood unique?
In a word, consistency. CFSC has, from the early years, been able to provide our guests with the same experience day after day, year after year, and now from location to location. We are committed to providing our guests with a comfortable, relaxed dining experience full of innovative flavors and classic dishes, each prepared with attention to detail and an emphasis on Southern hospitality. Our staff does a phenomenal job of taking the vision for Cape Fear and translating it to our guests. Without having some of the best people in the industry working in our locations, none of CFSC's success would have been possible.
How would you describe the food?
Simple, full of flavor, and creative. We take seafood and Southern roots and combine them into a menu that really has something for everyone. So, whether you’re looking for a succulent piece of fresh fish prepared with creamy risotto & asparagus draped with a rich butter sauce or a more traditional fried seafood platter, CFSC has something you will enjoy.
Do you place emphasis on local Cape Fear suppliers?
Yes. CFSC has partnered with local fishmongers from the very beginning. All of our fresh finfish comes from Steve's Seafood in Brunswick County. Steve and his team deliver to our back door 6 days a week in the Wilmington and Waterford locations, and they deliver to our Raleigh locations twice a week. For me personally, nothing beats a fresh piece of fish prepared properly.
What is your current favorite item on your menu?
That really depends on the day. My kids would say the fried shrimp and french fries, my wife the Saltimbocca, and for me, if it's not fish, it would be our signature Shrimp & Grits. We are about to add an appetizer version of our famous Shrimp & Grits to the menu. For each dish sold, we will be donating $1 to the Trawick Pediatric Cardiology Research Fund to continue our efforts to improve the outcomes and treatment options of children with congenital heart defects.
What do you like to do when you're not running Cape Fear Seafood?
I love the outdoors and travel. Unfortunately, since I've spent the last 20+ years in the restaurant business, I haven't been able to travel as much as I'd like, but I hope that changes in the future. Spending time with my family is top on the list as well. We enjoy fishing in the local marshes and wandering around the woods in Pender County when we can.
Do you have any future plans & projects our readers should know about?
Always. I can't divulge too much, but CFSC is always looking for opportunities and ways to bring our brand to more guests. I can say that our Raleigh franchise partners Eddie Elliott and Matt Wivell just opened their second location in Raleigh at the Village District (formerly Cameron Village) back in April of 2021. We are looking for the right spot up there for a third Cape Fear Seafood Company location in Wake County. Eddie and Matt worked here locally for me for years before opening our CFSC locations out of town. They continue to do well and help push the CFSC brand to new levels.