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Updated: Jul 1, 2022

Dram Yard, Arrive Hotel’s signature restaurant, has re-opened after a 10-month hiatus and is kicking off a new menu with the introduction of Executive Chef, Joe Wolfson.

Story by Colleen Thompson and Photos by Mat Ray

Wolfson, a South Carolina native, has been heralded as one of the best new chefs in the country. Showcasing an all-new menu of Wolfson’s creations, Dram Yard will feature a seasonal and ever-changing offering where the peak ingredients of North Carolina’s bounty lead the menu’s direction and flavors.

Wolfson will be bringing his innate Southern palate to Wilmington, where it will mingle with global flavors and honed techniques from France to Thailand, all served in a shareable, small-plate format designed to encourage tasting and exploration. Wolfson’s new focus for Dram Yard centers around comfortable classics with variations that feel bold and well balanced, where simplicity is essential. Still, creativity is sprinkled throughout to keep the dishes fun, approachable, and always flavor-forward. We caught up with Chef Wolfson to find out what makes Dram Yard one of the Port City’s most exciting new eateries.

Dram Yard Executive Chef, Joe Wolfson
Dram Yard Executive Chef, Joe Wolfson

Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to be Executive Chef at Dram Yard?

I grew up surrounded by amazing food; my grandmother and mom were both fantastic cooks, and they inspired me to learn how to cook, which led to me wanting to become a chef. As far as how I came to be at Dram, I saw the opportunity at Dram Yard and did a little research on it, and it was exactly what I was looking for in my next chapter. It was a small intimate restaurant with a desire to serve playful food in a cool up-and-coming city.

What makes Dram Yard unique?

I think our willingness to be different, whether it’s the food or the drinks. We want to execute something special with everything that we create.

What was your inspiration behind the current menu?

My inspiration for the current menu was the space of the restaurant itself. When I first came here for my tasting and was walking around Dram Yard, it had a very modern Thai feel with the elephants everywhere and just the whole vibe of it. So I added a couple of Thai-inspired menu items. The Brussels Sprouts, Whole Fish, Shrimp and Sweet Potato Bisque are all Thai influenced. As far as the rest of the menu, I just wanted to come out swinging with some really fun food to showcase my abilities as a chef.

What local ingredients inspire the menu?

Right now, I’m trying to get as much local seafood as possible. There is some fantastic seafood caught in the waters around this area, and I’m just trying to find ways to show it off and do it justice.

Current favorite dish on the menu? What drink (wine, beer, or cocktail) would you pair with it?

It’s hard to say which dish is my favorite as I’m delighted with how our opening menu turned out. It’s super well-rounded and is just a really fun and creative menu. If I were to tell someone the one dish on the menu to try to get a feel for me as a chef, it would either be the beef tartare or the uni carbonara. They are both plays on classics but are done in a way that makes them very unique and different from their predecessors and yet still holds true enough to their roots.

With the Beef Tartare, I would pair it with our Ghost Town specialty cocktail. It has bold flavors (chili liqueur, tamarind) that mess really nicely. I would drink a glass of the Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner with the Uni Carbonara. It has enough acid to help cut through the richness of the Uni and the cream, with a flavor palate that matches the sea.

How are you liking Wilmington?

I’m still very new to Wilmington, moved here in January, and 100% of my focus has been on making Dram Yard as impressive as possible, so I haven’t had the chance to check out very many places or other restaurants yet. The little I have experienced has been great, though. There seem to be many excellent restaurants here, which is exciting for me as a chef. It means the community is already educated on food and allows me to be very creative and not hold back. It also inspires me to keep moving forward to stand out in an area with other great restaurants.

Are there any events coming up for Spring or Summer that our readers should know about?

We are excited for the re-opening of Gazebo Bar and the additions of brunch and lunch – both coming soon - you can follow @dramyard for the latest details. And we will also be re-opening ARRIVE Wilmington this summer, with refreshed interiors and new programming for locals and guests alike. So stay tuned @arrivehotels for more there.


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