building of distinction
Garage-style doors roll up, bringing the outside in
and opening up the views to the river. The coastal-
Carolina inspired architecture is seen in the exposed
trusses and rafter tails. The rustic feel was achieved
with wood floors and ceilings, natural wood tables
and chairs, and corrugated tin on the bar.
are looking across at the islands. It’s a great color
composition. It’s a little more idyllic and pastoral of
The exceptional view is definitely the star attraction
here — and ironically why restaurateur James Smith
was at first reluctant to move into the building.
“When I first moved here, my rule was if it has a
view don’t eat there, just because a lot of people pay
for the view,” Smith says. “The food tends to suffer
a little bit. Allan business partner Allan Middleton
located this spot out here and I couldn’t turn it down.
I figured I’d break my own rule and come out here a
Early, as in before much of the community is com-plete.
RiverLights eventually will be a sprawling com-munity
of 2,200 single-family homes, but that’s a few
a restaurant in the early stages of a development,
but so far it’s paying off.
“We stay constantly busy,” he says. “The worst
part is telling people on Wednesday they can’t get a
reservation for Friday.”
Smith and business partner Allan Middleton also
own Fork N Cork, the downtown Wilmington
brunch and burgers establishment located a couple
of blocks from a completely different stretch of the
river. Smith originally planned to do another Fork N
Cork on the site, but changed his mind after seeing
the location and the under-construction restaurant.
“I came out one day and you could barely see the
gazebo because there was so much mist on the water,”
Smith says. “Somebody from Newland had actually
suggested Smoke on the Water as a name, and it just
clicked at that moment. We’re going to do barbecue,
you’re on the water, smoke on the water. It sort of
made sense, and people liked it.”
The river here is wide, probably five times wider
than it is downtown. There’s an island in the
middle, drawing the eye onward to the tree-lined
and mostly undeveloped bank on the Brunswick
“The water’s edge here is loaded with vegetation,”
says Jim Henry, Newland’s vice president of opera-tions.
“The edge is green, the water is blue, and you
years off. About 125 houses have been sold since the
development officially opened in December.
Smith might have been taking a chance on open-ing