[Photo: James and Kimberly Stewart are new business owners opening a restaurant on Main Street.]
By Catharin Shepard • Editor • Downtown Raeford is getting a brand-new restaurant that will serve up barbecue and a family-friendly atmosphere, brought to life by a couple with close ties to Hoke County and the restaurant business.
James and Kimberly Stewart are opening Stewart’s Tavern at 116 North Main Street, in the former Downtown by Rockfish Creek Winery restaurant space. Stewart’s Tavern will serve classic barbecue fare including pulled pork, smoked brisket and ribs, sides such as collard greens, baked beans and macaroni and cheese and sweet treats like banana pudding.
The restaurant is planning to open its doors this weekend, Saturday, November 4, at 11 a.m., after the Stewarts spent the better part of three months working quickly to prepare for the big day.
Kimberly Stewart was born and raised in Raeford and worked her first job at Home Food. James Stewart is from Fayetteville and comes from a long line of restauranteurs.
“I’ve had years of experience in restaurants, and it’s kind of been a passion. We had the opportunity to open our own restaurant, and we decided to jump to it and go for it,” Stewart said.
Stewart will be the head cook for the restaurant. He’s worked in restaurants since he was in college, including working all the way to Ocracoke before he moved back to the Sandhills area.
“His grandma owned a restaurant when he was a child and my late Grandaddy McNeill helped cook in the Navy in World War II, so I know they’d both be proud,” Kimberly Stewart said.
The new business owners want to make Stewart’s Tavern a warm and welcoming place where people can bring their family, have a date night or come to watch a game.
Mrs. Stewart works as an oncology nurse, and said she loves helping people and making connections, similar to the restaurant business.
The Stewarts received encouragement to open Stewart’s Tavern from the owners of Fowler’s Barbecue, a well-known restaurant that served customers for many years on Rowan Street in Fayetteville.
“We kind of became friends with them and connected with them, bought some of their old stuff, and now they’re mentoring us on how they made their stuff,” Mrs. Stewart said. “Kind of the science of smoking.”
Smoked sausage and smoked chicken, along with the smoked brisket, pulled pork and ribs will all feature highly on the menu. Chicken wings, salads and sandwiches are also offered, among other items. The restaurant will offer specials, too.
Barbecue meats are sold by the half or full pound and come with house pickles and cornbread. The menu lists pulled pork at $10, brisket at $16 and a half rack of ribs at $16.50. Sides range from $2.50 to $3, or a full pint for $6.50-$7.50 depending on the item. Appetizers, salads and sandwiches range from about $8-$12.
Fans of the former Downtown restaurant will see some changes to the décor, including a fresh coat of paint to bring out a new vibe.
“We wanted it more casual and moody, more like a tavern. More comfortable to hang out,” Mrs. Stewart said.
“Kind of an industrial look going on with a nice cozy feel,” Stewart added.
Among the additions is a new check-out counter at the back of the store to get people in and out faster at lunch.
The owners plan to host fun events like trivia nights on Wednesdays and football nights on Sundays, and live music. Stewart’s Tavern will be open every day except Tuesday from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. with a full menu until close, and a full bar with wine, beer and liquor.
The Stewarts decided to open Stewart’s Tavern because they wanted to bring more offerings to downtown.
“I’m from here and I love little Raeford. It needed something else,” Mrs. Stewart said.
The location on Main Street gets lots of traffic, and has free on-street parking along the historic business district.
“I just like to cook for people and make them happy. They leave with a full belly and a smile on their face,” Stewart said.
Stewart’s Tavern with the full menu is online at www.stewartstavern.com and on Facebook under the same name.