Symbiosis in OIB
The PubScout discovers Chunky Salsa restaurant and its neighboring bar, The Chubby Buddha, in Ocean Isle Beach.
The scientific definition of symbiosis is when two separate and distinct organisms live off of — and complement — each other. The street definition is a cooperative relationship (as between two persons or groups).
And that’s exactly what’s happening at Odell Williamson Airport in OIB.
The first building air travelers see is a large red structure, and it contains two distinct businesses adjacent to each other: The Chubby Buddha, an intimate, local bar, and Chunky Salsa, a Latin kitchen specializing in fresh, tasty tacos, salsas and other Mexican-inspired dishes. Chunky Salsa takes pains to let you know that it is decidedly not a Mexican or Tex-Mex business, but una taqueria autentica specializing in street-style freshness.
What makes their relationship symbiotic is simple: Chubby Buddha serves no food, and Chunky Salsa serves no alcohol. If you’re in one place and want what’s in the other, you have to use the old ankle express to get it and bring it back.
Both places are relatively small, though Chunky Salsa is smaller. Much of Chunky Salsa’s business is takeout, but there are a few tables available outdoors and also for dine-in. Regardless, the food is fresh, unique and very tasty.
Karina, an owner (Charmay is the other), chef and a Brunswick County resident for 30 years shares this:
“Chunky Salsa was created in a small kitchen down a back road, in Ash, North Carolina, hoping to become a new household name. We are bringing flavor in a different way, combing the Carolinas Southern style with a Latin twist. Where fried chicken meets salsa verde, roasted potatoes are topped with guacamole and the watermelon gets grilled. Using the freshest ingredients and unique style to create a flavor you will never forget.”
Chunky Salsa’s tag line is Food with Character. I concur. Though I’ve never hoisted a pint in the Chubby Buddha, those in the know tell me its tag line could be A Pub with Characters.
If the clientele is anything like that of Tap Time across the street, I don’t doubt the description for a minute. But I’ll save the Chubby Buddha for a review somewhere down the road, probably after my first flying lesson at the airport. I’m certain the instructor and I will definitely need a few drinks.
This review, though, is about two hard-working gals who wanted to bring a culture’s unique food flavors to her neighbors in southeastern Brunswick County. To say they have succeeded is an understatement. When it’s open, the place sees a steady stream of customers, and when it’s not open, it enjoys an enviable reputation for quality among the local cognoscenti.
People are definitely talking about Chunky Salsa.
Take the Shrimp Salsa we tried on our first visit. The dish screamed FRESH, and the seasonings were out of this world. The shrimp were perfectly done and delectable, making us each wish we weren’t sharing the dish. We swore to go back just for that bit of “culture.”
Karina’s best-selling taco, according to her, is called The Birria. It’s a traditional, slow-cooked pulled pork (or beef) taco, tossed in a flavorful (and secret) rojo sauce, with melted mixed cheeses, diced onions and cilantro. Dip it in that secret rojo sauce to for extra juicy flavor. And take extra napkins. It’s also known as the “Cali Melt.” And it’s large. I almost thought I’d be taking half of it home. Almost. No sense bringing home and empty doggie bag, though.
The Missus got a Wildflower Taco with sauteéd cauliflower, sliced avocado, lime purple cabbage and a house mango pureé. No doggie bag for her, either.
The problem is that there are so many enticing dishes, but stomach capacity is limited.
Of course, you could always attend one of Karina’s special cooking classes — for groups or single chefs. That way, whatever you make in whatever quantities you make it is already at home.
As one who’s been known to let Chef Boy-ar-dee do his solo cooking at home, I think I’ll leave it to Karina. And I’ll just drive the half mile and get Chunky Salsa.
Want to go?
5990 Beach Drive SW, Ocean Isle Beach