By Connie Leinbach
Austin Daniel thinks Ocracoke is ready for his brand of cooking that has Thai, South Pacific and Middle Eastern influences.
His Stockroom Street Food take-out restaurant in the back end of the Community Store will have a “soft” opening on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 11 and Monday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Regular hours will be daily, except Wednesdays, from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. for breakfast and 11:30 to 3 p.m. for lunch.
A breakfast and lunch place, the menu features a breakfast burrito, cheddar cheese grits bowl, steel-cut oats, tabbouleh, Szechuan Noodles and salads. Turkish breakfast bowls are his partner Misha Sissine’s influence.
Main dishes include pork meatball Banh Mi, Vietnamese chicken salad, super veggie burrito, Thai fish cakes, Bok choy with shitake and oyster mushrooms, and two all-beef, natural hot dogs.
Although Daniel will serve Banh Mi sandwiches, “it’s not a sandwich shop,” he said as he continued to prep while talking to a visitor. There’s no deep fryer and Daniel wants “everything as fresh as possible.”
Street food vendors are typically known for doing one thing and doing it well, he said.
His inspiration started with his love for veggie burritos.
“When I was in art school in San Francisco, I pretty much lived on these every day,” he said. “So, there will be no meat burritos at all.”
Hence his limited menu in the small space that used to house the Graceful Bakery before it was flooded in Dorian.
Originally, Daniel wanted his business to be an actual food truck.
“This Must Be the Place,” was to be its name, which is still incorporated into his logo and an inside neon light.
The Stockroom is so named because this part of the Community Store had been the stockroom. It is now wholly separated from the main area of the community store.
Many years ago, Daniel, who hails from Reidsville, Rockingham County, learned to cook from Tim Fields, who owned the Cat Ridge Deli in the rear of the former Albert Styron’s Store
“He had his (menu) but he also let me play and experiment,” Daniel said about that time. “I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life but that that job was one that’s by far my favorite job ever.”
So now it’s his turn to create a culinary experience and also do his part for the environment with having compostable containers and sourcing food from as many North Carolina venues as possibly.
Daniel, a wood and metal sculptor, recently returned to the island.
He was doing his art thing here in 1999 when “two hurricanes hit that year and wiped me out, so I moved to Chapel Hill,” he said.
The biggest hurricane Ocracoke has seen to date – Dorian in 2019 – brought him back because there was a lot of rebuilding work that he could help with and also teach cooking in the Ocracoke School After-school program.
Then COVID-19 hit, and he wasn’t into teaching via video.
But the opportunity for a restaurant came up and he has spent the last several months building a shop.
Stockroom Street Food will be open at least through Thanksgiving, Daniel said.
Right now, he is asking everyone to wear a mask inside, including those vaccinated, as he wants to do his part in keeping the community and visitors safe.
For those who are unable to mask, online ordering will be available starting Tuesday, Aug. 23, at clover.com/online-ordering/stockroom.