Chapman’s Food & Spirits

04 Feb 2020

157 E. New Hampshire Ave.
Southern Pines, NC

Comfortable and casual with an imaginative and creative menu

By RAY LINVILLE  »  Photos by Mollie Tobias

The hardest part of opening Chapman’s Food & Spirits in downtown Southern Pines in 2015 for co-owners Kitty Hopkins and chef Peter Hamm might have been picking the name.

What typically is the hardest – the business plan – for most new owners proved to be a cinch because they each brought important but different talents. His extensive experience as an executive chef and her managerial background in the food service industry were ideal complements.

As they were opening Chapman’s,
they knew that they were creating something special.

“The business plan was very conservative because this area is so tough on new restaurants,” Hopkins says. “We had to come out the gate as a winner.

“But in the first week, we knew that we had hit it out of the park. I think we did everything right. When you get repeat customers, you know that you’re doing something perfect.”

In what they define as the “casual concept” of food and spirits, their approach is quite creative.

Locals who have become regular patrons appreciate knowing that their favorite appetizers, sandwiches, salads and pastas are always being served.

“We feature a lot of American comfort food as well as Thai-infused and Italian dishes,” Hamm says.

The Hamm Burger is one of several imaginative sandwiches. Served in a brioche bun with the chef’s special blend of ground chuck, short rib and beef brisket, it is topped with caramelized onions, pork belly and a gorgonzola spread.

The fish taco, a signature item, features blackened fish with kimchi, cole slaw, tropical salad, shredded cheese, lettuce and wasabi.

Among the “greens and things,” my favorite is the beet salad with yellow roasted beets, spinach, potatoes, green beans, fresh mozzarella, kalamata olives and balsamic vinaigrette.

A close second is the cranberry pecan salad with mixed greens, crumbled feta cheese, cranberries, candied pecans, french fried onions and balsamic vinaigrette.

However, on Saint Patrick’s Day, I will stay traditional. Chapman’s take on corned beef and cabbage will be a special, and it’s is the best. “Instead of cabbage, it’s served with Brussel sprouts. We will go through about 80 pounds of them,” Hamm says.

The “hearty fare” of the regular menu includes the intriguing Dr. Pepper pork ribs. Other popular selections are steaks (New York strip and ribeye), pastas (marinara, a la vodka and Bolognese) and “lobsta mac.”

Of the appetizers, the signature one is “lobsta fries,” which Chapman’s describes as “wickedly good” and is another indication of Hamm’s playful and appetizing imagination. “I prepared lobster in so many different ways in the Bahamas. The lobsta fries really grabs people. It’s way too big, but I can’t shrink it now,” he says.

The regular menu is only part of the story at Chapman’s. “Every day we have up to eight specials that are not on the menu,” Hamm says.

“With the daily additions that we offer, anyone can find something to eat here that they like. We are everything you would want in a restaurant. That’s why we built it, and we’re very kid and family friendly,” Hopkins adds.

The kids’ menu – with pasta marinara and pasta alfredo along with other more typical options for children – keeps the junior diners happy.

Families in particular enjoy dining outside in front of Chapman’s on the tree-lined street among charming vintage buildings. The spacious area includes three live edge, natural wood tables, a large table with four benches as well as a picnic table. “I just love seeing the groups outside. It’s part of our casual, comfortable atmosphere. People stop by with their strollers and dogs,” Hopkins says.

Inside Chapman’s in the warm and inviting bar and dining areas, families and friends gather as they enjoy signature cocktails as original as the food menu. International and domestic wines are also available as are local and national beers and after-dinner cocktails.

Hamm and Hopkins each arrived at their shared destination as co-owners from different aspects of the culinary and hospitality world.

“I’ve cooked all over the world,” Hamm says of his journey that includes stints as executive chef in Michigan, the Bahamas and the Sandhills as well as an internship in Scotland.

After opening several high-end restaurants for others, he decided the time to open his own had come. “I’d been cooking since I was 14, and I’d opened so many properties – about seven restaurants. I’d been doing it for everyone else. It was time to start my own,” he says.

In Hopkins, he found the ideal business partner. After working several years for local restaurants and making their customers happy, she then helped restaurant managers and chefs to improve their profitability and customer satisfaction as a territory manager with a food service company.

One of the many important contributions that Hopkins makes is Chapman’s extensive community involvement. “We do a lot of fundraisers,” she says. “If they benefit cancer research, the military, teachers, kids, and similar groups, we participate.”

Chapman’s stays open seven days a week (except for a few select holidays when it’s closed) because “we want our customers to know that we’re always available. Plus it keeps everything fresh and moving,” Hamm explains.

With the successful beginning that Chapman’s has had and has continued for its first three years, it’s hard to believe that picking a name for the restaurant was that difficult.

“The name is everything,” says Hopkins. “You can’t pick a name that customers don’t identify with.”

Hamm adds, “It actually took us four months to pick the name. By the way, it’s my middle name as well as a family name from my father’s side. In Old English, it means merchant or trader. That’s pretty cool, don’t you think? And it really fits.”

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