Filly & Colt’s at Little River

06 Jun 2019

500 Little River Farm Blvd., Carthage, NC

Filly & Colt’s masters both the restaurant and banquet business, and everything in between

By Ray Linville  »  Photos by Don McKenzie 

Much like an elephant being described by blind men in the ancient Buddhist fable, Filly & Colt’s Restaurant at Little River would be described differently by a bride, corporate or government executive, golfer, tourist, local resident, family celebrating a special event, or neighborhood party.

For a bride, Filly & Colt’s is the perfect place for a wedding and reception with abundant indoor and outdoor space on its beautiful, waterfront country club property that has a rich equestrian history. “We can accommodate up to 300,” says Karen Littlefield, who with husband Jon are the restaurant’s owners. “There are not a lot of places in the Sandhills that can serve that many.”

Weddings at Filly & Colt’s range from the traditional to the unusual. “We do a wedding the bride’s way. One rode in and was married on horseback. Another bride went down the aisle with her two puppies. We’ve even made a wedding cake using the grandmother’s spice cake recipe,” Littlefield says.

When a bride wants a casual atmosphere, Black Horse Bar and Grille, an integral part of the main restaurant, is the scene of small weddings. “After the DJ sets up, the dance floor comes alive,” she explains.

“We’ve also had a ‘hurricane’ wedding. Florence was not invited last fall but showed up anyway. It was a small family wedding, about 100. Somehow, we didn’t lose electricity when no one else in the area had it. By God, we had power, and we had a wedding!” 

Because Filly & Colt’s is listed on WeddingWire, a planning website, Littlefield often is contacted by out-of-state brides. “A bride in Tennessee with a fiancé in Virginia picked us because we’re in the Sandhills, right in the middle of the two families. They relied on us and didn’t have to find vendors to pull off a wedding for 200 people. We have it all – food, linens, tables, rooms, tents, flowers, bar, dance floor – and we have weddings down to a science,” she adds.

With six breakout rooms, Filly & Colt’s often is used for seminars by corporate and governmental groups because it can also provide continental breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The restaurant has hosted state conventions, training sessions, regional meetings, and several multi-day events. On-site condos for lodging are a plus, although they are managed separately by the resort.

Golfers, tourists, and local residents are a main focus of the restaurant. “Rainy days are not good for golfers but are really good for the bar business. And we have really good food…people must be satisfied because they keep coming back!” Littlefield exclaims.

The well-rounded menu includes tempting appetizers, salads, sandwiches, entrees, and sides. On Fridays, a Calabash seafood platter is served. Sunday brunches from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. feature omelet and carving stations and an array of desserts. Easter and Mother’s Day are special holidays that bring family groups to the restaurant as does Thanksgiving, when the Littlefields served 650 guests last year – “all from noon to 8 p.m. We had table service downstairs and a buffet upstairs in the Buckingham Room, which overlooks the water,” Littlefield says, describing the logistics of serving so many diners.

Filly & Colt’s, which is closed only on Mondays, also is popular for neighborhood parties, especially around Christmas for groups from 25 to 300. “We’ve had as many as five parties going on at the same time. We start getting reservations in July,” she says. In addition to on-site events, the restaurant also offers off-site catering for groups from 15 to 1,000.

Although she grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa., Littlefield’s culinary journey began decades ago in Carolina Beach when she was part owner of Landmark, a casual food and beverage establishment on the boardwalk. “I was very young, and it was open 24 hours a day,” she reminisces about the long hours that she worked, but it gave her the bug to pursue other ownership opportunities in the food industry.

After leaving Carolina Beach, she entered into a formal culinary apprenticeship in Charlotte, and then was fortunate to land a position at The Peninsula Club, a full-service, membership-owned country club on Lake Norman where a “very kind” executive chef mentored her next steps.

“I wanted to learn. I had the curiosity and passion – and I still do – to watch and listen, take a recipe and make it. There are so many interesting paths in the restaurant business – but first you have to have passion,” Littlefield remarks.

After stints as a restaurant owner in Florida and Virginia, she and her husband moved to the Sandhills to be close to family. After working at the restaurant at Longleaf Golf Course in Southern Pines, Littlefield began looking for another ownership opportunity. 

After almost buying one location, the Littlefields bought the Longleaf restaurant about six years ago and changed its name to Filly & Colt’s where it continued to operate until they moved it three years ago to Little River Golf and Resort in Carthage to accommodate more wedding and banquet requests with a larger space. At Longleaf, their maximum capacity had been 75.

As the couple’s business keeps growing, new ownership challenges always present themselves. Littlefield has observed a lot: “The industry has changed so much in my lifetime. The responsibilities of a restaurant owner have grown tremendously.”

The curiosity and passion for owning a restaurant are still with Littlefield, too. They must be because she starts every workday at 5 a.m.

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