ALLISON POTTER ALLISON POTTER
The choice of South Front was intentional, too. The area is rich in history — the
restaurant is in part of the old Block Shirt Factory — but is being redeveloped with
an eye to the future (see “Reclaiming History,” May 2018 WBM).
“We’re drawn to emerging neighborhoods,” Howard says. “We see great potential
right here. Maybe we’re one of the pioneers here, but I think based on us being here
and being somewhat successful, more businesses will open here.”
Being a pioneer is risky. They could see the potential in an emerging area, but
there was some uncertainty when Benny’s Big Time opened in December 2017.
“We didn’t know what to think, having only opened restaurants in Kinston,”
Howard says. “We didn’t have a template that relates to anywhere else.”
Even so, it’s probably fair to say that if Benny and Big Time did have expecta-tions,
they would have been exceeded.
“The opening was extraordinarily busy,” Knight says. “We thought it was fantastic
to be so well received. At the same time, there were long waits and when folks have to
be here two hours for a table, that’s a long time. We’ve settled into more of a pattern.
There’s not a wait every night, but we are full for an extended period, which is great.
And the reviews keep getting more and more positive. The majority of the (patron)
reviews are 5-star reviews, acknowledging an experience we’re trying to provide.”
Knight makes the 90-or-so-mile drive from Kinston south to Wilmington at
least once a week. Howard tries to do that too — when she’s not busy with the TV
show, book tours, Chef & the Farmer, the Boiler Room (their second restaurant in
Kinston), their food truck, working on her second book, or simply being a mom to
“Ben is incredibly hands-on,” she says. “I’m hands-on when I’m here. I travel
quite a lot for show purposes. The Chef & the Farmer needs us, and people want to
see us there. It’s our, I guess, first child.”
WBM FILE PHOTO
The food and the atmosphere are intended
to make Benny’s Big Time feel like a neigh-borhood
restaurant. The restaurant is
located in a part of the former Block Shirt