River Road’s Watering Hole

 Amy and Molly Sims, sisters, own Oasis Bar and Grill, running it with family and longtime friends.

Amy and Molly Sims, sisters, own Oasis Bar and Grill, running it with family and longtime friends.

Amy Sims fell in love with Southport 16 years ago after helping a friend and her husband move to the coastal town. “I liked the area and stayed for about a month,” Sims shares of her first encounter with Southport. “When I went back to Michigan, I was ready for a move—so one day I packed up my car and moved down.”

Stuart Sanders, Oasis' chef, favors the Voodoo Shrimp and the shrimp and grits dishes.

Stuart Sanders, Oasis’ chef, favors the Voodoo Shrimp and the shrimp and grits dishes.

Amy lived in Tustin, Michigan, with a populartion of just about 300 people. “And we didn’t even live in town,” she quips. “That’s why I moved here, because when I came, there was nothing.”

Amy’s career has always been within the restaurant industry—in Tustin, fresh fish was always popular. Thus, the transition to seaside Southport was easy. “I’ve been in the restaurant industry for 27 years; I’ve been a manager [in the past], and about 12 years ago I opened the [now closed] Dry Dock in Southport.”

Last year, the spot at 8039 River Road SE kept catching her eye. “The building had been sitting empty for a year and a half to two years,” she explains. “Well, I would drive by it every day, and I’d been looking for a place [to create another restaurant]. My husband, Bill, was like, ‘We should check on it.'”

Voodoo shrimp are served in a broth of butter, beer and spices, paired with French bread toast points.

Voodoo shrimp are served in a broth of butter, beer and spices, paired with French bread toast points.

Though Amy was skeptical because the location isn’t in downtown Southport, she got a good price on the building. “So that kind of made the decision,” she muses.

Six months of renovation later—and Amy’s sister, Molly Sims, moving from Michigan to join as co-owner—Oasis Bar and Grill opened on August 15th, 2013. Light blue-green paint now dons the outside of the restaurant, flagging down passersby from busy River Road. Inside, a soft teal melds with dark wood beadboard to offer a welcoming appeal.

The menu is tailored for the area, offering lots of local seafood. But Amy’s favorite dishes are the Reuben topped with swiss or provolone cheese, the Cape Fear chicken sandwich which features grilled chicken smothered with Oasis’ signature crab dip and melted provolone cheese, and the Voodoo Shrimp dish: shrimp sauteed in a broth of butter, beer, and spices, served with toast points.

The Cape Fear chicken sandwich is smothered with crab dip and melted provolone cheese, served with hand-cut French fries.

The Cape Fear chicken sandwich is smothered with crab dip and melted provolone cheese, served with hand-cut French fries.

The hand-cut French fries and hand-breaded fried pickles are seasoned well and executed perfectly. The breading stays on the pickles with every bite. They are great examples of items that are pedestrian at other eateries.

Voodoo Shrimp is also a favorite of Stuart Sanders, Oasis’ chef who has worked with Amy for many years. “I’ve known Stuart pretty much since I moved here,” she shares. “We’ve worked together almost every single place. He does a great job.”

Fried pickles served with ranch.

Fried pickles served with ranch.

“Amy designed the menu and weeknight dinner specials; I come up with daily lunch specials,” Stuart adds, noting that every dish at Oasis is cooked fresh to order. “I do a turkey melt a lot, and people love it: sliced turkey and cheese, bacon and tomato on sourdough. It’s a good lunch special.”

The Oasis staff is drafting an updated menu for summertime, featuring lighter fare, such as more salads. “We use the French bread [as toast points and] for a couple of sandwiches, the shrimp and oyster po’ boys, and we use it to make our own croutons, too,” Stuart says. “We make all of our dressings—they’re all 100-percent homemade.” The red-wine vinaigrette is a guest favorite.

Stuart has tweaked items here and there in the first few months of the restaurant’s life. “I just put my own spin on things when I see I can make something better—without even really telling anybody, just doing it,” he jokes.

Oasis' shrimp and grits, featuring sauteed shrimp, onions, peppers, and bacon in a heavy cream served over cheese grits.

Oasis’ shrimp and grits, featuring sauteed shrimp, onions, peppers, and bacon in a heavy cream served over cheese grits.

Whether the shrimp and grits recipe is strictly Amy’s or if Stuart has put on a gentle twist, the dish can rival any other shrimp and grits at pricier restaurants. Rich and satisfying, it features bacon, onions, heavy cream, butter, cheese, and a bit of chicken broth. Diced bell pepper kicks up the flavor profile, offering complexity.

At home, Stuart’s preference is for the grill. “I will tell you what I made for Mother’s Day: salmon with a bacon and corn relish that was really, really good. It was a warm relish with just a bit of vinegar,” he offers.

The Black and Bleu Salad features blackened steak on a bed of mixed greens, topped with veggies and bleu cheese crumbles (guests can opt for Vermont white cheddar). Try it with the red-wine vinaigrette, made fresh in-house.

The Black and Bleu Salad features blackened steak on a bed of mixed greens, topped with veggies and bleu cheese crumbles (guests can opt for Vermont white cheddar). Try it with the red-wine vinaigrette, made fresh in-house.

Though it can be hard to reach tourists when one’s restaurant is off the beaten path, Oasis garners a lot of regulars from Boiling Spring Lakes and was very busy on Sundays during football season. Amy started featuring live music on Saturday nights about five months ago, and there have been talks of cornhole touraments to come. The biggest plus: The kitchen stays open ’til 10 p.m.—in this town, that is rare.

“Everybody is very relaxed and cool here,” Stuart reveals. “We have a great atmosphere and it’s family run.”

For more info, visit www.southportoasis.com or call (910) 454-4004.

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Southport Area's Culture & Events Magazine