What was once a cupcake retail location will be reopening as a new Wrightsville Beach dining option: as Ceviche’s Inspired Panamanian Restaurant and Bar at the corner of Wrightsville Avenue and Eastwood Road.
Specializing in the South American dish — an appetizer of small pieces of raw fish marinated in lime or lemon juice with onions, peppers and spices — Ceviche’s co-owner Hunter Tiblier lived on the dish growing up in Panama. His father, who worked at the Panama Canal, instilled a love of ceviche.
“My dad has always made it and everyone said his was the best in Panama. I was used to watching him and traveling back to the states to try to make it like him, but it took me years to figure his recipe out,” Tiblier said. “I have been making ceviche for a long time and everyone has always said I should cater or start selling it in a restaurant, but I never took it seriously.”
Recently retired from military service, Tiblier moved from Fayetteville to Wilmington and, while looking for something new to do, found the small storefront at 7210 Wrightsville Ave. with his fiancée and business partner Laura Bay. The building was listed for sale the day before the two traveled to Panama and, while stopping at one of the many roadside stands in Panama, Bay suggested a ceviche restaurant for the Wrightsville Avenue space.
After closing on a lease for the location, the opening process has been slowed by completing necessary building repairs and navigating the New Hanover County Health Department. With no other ceviche restaurants in the region, Tiblier said the health department has been very rigorous with the handling and supply of the raw fish and seafood to be used in the creation of his dishes. Now, nearly finished with the health department requirements, Tiblier said the two are eyeing a mid-July opening.
Once open, diners will order from several types of fresh ceviche, all made by Tiblier in his visible prep area resembling a sushi counter. The varieties Tiblier will prepare include one using the native Panamanian corvina white fish, one with shrimp, a Mediterranean mixture, a combination of shrimp and corvina and one with lobster and coconut.
While there are many different variations of ceviche, Tiblier said his is uniquely Panamanian.
“I have been to ceviche restaurants all over the world and I have never had one like mine other than in Panama,” he said. “In Panama, the ceviche is usually just fish, onion and hot peppers, and I will put a couple other ingredients in like tomato or bell pepper.”
In addition to the ceviche, Tiblier will offer other South American standards like arroz con pollo and ropa vieja. Sides will range from a few different versions of plantains to fresh guacamole.
With the limited space for seating, Tiblier envisions Ceviche’s as largely a take-out establishment with beachgoers stopping in before heading over the Heide Trask Drawbridge.
Hours of operation will begin with 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. For more information about the opening of Ceviche’s, visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.