Here's an investment property you never guessed would pay off: Billy Bass. It sang, "Take Me to the River." Ever heard of it? Unfortunately, I had.
And just like that, Dan Ferguson, owner of the Original Q Shack in Durham, pushed the Play button on one of those plastic, battery-operated, trophy-mounted largemouths that permeated popular culture about 10 years ago. Ferguson refers to the Billys as "annoying little things." Nonetheless, he plans to hang them on the walls of his new restaurant, Fish Shack (2512 University Drive, Durham). He and partner Turner Lawrence will open the Fish Shack in the former home of Rockwood Filling Station Pizzeria in early April. Bring in a Billy, and the partners will give you a basket of catfish in exchange.
The Big Mouth Billy Basses will be part of a décor meant to recall the fried-fish huts of Ferguson's youth in Texas. In this vein, the Fish Shack will welcome photographs of your best catches, too, but those donations will net you only fame, no food. Fish Shack's menu will include fried shrimp and oysters, po'boy sandwiches and low country boils. The art should serve merely as a bonus, unless Ferguson leaves the batteries in those Billy Basses.
The former Rockwood station isn't the only building taking in new tenants, and with them, new foods. The month of May will find PieBird in what was previously Conti's Italian Market (618 N. Person St., Raleigh, 508- 7612, piebirdraleigh.com). The bakery will continue to accept orders for sweet and savory pies. To view their menu, visit the Web site.
Or if you're proud of your own pie, contemplate baking an entry for Hillsborough's second annual pie contest, held monthly between April and September in conjunction with the Hillsborough Arts Council's Last Fridays. For contest rules, go to www.hillsboroughartscouncil.org/HillsboroughPieContest. If you're not into baking, for $2 you can sample a slice of the April challenge—chocolate—starting at 7 p.m. on April 30 at Cup a Joe (120 W. King St., Hillsborough). Proceeds will benefit the Hillsborough Arts Council.
If you've somehow missed your allotment of Thin Mints this year, be advised that March 14 is the final day of Girl Scout Cookie season. For a down-to-the-second count of the remaining purchasing time, visit www.nccoastalpines.org. The site offers a link to locations and times of cookie sales in the Triangle.
Looking ahead to April, Triangle Food Tour (www.trianglefoodtour.com, 434-8978) will add tours of downtown Durham to its roster, which now includes Raleigh and Carrboro-Chapel Hill. The three-hour tour will cost about $30 and take participants to between six and eight stops. The first tour will be April 10.
Natty Greene's Pub & Brewing Co. (232-2477, nattygreenesbrewing.blogspot.com) an outpost of the downtown Greensboro favorite, is now open at 505 W. Jones St., just off Glenwood South in Raleigh. The cavernous space is full of warm wood and exposed brick, and the brewmaster makes a dozen beers on-site. Among the best is the seasonal Freedom American Strong Pale Ale, even though it sounds like something Sean Hannity would splash on in the morning.