Quoth the Raven — Evermore!
Poe’s Tavern in Wrightsville Beach is an entire restaurant dedicated to the love of Edgar Allan Poe.
Full disclosure: I have been an Edgar Allan Poe fanatic since 1961.
It began after I read a story about a maniac who killed an old guy just because he didn’t like his eye, then cut him up and buried his heart under the floorboards.
Today such an act seems rather commonplace if you read the right news sources. But back then, it was reasonable to ask, “Who does that?”
Of course, guilt got the better of the murderer, and he wound up revealing his crime to the local constabulary. But I was hooked.
In the years that followed, I read everything I could find that was written by the ill-fated inventor of the detective story. When you are 13 years old, that gory, crazy stuff is attractive.
And as the years progressed, I found Edgar Allan Poe to be very helpful in doing my term paper writing assignments both in high school and college. I went on to a career that allowed me to teach other high schoolers about his life and work (with a far more nuanced perspective, of course), but the old fascination with the Master of the Macabre remained.
Imagine my joy, then, when I learned there was an entire restaurant operation that seemed to be as nuts about Poe as I was.
There are four Poe’s Taverns, each dedicated to the guy whose literary brilliance was matched only by the relative brevity of his life.
And one of them is right here in Wrightsville Beach. Known for their succulent burgers, available in beef, chicken and veggie form, the menu is a cornucopia of food named after many of Poe’s most famous stories or poems.
The restaurant itself has walls that are covered with Poe pictures, quotes and art. Even the bathrooms have stories pasted on the walls and posters highlighting his most famous works. Shucks, on my visit to the necessary, there was a voice over the intercom system reading “The Raven” in dramatic form.
But while those touches meant a great deal to this Poe-phile, it’s the service, food — and a very extensive beer list — that keep folks coming back to any restaurant.
Poe’s Tavern shines in all three categories.
Our server was the bright and cheery Anna, who informed me that her last name was decidedly NOT Bell-Lee. Unlike the namesake of Poe’s famous poem, Anna was friendly, efficient — and alive, though likely as beautiful.
She advised that Poe’s in-house ground burgers were definitely a must-try, so I ordered “The Sleeper,” which honored a poem about a love that lasted beyond the grave, as many of Poe’s poems do.
The missus ordered a veggie “Raven,” (everybody knows that one), Lisa ordered a chicken “Pit and the Pendulum” (everybody knows that one, too), and Ray ordered a “Black Cat,” which most people also know. Solid kudos all around.
The portions were not Hop-Frog size, however, but big enough to allow us to skip dinner.
I was the only one who ordered beer (surprise, surprise!), but Mythic Brewing’s The Phoenix paired superbly with my Sleeper. And those french fries? To die for. I think they even won some French Fry Award in the past.
We dined inside, but it was a delightful afternoon on a gorgeous day in Wrightsville Beach, and Poe’s Tavern patio was packed with Poe lovers. Though I scanned carefully, I did not see anyone who was wearing The Masque of the Red Death (remember that one?) or Monsieur Valdemar, who was hypnotized in articulo mortis — at the point of death — and kept alive for a few weeks, until — well, never mind.
Poe’s literary legacy is pretty solid, even if his life was tragic up to the end. Read his poem “Alone” to understand why he was the way he was. And please tell me you know why the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens are named that.
On the way home, the drawbridge that allows access to Wrightsville Beach was open — perhaps to allow the swirling maelstrom at Lofoden (A Descent into the Maelstrom) to subside.
With Poe’s famous quote about ale in mind (What care I how time advances? I am drinking ale today!”), I settled in for the ride back to OIB. The missus asked, “Would you ever come back here?”
Quoth the Raven — Evermore!
Want to go?
212 Causeway Drive, Wrightsville Beach
An Interesting Tidbit
There are three other Poe’s Taverns on the East Coast: in Savannah, Georgia; Atlantic Beach, Florida; and Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. That’s the one that’s linked to a story that all Charlestonians believe.
The magnificent bridge that goes from Mt. Pleasant over to Charleston is named the Arthur Ravenell Bridge. Ravenell was a wealthy land owner, whose beautiful 14-year-old daughter, Anna, was already dowered to a rich member of Charleston society.
The young lady was more romantic than that, however. Likely through her brother, she made the acquaintance of a young soldier named Edgar A. “Perry,” aka Edgar Allan Poe.
Poe was stationed at Ft. Moultrie, South Carolina, and he and Anna became romantically involved. Arthur Ravenell, however, was not having his daughter take up with a common soldier, especially one who had been expelled from West Point (and that’s another story!), and he contrived, successfully, to keep them apart.
Poe immortalized his young paramour in the poem “Annabel Lee,” whom he supposedly visited every night as she lay entombed in her “Kingdom by the Sea.”
I wanted my story to be more about the restaurant, so I deigned to incorporate this tidbit — and others I have learned in my decades-long study of this troubled genius who left a lasting legacy on American literature.
Lesson’s over for today, class.