Bobby Zimmerman, owner of True Blue Butcher & Table, announced Wednesday that he and his team plan to open Mariposa Tapas Bar in Wilmington's South Front District this spring.
Located at 1502 S. Third St., in the building formerly occupied
by Love, Lydia Bakery & Cafe, Mariposa is designed to create an authentic Spanish dining experience, serving traditional tapas and carefully selected wines.
Chef Zimmerman said he has always been a huge fan of Spanish cuisine and is excited about sharing his love of tapas with Wilmington.
He selected the name Mariposa, which means "butterfly" in Spanish, because he views this building as the gatekeeper to the South Front District.
Mariposa will feature vibrant colors designed to welcome visitors to the neighborhood. Because the interior of the building is small, Zimmerman expects most of the activity will take place on the wraparound porch and in the courtyard, where there will be a fire pit and lounge area.
Zimmerman said he never could have imagined that True Blue would have stayed as busy as it did throughout 2020. The restaurant’s sales increased significantly over 2019 despite the fact that the restaurant was closed for over two months.
“We made it through two hurricanes and a pandemic during our first three years in business, so we said, ‘What do we want to do to make this more difficult?’” Zimmerman joked. “We love a challenge. It’s part of our mantra and the way we do business.”
Zimmerman said that when True Blue reopened last June, he realized immediately that he and his team needed to do things differently and diversify as much as possible to generate income. As part of his philosophy of giving, he quickly worked to set up events with local not-profits such Nourish NC for their Gala to Go, and more recently with A Safe Place for a Valentine’s Day event.
He has also been partnering with other local businesses such as End of Days Distillery and Casa Blanca Coffee Roasters for socially distanced pop-up events and collaborations. True Blue has also launched a line of DIY kits under the True Blue Home label.
Zimmerman said that following discussions over the past few years with Mark Maynard Sr. and Mark Maynard Jr. from Tribute Properties and Steve Hall from Wilmington-based commercial real estate firm Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Co., the time was finally right to to be a part of the continued development of the South Front District.
While he did entertain the idea of keeping the space as a bakery, he felt a tapas bar would help to round out the area’s offerings by creating a space where guests can have a drink and a bite to eat before perhaps moving on to one of the district’s other restaurants or bars.
“Our goal is to really make people feel like they are in Spain,” Zimmerman said. “It will be a social gathering place where people can’t help but laugh and be joyful.
"One of the things that is most exciting to me is the look of surprise people will have when they order a glass of wine and realize that they get complimentary tapas with it. People are going to think it is so exciting, yet that’s just how tapas is done in Spain.”
Zimmerman explained that tapas has been a hot concept in the U.S. for about 15 years, though it has morphed into more of a small plate concept.
“Really they’re two different things,” Zimmerman said. “We intentionally tried not to interpret anything on the menu in order to keep it as authentic as possible, with just one exception, the Bocadillo Cheeseburgers.”
Because True Blue has become synonymous with $5 burgers on Wednesday nights, Zimmerman has developed a Spanish cheeseburger for Mariposa featuring ‘Nduja, a spicy spreadable salami, and imported Manchego cheese that will be available on the lunch menu as well as for the $5 burger on Wednesday nights.
As with True Blue Butcher & Table, Zimmerman said he has made sure that Mariposa’s menu will include the highest quality ingredients, all hand selected.
They will be making their own chorizo with local pork from Lady Edison and imported Spanish paprika, and working with a Manhattan-based importer that specializes in “best-in-class” ingredients, he said.
An anticipated favorite on the menu will be the Gambas Al Ajillo, an authentic tapas made with garlic, chilies and pipparas.
For daily updates regarding Mariposa, follow it on Instagram at @mariposa_tapas or on Facebook at @MariposaTapasBar. For more information, visit www.mariposatapas.com.