How an unassuming oyster shack inspired two trips to play several McConnell properties — and more to come.
The creator of the Sunny Side Turnaround is a CPA whose organizational skills calculated the excursion down to the dollar, mile, and hour. But in the end, it all started because Kent McLamb just wanted some oysters. The desire for a seafood run morphed into a golf trip, and it was the brainchild of McLamb, the chief deputy at the N.C. Office of the State Auditor and a member of Raleigh Country Club. His job often took him to Elizabeth City, N.C., and during those trips, he’d drive past Sunny Side Oyster Bar in Williamston, N.C. The restaurant is a simple clap-board building yet an iconic local spot. But McLamb never stopped, and he was determined to remedy that.
“If you didn’t know about it, you wouldn’t pull in the parking lot,” says Sam Sparks, a member at TPC Wakefield Plantation and part of the first official Sunny Side Turnaround.
“Most people, when they take a McConnell trip, go to Asheville and Knoxville,” says McLamb. “But I was looking at Brook Valley in Greenville, and wondered what would make it a worthwhile trip besides just driving to Greenville, playing golf, and coming back. Then I saw Williamston on the map.”
The plan was to play TPC Wakefield on Friday afternoon, drive 95 miles on U.S. 64 East to Sunny Side, have dinner, stay in Williamston, and drive 40 minutes to Brook Valley for a mid-morning Saturday tee time. After the round, they’d drive back to Raleigh and be home mid-afternoon.
Before he sprung this idea on anyone else, McLamb and his brother, Donnie, went on a test run last November. Declaring the trip a success, the two brothers were joined by Sparks and Kent’s brother-in-law, Gale Adams, in late April for the official Sunny Side Turnaround.
Golf was certainly a big part of the trip, but the destination of emphasis was the Sunny Side. “If you’re looking for a white table cloth kind of place, it probably wouldn’t be your speed,” says McLamb.
The Sunny Side Oyster Bar has been serving fresh seafood in eastern N.C. since 1935. It’s only open in months with an “r,” which means it opens for the season in September and closes at the end of the following April, mainly with an hour or more wait on the weekends.
Oysters are the main attraction and are served only two ways: steamed or raw. They’re accompanied by Sunny Side’s secret hot sauce. Shrimp, scallops, and crab legs make up the rest of the menu. And if you insist on something green, you can get broccoli with cheese sauce. That’s it.
“At most seafood restaurants, you could get a hush puppy or cole slaw,” says Sparks. “Not at the Sunny Side. The food was great and we had the best time. We’ll be doing that again.”
They returned to Raleigh at about 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, as calculated. “You feel like you’ve had a full weekend, but you still have a lot of your Saturday and all day Sunday to do whatever you want for the rest of the weekend,” says McLamb