Best of Wilmington 2015
Discover our readers' favorites for the best Wilmington has to offer. From the city's best restaurant for an after-work dinner to the best kids' clothing store, you'll find them all here! 97 winners, all chosen by you...
By CHRISTINE HENNESSEY and DAVID HOWELL
You don’t get more American than Clam Chowder, and Havana’s won best Chowder on the Island from 2011 to 2014! With locations in Wilmington and Carolina Beach, there is a Havana’s within reach of your home or vacation spot. Other unique dishes include the Crispy Catfish, Horseradish Tuna, and many seafood creations.
Runner-Up: Rucker Johns
Jamaica’s Comfort Zone
Since 2007, Jamaica’s Comfort Zone has served the community authentic Caribbean foods created at the highest level. In a relaxed and laid back atmosphere, the cuisine boasts a wide range of island inspirations as reggae music permeates the restaurant. Curry goat, Brownstew chicken, Jerk chicken, and even oxtail, bring visitors signature flavors they aren’t likely to find elsewhere.
Runner-Up: Lazy Pirate
Possible one of Wilmington’s best kept secrets, Indochine is not so much a restaurant as it is an experience, indoor and out. If you’re an out-of-towner, don’t miss out! The atmosphere and the cuisine are superb. Try one of the curry dishes.
Runner-Up: Blue Asia
Everything from the original flatbread pizzas to the numerous authentic Italian pasta dishes will impress anyone who dines at one of the two locations for Osteria Ciccheti—one in Mayfaire and one on College Road close to Carolina Beach. The O.C. is a great dinner destination.
Runner-Up: Taste of Italy
El Cerro Grande
If you ask several people from around town their favorite Mexican Restaurant, most of them will not only tell you El Cerro…they’ll tell you they eat there weekly! With a huge menu of excellent authentic Mexican dishes and great Margaritas, you’re set.
For many of the delis and pubs in town, Apple Annie’s is the bakery of choice. Many of their confections make other restaurants shine! It’s true. They bake high quality cakes, cookies, bread, pastries, pies, and seasonal confections
Runner-Up: Sweet n Savory
If you plan to go to the Causeway, you have to do two things: show up early and have some patience. Hardly a day goes by during the summer when diners aren’t gathered in wait for some of the best breakfast in town. Try the blue crab omelet. It’ll make you smile.
Burgers, burgers, burgers! PT’s serves them up in two sizes, ½ and ¼ pound with their yummy French fries, cut fresh daily. Most folks don’t know what “PT” stands for, and mistake the name for someone’s initials. But actually, word is that “PT” stands for “Pretty Tasty”—an apt name!
Runner-Up: Fork n Cork
South n' France
Now in their 9th season of making and shipping handmade bon bons in 7 wonderful varieties, South n’ France guarantees guests far and wide will taste and know why their bon bons have won the most coveted gifts and delicacies in the Carolinas and beyond.
Middle of the Island
If you’ve been to a gala or large party in the Cape Fear region lately, there’s a good chance it was catered by Middle of the Island. Once a restaurant on Wrightsville Beach, Middle of the Island Catering is now Wilmington's largest catering company, specializing in seafood & southern buffets, cooked on site in mobile kitchens.
Runner-Up: Tyme Savor
Port City Java
A locally born and owned coffee house, Port City Java now stretches north and south of Wilmington with locations in Southport and elsewhere. All their brew is fair trade coffee and roasted right here at home.
Runner-Up: Wake n Bake
Keith Rhodes’ crab cakes are almost as celebrated as the world-renown chef himself. His Pan Seared “Oriental, NC” Back-fin & Lump Crabcakes are local and inspiring to the palate. Served with a White Truffle Mash, Mixed Farm Greens, Pamlico Shrimp & Cognac Bisque.
Sweet n Savory Café
Sweet and Savory serves up some of the best chef creations in Wilmington―their stock and trade is gourmet food without the pomp that sometimes comes with it. Like their hand cut steaks and smokehouse menu items, the deserts are custom flavored and provide a sweet like you may not have experienced before.
Runner-Up: Melting Pot
A family-owned business that first opened its doors in Emerald Isle over 25 years ago. Through the years the menu and locations have expanded, opening in Wilmington in 1993. You can always expect fresh, delicious food made in-house daily. They cut their own delicious fries, prepare their own salad greens and dressings are homemade. They also hand cut our steaks in-house and use Certified Angus Beef, even for hand-pattied burgers. They use all-natural turkey and ham for sandwiches, and their coffee is also Certified Fair Trade.
Runner-Up: Surf House
If you have a hard time finding a seat at Manna, welcome to the club! Since it opened a few years ago, Manna has brought an amazingly hip fare in a posh and romantic environment. With an extensive wine list and craft cocktail creations to match the daily menu, Manna is proud to buy the best ingredients from the best vendors, local and beyond. Make a reservation!
Runner-Up: Brasserrie de Soleil
Epic Food Co. serves up a fresh and flavorful lunch menu created to suit your day or dietary needs (many options are gluten-free) each day at 10.30 am. Almost everything at EPIC is offered to diners “your way.” One particular favorite is the Zing-E Flatbread.
Runner-Up: Lovey's Cafe
If you take a walk down to the foot of Market Street toward the Cape Fear River on the left side of the street, you will smell the aroma of fresh fudge and homemade ice cream. Walk by, and be ensnared by Kilwins. It is inescapable. You will go in, you will buy some of their ice cream or fudge, and you will love it.
Opening a few years ago in downtown Wilmington, Chops has now spread its deli goodness to Monkey Junction and Wrightsville Beach. Custom sandwiches made with east coast flavors and creativity make every sandwich at Chop’s worth checking out. For lunch, get there early though, because the word has been out for a long time!
Runner-Up: Flaming Amys Bowl
There is no shortage of water front dining in Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach. But Dockside has carved its own niche with classic coastal food in one of the coolest and most relaxed environment’s you’re likely to find―especially on Sunday afternoons when the live music sooths and a cold beer calms. Everything tastes a little better on Sunday’s at Dockside.
Runner-Up: The George
Slice of Life
People don’t just like Slice of Life pizza―they crave it! Slice has been making fresh and flavorful pies since 1999 and has expanded to four locations over the years. They make it all in house. Their downtown location is open to 2am daily (well, nightly) for those long nights out, and there’s never a shortage of good times and good pizza to go around.
Whether you’re looking for oysters in a month with the letter “r” or not―those coldest months are when “they say” raw oysters are best—the Shuckin’ Shack in downtown Wilmington brings you a family-friendly place for steamed and raw shellfish, wings and beers daily, all served in a no-frills setting.
Runner-Up: Dock Street Oyster Bar
One of only a few locations offering fondue in the Port City, the Little Dipper boasts a dining experience that allows you to sit in modern candlelit indoors, or outside under the stars amidst the backdrop of the Cape Fear River (only a block over) while offering delicious fondue-it-yourself creations.
Brasserie de Soleil
Rest assured that any salad you eat at Brasserie de Soleil was not only made with the freshest ingredients, but they are also local. In addition to their French inspired local salads, their French brasserie cooking, from steak au poivre to crêpes, offer dining that are both intimately close and classically chic.
Runner-Up: Jack Mackerals
Located along Airlie Road in Wilmington, NC just at the foot of the Wrightsville Beach Drawbridge, The Fish House Grill has been a landmark seafood restaurant for decades. Go there to watch the boat traffic, take in the beauty of the Intracoastal Waterway, and enjoy some fresh beach air with delicious munchies, cold beers, and great seafood.
Runner-Up: Cape Fear Seafood
In 1990, Gene Long moved in to the abandoned dock and shop on Short Street in Wrightsville Beach’s Harbor Island to fill a void left by a waning fishing industry. With a customer-focused approach to serving the community, the Long family managed to bring back a tradition the people of this area have always loved: providing the public with the freshest seafood they can find.
Blue Surf Café
The goal at Blue Surf is to give the customers the quality breakfast they have come to expect and love, but to also become one of their favorite dinner destinations too. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Blue Surf has a relaxed atmosphere to sit and enjoy a wonderful meal. Try one of their signature dishes: Mojo Pork, Braised Beef Brisket or the Mahi.
Port City Chophouse
Located only miles from Wrightsville Beach and downtown Wilmington, the Port City Chop House is the ideal place for a business lunch, a dinner in a relaxed environment, or for just meeting friends for appetizers and drinks. They inspect every meal twice and serve only the best cuts of meat. Enjoy.
Runner-Up: Ruth's Chris
Another Wilmington original, Nikki’s Sushi opened many years ago in its original location downtown and grew to several locations around town. In addition to traditional rolls you might find at other places, Nikkis’ has extraordinarily creative daily specials that are fresh, local, and out of this world!
Runner-Up: Bento Box
Conveniently located near Wrightsville Beach and the Mayfaire area, Boca Bay hosts its guests to a varied seafood menu that includes sushi and various prefixe menus throughout the week. Sunday Brunch is a special affair, and cuisine is served in a refined atmosphere with a full bar and a covered patio.
Runner-Up: Surf House
Sea Level City Gourmet
Located near UNCW on Kerr Avenue, Sea Level City Gourmet invites visitors to refresh themselves with wholesome, fresh and handmade foods and beverages. Their cuisine is drawn from all corners of the globe, offering sushi, tacos, pita bread sandwiches, organic vegetarian burgers, southern-style seafood and, last but not least, hush-puppies.
Runner-Up: Lovey's Cafe
Bluewater Waterfront Grill
The outside bar and seating area at Blue Water offers some of the best atmosphere for dining and having drinks in Wrightsville Beach. Close to the draw bridge and nestled by some of the most beautiful yachts you’ll see on the Intracoastal Waterway, it doesn’t get much nicer for an evening out.
Front Street Brewery
Front Street is perfect for a beer and a bite. From the Fried Green Tomatoes to the Elvis Pigsley (a blend of pulled pork and bean salad dipped in corn meal and sautéed), the Southern infused pub grub and microbrew pairings are awesome. And though it isn’t an appetizer per se, the Cheddar Ale Soup is not to be missed.
Runner-Up: Circa 1922
Bar Local is everything you’d expect from its simple but elegant business name. Its cozy, comfortable, quaint and inviting; a perfect location to have a brew with your special loved one or a small group of friends looking to wind down and relax.
Runner-Up: Banks Channel
Located on the corner of 106 Market street, Goodfellas offers up two separate bars with two separate atmospheres. You can have drinks and throw down to some of Wilmington’s best DJs, or hang back and play pool with friends. Can’t beat their drink specials!
Knock knock! The Blind Elephant is hidden down an ally in Downtown off of Front Street, it’s not only unique for its excellent cocktails, but for its location and atmosphere. You really have to look for it, and when you find it be nice to the doorman and enjoy one of Wilmington’s coolest speakeasies.
Front Street Brewery
Sure to please, Front Street Brewery has 10 flagship brews available year-round that you can buy in kegs, German growlers, 64 ounce jugs, or on tap seven days a week. If that’s too many to choose, the best recommendation is to pull up a chair and get the beer sample―your taste buds will be happy!
Runner-Up: Fly Trap
Once the clock ticks 5pm, make your way to Banks Channel Sports Pub & Grill for a frosty beverage. The friendly and warm tap room serves tasty pub grub & microbrews amid flat-screens, darts, foosball & pool tables. We’d expect nothing less in an award winning hang-out.
Henry’s Casual American Dining features classic American fare in a casual and inviting atmosphere, where Chef Kathryn Irwin creates daily “Crate to Plate” cuisine emphasizing local ingredients by Goodness Grows in NC. Open until 11 pm Tuesday through Saturday means you get more than a late-night snack.
Runner-Up: College Diner
A true Irish pub and restaurant, The Harp brings a little piece of Ireland to the Cape Fear region, offering up the finest in traditional Irish family recipes served in a casual dark wood style, true pub atmosphere.
Runner-Up: Copper Penny
Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar
Located ocean-front in Carolina Beach, Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar boasts a stellar drink with a great craft beer selection and a tiki inspired line-up of creative twists on classic mixed drinks. They also have live music and “Tiki Shows” Thursday and Sunday at 7pm outside on the pier.
Runner-Up: 9 Bakery & Lounge
With fifty wines to choose from by the glass, 350 wines to choose from by the bottle and 30 craft beers, the Fortunate Glass is the premier wine bar in downtown Wilmington. With a cozy cool atmosphere and a globally inspired and wine-paired menu, it’s perfect for events or just hanging out.
Runner-Up: Bar Local
LeeAnne Quattrucci, Attorney at Law
For the second year in a row, readers chose LeeAnne Quattrucci as the best attorney in our city. A native of the Bronx, she now practices family law, juvenile law, and immigration law, devoting 60% of her practice to litigation. She also teaches aspiring paralegals at Miller-Motte College.
Runner-Up: Mitzi Kincaid
Keith Rhodes, Catch
There aren’t many chefs in Wilmington that have won more awards than Keith Rhodes. He and Catch Restaurant are synonymous with excellent dining. All of his modern seafood creations are inspired by the contemporary culinary twists from around the globe. In a word, Catch is fantastic.
Salling & Tate General Dentistry
Few people love going to the dentist—unless, of course, they go to Salling & Tate. As Wilmington’s “smile experts,” they offer a full range of dental services, including teeth cleaning, cosmetic dentistry, crowns, and sedation for those who have trouble relaxing at the dentist. Getting a beautiful smile has never been easier!
Runner-Up: Bozart Family Dentistry
Dr. Skip Tyson, Wilmington Pediatric Dentistry
If you didn’t think it was possible for a child to enjoy going to the dentist, you obviously haven’t visited Dr. Skip Tyson. Not only is he a talented dentist, his office is focused on creating a caring, warm, and fun environment—a goal they’ve absolutely achieved!
Runner-Up: Allison Eggleston
LaMaine Williams, The Fitness Squad
Wilmington can’t get enough of LaMaine Williams, which explains why he’s won this category once again! His training philosophy is focused on setting and achieving goals through a mix of cardio, weight training, agility, and coordination. “Train with LaMaine,” and your life won’t be the same!
Runner-Up: Alecia Musselman
Dr. Ken White, Wilmington Plastic Surgery
The surgeons and staff of Wilmington Plastic Surgery are uniquely qualified to help you realize your personal best, and that includes Dr. Ken White. His practice is largely dedicated to cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery of the breast, and he’s well known for being professional, personable, and passionate.
Runner-Up: Dr. Edward Ricciardelli
Real Estate Agency
Intracoastal Real Estate
If you’re lucky enough to live in Wilmington, you’re lucky enough. And if not, Intracoastal Realty is just the firm to help you find the home of your dreams. From historic houses, to small town living, to waterfront estates, Intracoastal makes finding the perfect home easy.
Runner-Up: Nest Realty
College Road Animal Hospital
College Road Animal Hospital has been caring for the dogs and cats of Wilmington for over 30 years. Offering a friendly and professional environment, quality medical care, client education, and exceptional customer service, they’re committed to providing the best for your furry family members.
Runner-Up: Wilmington Animal Healthcare
Atlantic Appliance & Hardware
Since 1948, Atlantic Appliance has evolved into our area’s premier appliance and hardware dealer. Their newly renovated showroom on Kerr Avenue houses both the brands you grew up with, and the ones you dream of owning one day. Thanks to Atlantic, those dreams can finally come true.
Runner-Up: Island Appliance
Eclipse at Blue Moon Gift Shop
Eclipse is off and running with its second win in as many years. This boutique’s collection of paintings, furniture, sculptures, pottery, jewelry, and textiles, all created by regional artists, stretches from the front counter to the floors. You’ll want to take your time exploring these one-of-a-kind pieces.
Runner-Up: Spectrum Art & Jewelry
Wedding Dress Shoppe
For blushing brides-to-be, The Wedding Dress Shoppe is the first and often the only stop on their wedding dress quest. At the store’s 3,000 square foot studio, brides can book a private appointment, find everything they need to create their perfect look, and even Skype with loved ones who live faraway.
Runner-Up: Fountaine Bridals
Nest Fine Gifts and Interiors
Owner Monika Williams’s unique home furnishings boutique offers Wilmington newlyweds the perfect mix of furniture, accessories, and gifts to build the foundation of their shared life. William’s eye and the cozy, home-like atmosphere of her shop makes putting together a bridal registry easy and comfortable.
Runner-Up: Fisherman's Wife
Bruce Cavenaugh’s Automart
For quality, price, low down payments, selection, and customer service no one in Wilmington beats Bruce Cavenaugh’s Automart. Whether you want to buy a new car, sell your old one, or have your vehicle serviced, this is the place to do it!
Runner-Up: Bob King
Peanut Butter & Jelly
Whether you’re looking for the perfect gift for a mom-to-be, décor for a charming nursery, stylish maternity clothes, and the cutest children’s outfits in Wilmington, PB&J is your answer. With options that are upscale but not exclusive, fashionable without being trendy, and comfortable yet uncommon, this boutique offers it all.
Wilmington’s best-dressed men can’t get enough of Bloke! For the second year in a row, they’ve won this category—thanks in no small part to the “casual side of style” they offer. Their curated selection of men’s clothing includes t-shirts, shorts, and shoes, including many local brands.
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