Best of Wilmington -- Dining 2022
Everyone knows Hops Supply for crafty drinks, but you also need to know about crafty eats too! Just drool over the appetizer menu where local seasonal ingredients are the soul of the culinary-inspired American fare. The BBQ-braised short rib nachos with jalapeños, sour cream, mixed cheese, burnt salsa, and pico de gallo are delectable. Think Grandma could make cornbread? Wait until you try the cast-iron cornbread with chipotle butter. Pork rinds, crispy Brussels sprouts, big A$$ bacon, Kung Pao calamari, sundried-tomato hummus, chicken wings, and baby spinach artichoke dip are equally tempting.
Rooster & The Crow
Can you believe Rooster and Crow are nicknames of the owners, Zach Harmon and Allen Carpenter? Ask them about how the names relate to childhood and NASCAR racing experiences. When you visit, holler one of their names and they’ll come over and say hey. Both have always had a passion for eating great food and trying new flavors that has been apparent since they opened their doors in May 2019. Dine inside the picturesque Chandler’s Wharf shops, check out the Fowl Play Barcade, relax in the roomy outdoor beer garden, or choose a dog-friendly outdoor seating with gorgeous Riverwalk sunset views.
Truly one of a kind, Indochine is Wilmington’s most acclaimed Thai and Vietnamese restaurant with a menu full of Asian-inspired dishes you're sure to love including appetizers, soups, curries, noodles, rice, stir-fry, and desserts. Visit the lotus pond, enjoy company in one of the Thai huts, or simply have a quiet dinner in the exquisite dining room that is beautifully decorated. For a bit of Indochine in Southport, stop by Indochine Express on N. Atlantic Ave. and keep your eyes open for another Express location soon in Leland.
Since opening in 2014 as a quiet spot where everyone can come as they are, feel welcome, and nourish their body and soul, Ceviche’s brings the Latin-inspired dishes of owner Hunter Tiblier’s childhood to the area. He wants to share his heritage of growing up in Panama, fishing with his father in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, picking fresh mangos at a bus stop, and taking epic surfing trips. For ropa vieja, Chef Tiblier prepares braised flank steak in a tomato peppery broth and serves it over coconut rice with sweet plantains, salsa fresca, citrus cabbage slaw, and avocado.
This family-owned Italian restaurant where the pasta is handmade and the wine list is long is a repeat winner in this contest. Located in the historic district of downtown Wilmington, Tarantelli’s is a warm and comfortable place where diners feel at home every time they walk through the door. Many meals that it serves contain the finest ingredients from various regions in Italy and are paired with the most celebrated Italian wines. Your experience at Tarantelli’s stays with you long after your table has been cleared.
Tequila Comida & Cantina
Chef Ramón Villaseñor brings rich culture and Mexican flavors to every dish. All ingredients are locally sourced; the corn and flour tortillas are homemade as are also the sauces, which are prepared daily. One surprise that amazes guests is a crispy French-style baguette served as a complimentary appetizer, accompanied by special sauces and a fusion of olive oil and rosemary. Tequila Comida & Cantina has a full bar with exotic drinks, delicious mixes, exquisite margaritas, and countless options of premium tequilas in honor of Jalisco, Mexico, homeplace of the agave.
Apple Annie's Bake Shop
For more than 36 years, Apple Annie’s Bake Shop hasn’t just harbored an insatiable sweet tooth and love of freshly baked goods, it’s also been cultivating a passion for top-notch customer service and loyal dedication to the community. Step inside, and let the welcoming staff at Apple Annie’s make you feel right at home. Their pastries, breads, and cakes have been a part of many family traditions for decades. From artisan wedding cakes to birthday treats, Apple Annie’s turns custom creations into mouthwatering memories every day.
Barbecue and soul food at a price y’all love are served Wednesday through Sunday at Casey’s Buffet. Established in 2005, the restaurant is run by owner Larry Casey and his entire family—daughter, sons, wife, and friends. Their commitment to traditional food and family togetherness attracts local customers and out-of-town visitors who want a real Southern food experience. When you want to chew the fat and spend quality time with friends and family who are craving Southern comfort food without the hassle of cooking, Casey’s is the place to go. Miss your mama’s cookin? Come home to Casey’s.
Famous Toastery believes that food should be both decadent and nutritious, uncompromisingly fresh, and delivered quickly with service that’s as satisfying as the menu. Although that’s a tall order, this restaurant succeeds in all aspects. They tantalize your tastebuds with the highest quality ingredients in a friendly atmosphere that brings great food and great people together. Everything served is made fresh daily. With fresh, flavorful brunch food options from 7am. until 2pm, any breakfast craving you are having will be more than satisfied.
P.T.’s Olde Fashioned Grille
Since opening its first location in 1990, P.T.’s Olde Fashioned Grille has served a simple menu of freshly prepared burgers, sandwiches, fresh-cut french fries, and fresh-squeezed lemonade in a family-oriented environment. Its focus on service, quality, and cleanliness since then has resulted in satisfied and loyal customers. Now with six locations in the Wilmington area — and two more in Goldsboro and Greenville — P.T.’s hasn’t changed its atmosphere of warm smiles, good cheer, and welcoming greetings where guests can enjoy good food, drink, and company.
From the moment you walk in the door, your senses are enticed with the sweet aromas of chocolate, fudge, and freshly-made waffle cones. Kilwins handcrafts a wide variety of confections in its kitchen, and you can watch as they are produced right before your eyes. See creamy Mackinac Island Fudge being paddled the traditional way on marble tables, and watch as fresh apples are dipped in the original caramel recipe, developed by founder Don Kilwin himself, for a perfect caramel apple.
Middle of the Island
Wilmington’s largest catering company specializes in seafood and southern buffets cooked on-site in their mobile kitchens. The area’s leader in weddings since 1959, Middle of the Island caters over 500 weddings each year. From church dinners, company picnics, corporate functions and fundraisers to large events for thousands of people, it has the staff and equipment to handle every function. It travels within a 150-mile radius and can accommodate an event of any size. It also has a backyard burger shack division that is perfect for backyard cookouts.
Lucky Joe Craft Coffee
Lucky Joe is Wilmington’s original cold-brew coffee shop. More than just a superior cup of great cold coffee, Lucky Joe is also steam-heated for a new take on classic coffee-based drinks. By cold-brewing to extract the bitterness, Lucky Joe produces a very rich, deep, and almost sweet coffee. It is brewed and served at espresso strength, house strength, decaf, and seasonal brews. Lucky Joe also provides coffee on tap to many businesses in the Wilmington area. Experience slow-brewed coffee the right way with Lucky Joe.
Cape Fear Seafood Co.
Bald Head Island Crab Cakes are pan-seared and served with a lemon beurre blanc sauce, rice pilaf, and asparagus. For smaller appetites, the lump crab cake sliders are perfect; two sliders with lettuce, tomato, and bistro sauce are served with french fries. For an appetizer, try the crab dip, which is a rich mixture of crab, horseradish, cheese, and spices served with pita points. Every dish is prepared with attention to detail, quality ingredients, and excellent flavors. Specializing in regional American seafood, Cape Fear has three locations in the Wilmington area — and two more in Raleigh.
The Little Dipper
The Little Dipper offers an experience you can't find at any other restaurant in Wilmington — unique, nostalgic and fun... fondue! The dessert fondues with homemade sauces for dipping are delightful. Choosing your dippers among the classic, fruit, and supreme options is difficult. Strawberries dipped in milk chocolate or bananas with a dark chocolate and peanut butter blend are amazing. Whether you're with a large group celebration or out for an intimate dinner for two, fondue is special and different.
Molly Pitcher’s American Grill
Molly Pitcher is a composite image inspired by women who fought in the American Revolutionary War and represents women’s bravery and perseverance in the face of opposition. As the restaurant celebrates the sacrifices and bravery of women through many generations, it also nourishes our hunger for good food and thirst for good drink. Traditional plates include pot roast, bacon-wrapped meatloaf, and country fried steak. Salads and sandwiches are creative. Don’t miss the Betsy Ross, a BLT with fried green tomatoes and pecan pimiento cheese.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
The new location of Ruth’s Chris Steak House on Water Street, which opened in January, has the most scenic waterfront view in the area and is again your choice for fine dining. Ruth’s Chris orders only the highest quality USDA Prime beef from its selected premium suppliers. The best of the best, these cuts are well-marbled and hand-selected for thickness and tenderness. Ruth’s Chris is the preferred place to celebrate life’s special moments, such as a romantic steak dinner, an important business meeting, or a private party. Complimentary valet parking makes every arrival easy regardless of the time.
True Blue Butcher and Table
Your favorite happy hour spot takes its name “True Blue” from a slang term dating to 16th century Coventry England when a dye company developed a new process to make blue dye stay. True blue came to mean not only garments that don’t fade but people who are the real deal or trustworthy. At True Blue, you’ll find curated liquors, beer, and wines served in an upbeat and elegant setting. Leave work early to enjoy your favorite bar snacks and sip your favorite drinks.
Chopt Creative Salad Co.
At Chopt, salad isn’t the start of the meal; it’s the whole meal. Classics include apple almond crunch, Mexican Caesar, Santa Fe, classic cobb, and crispy chicken ranch salads — all amazingly healthy. Even lighter favorites such as kale Caesar, Palm Beach, and Mexicali vegan salads pack a lot of flavor and nutrition with even fewer calories. Because Chopt forms long-term partnerships with local food artisans, farmers, and producers, it can source the freshest produce available and create the most flavorful salads and bowls around with better food practices.
Bruster’s Real Ice Cream
Bruster’s ice cream is made the old-fashioned way with slow kettle processing. They blend the ice cream with only quality cookies, candies, and other sweet treats, so you get a loaded scoop of creamy, decadent goodness. Bruster’s also serves artisan desserts made to order, including crunchy handmade waffle cones and bowls, customized sundaes, candy-filled blasts, ice-cold freezes, and thick milkshakes. Because every generous scoop is made in-house, it always tastes thick, creamy, and fresh. It’s a process that simply makes Bruster’s a scoop above the rest.
Midtown Deli & Grill
Midtown has been the lunch spot of choice since it opened in 2007. All nine salads are made fresh daily from the finest ingredients and served with oven-baked honey wheat bread; six are only $9.50. The menu also includes 13 creative sandwiches, such as the Intracoastal. Made with fresh slices of turkey breast, muenster cheese, avocado slices, lettuce, tomato, and a sweet-and-sour vinaigrette, it is served on grilled ciabatta. Wraps and sandwiches are made with Boar’s Head products.
Set in a historic building in downtown Wilmington, Seabird celebrates the seasonality of seafood and ingredients found in North Carolina and its storied coast. The food is creative, seasonal, fresh, and uniquely Wilmington. The restaurant draws on chef Dean Neff’s passion for fishing along the East Coast as he grew up in Savannah, which heightened his fascination with seafood and the ocean. Seabird showcases the seafood and purveyors of the Wilmington area and beyond, and its partnerships with local farmers and small-scale fishermen exemplify its efforts to be good stewards of the environment.
Marina Grill is a waterfront restaurant located downtown on the Northern end of the Riverwalk. Whether you sit inside or out, you will enjoy spectacular views, southern hospitality and an amazing meal. The menu is well thought out and strong relationships with neighboring farmers, butchers, breweries, and fishermen allow them to source many ingredients locally. In addition, Marina Grill offers private event space, live music in the boatyard, and Sunday Brunch from 10:30am to 3pm. It makes perfect sense that such delicious food and delightful beverages deserve to be enjoyed in a picturesque outdoor location. If you time it just right - you will be treated to a breathtaking Cape Fear River sunset.
The family of Biggers Market believes it is important to provide fresh, local fruits and vegetables to its customers and community, not only to promote clean, healthy living but also to encourage agricultural growth in the Carolinas. A farm market with a friendly staff that concentrates on carrying locally grown and produced goods, it has been providing a fun atmosphere for Wilmington to find locally farmed produce and more since 2010 at its two locations — one on Market Street and the other on Carolina Beach Road.
Jay’s Incredible Pizza
Build your own pizza at Jay’s or choose one of the specialty pizzas, such as Chicago-style pie, classic cheese, or classic pepperoni. Another amazing choice is the That’s Incredible Pizza, which is a marinara base loaded with pepperoni, Genoa salami, Canadian bacon, crumbled Italian sausage, ground beef, fresh sliced mushrooms, sliced red and white onions, fresh sliced green and red peppers, fresh chopped garlic, and fresh diced tomatoes and then topped with shredded mozzarella. Don’t forget the salads, chicken wings, breadsticks, stuffed poppers, and incredible rolls.
Eating seafood is an experience at Shuckin’ Shack. Every time they serve their oysters, other seafood, and a wide variety of other types of delicious food, they offer you sustainably-sourced domestic seafood without spending every cent of your paycheck. Shuckin’ Shack gives you a seafood-eating experience that’s a happy medium between the fancy, jacket-and-tie establishments and greasy fast-seafood joints. An ocean-friendly establishment, they bring quality seafood to a fun, casual, and unbeatable dining experience.
Because the atmosphere is everything, plan your next romantic engagement at Circa 1922, which takes traditional dishes and elevates them to a modern experience with tapas-style dining. A regionally-themed platter allows you to share several tapa offerings with your special someone. The ever-changing seasonal menu features the freshest ingredients to create delectable flavors that can be savored as you enjoy your evening. The resident sommelier can recommend the perfect wine to pair with your meal to make it extra special.
You can always expect fresh, delicious food made in-house daily at RuckerJohns, where you will find high-quality food and exceptional service in a fun and relaxing atmosphere. They prepare their own salad greens, and the dressings are homemade. Serving the homemade-crouton-sprinkled house salad in a frozen bowl has made many customers very loyal. The chef salad with crisp salad greens topped with grated cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, all-natural ham and turkey, tomatoes, bacon, and homemade croutons is exceptional.
The Bridge Tender
Since it was founded in 1976, The Bridge Tender has been a favorite seafood restaurant for both lunch and dinner. Located at the foot of the Wrightsville Beach drawbridge, it is a popular destination for locals and visitors. Large bay windows complement the charming scenery of the Intracoastal Waterway. The indoor seating takes advantage of the spectacular waterfront views, and the outdoor patio beckons during the warm weather and summer days. In addition to fresh seafood, its menu also features delicious appetizers and mouth-watering desserts.
Seaview Crab Company
Created in 2006, the company has since created a supply chain that reaches up and down the coast of North Carolina and beyond. Its service area has expanded to several N.C. locations and virtually across America via its drop-shipping program. It now serves over 50 local restaurants and recently opened its own seafood takeout kitchen. Even as it grows, it has stayed grounded in its values that promote the rich history of N.C. fisheries and fishermen.
The George on the Riverwalk
Impeccable service is the hallmark of The George, where the staff is friendly, available, attentive, and quick to take care of every customer’s needs. Only people who love to serve are hired at The George, and that commitment is obvious and the reason that the restaurant has such a loyal following of local customers and repeat out-of-town guests. Every staff member takes a genuine interest in their customers, helps them make their food choices, and provides service with a smile.
3315 Cut & Pour
An innovative concept in dining opened a year ago at the Courtyard at Masonboro with a new southern steakhouse and wine bar that features fine casual dining. The product is high-end, but the environment is more casual. The focus of Cut & Pour is on a wide variety of cuts of beef — choice, prime, and Angus — as well as various cuts of pork, chicken, and fish. Its wine program has around 30 wines by the glass and 200 by the bottle with price points for every budget.
Havana’s serves its amazing “Big Sunday Brunch” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunrise omelets and eggs Benedict are the perfect way to start the brunch. Try the blue crab Benedict that is topped with poached eggs, crab cake, and hollandaise sauce; it is served with Havana hash, fried plantains, and coffee cake. To finish in style, the hot rum Bananas Foster for two will make you appreciate that you can share it. Have a Sunday fun-day with a Snow’s Cut Bloody Mary or a mimosa party.
YoSake features the best sushi along with a full pan-Asian menu served amid modern Tokyo vogue decor. Its featured menu items change weekly. Located on the second floor of the historic Roudabush building in downtown Wilmington, YoSake supports local Wilmington organic sustainable agriculture and features local farms in specials on the menu. The bar has an extensive collection of wine, sake, beer, and specialty cocktails. With a new street-level shaded patio recently added, you can also enjoy outdoor dining.
Platypus and Gnome
Located in Wilmington’s historic downtown, Platypus & Gnome has been a local fixture since 2016. Although it is an eclectic kitchen known for exotic game meats, the vegetarian who is dining with carnivores will be satisfied with several appealing menu choices, such as the Asian eggplant sandwich and cashew curry. Salads include Kale of the Wild, which consists of lettuce and kale with cashews, carrots, radishes, dried apricots, cucumber, thinly sliced jalapeños, topped with scallions and candied ginger, with a citrus-fennel vinaigrette.
Being situated right on the Atlantic Ocean with access to a multitude of local fisheries means Oceanic can provide its guests with the freshest and most flavorful catches. Its passion for locally sourced seafood is demonstrated in the dishes it serves. Tuna, shrimp, Little Neck clams, oysters, flounder, and mahi-mahi are just a sampling of what the Atlantic waters provide for its chef. The natural beauty of the coast and access to many local area attractions makes Oceanic a stunning oceanfront location to host events such as a destination wedding or corporate retreat.