Egg on your Face
Wilmington’s Best Brunching
By FANNY SLATER
If you crave a tuna melt at 10 AM (guilty), no judgement here. That’s why the Food Gods invented brunch. It’s that idyllic interim period where one person at your table might order a pepper-gravy smothered mountain of biscuits and a Mimosa, and the other might opt for a sweet tea and a salad. To each his own at brunch o’clock, and when that hunger bell strikes—here’s where to go to get your fix.
You probably know Brent’s for their masterful ability to deliver southern-style seafood and juicy steaks to the dinner table. But if you haven’t been by for a morning meal—you don’t know what you’re missing. For a healthy start, get a forkful of their refreshing salads with house made dressings like white balsamic and roasted garlic Caesar. If you’ve got breakfast on the brain, it’s hard to pass up the Fried Green Tomato and Pimento Cheese Benedict on a toasted baguette with perfectly poached eggs. On a lighter note, the quiches are prepared with the freshest ingredients the kitchen can get their hands on. For your sweet tooth fix, feast your eyes on the Pecan-Crusted French Toast stuffed with locally sourced blueberries and velvety vanilla custard.
910-839-3131 | brentsbistro.com
Carolina Girls’ Grillin’ Café
It’s true. Carolina Girls’ chicken salad on Sweet Hawaiian bread is one of Wilmington’s most widely praised sandwiches. But this fast-casual café is equally admired for its homestyle breakfast. In a restaurant kitchen, it doesn’t get much better than baking your own bread from scratch and barbequing, grilling, and slow-roasting your meats for optimum freshness. If you’re craving a flawlessly fluffy mouthful, the Ham and Egg Sandwich is a simple bite of breakfast bliss. For a little variety, the Smokey Mountain Plate is a sunrise steal—three eggs, three strips of bacon, two pieces of sausage, and crispy tots—at under ten dollars.
910-251-8004 | cgsgrillincafe.com
Cast Iron Kitchen
With an almost entirely regionally-sourced menu—you better believe Cast Iron Kitchen’s soulful southern food is as “down home” as you can get. This rustic, country store-themed Porters Neck diner was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives last year, but regulars already knew what was up. From the outrageously decadent Dirty South Biscuit (a crackly fried chicken tenderloin loaded with bacon, two types of cheese, sausage gravy, and a runny egg) to the farm fresh Chopped Salad—there’s something for every appetite. Other classic Cast Iron brunch items patrons rave about are the Shrimp & Grits (with smoked sausage and a tomato cream and red eye gravy sauce duo) and the signature Not My Mama’s Meatloaf sandwich slathered in herb aioli and Texas Pete hollandaise.
910-821-8461 | castiron-kitchen.com
As one of downtown’s most notorious, line-out-the-door hangover havens—Dixie Grill is a no-brainer when it comes to brunch. Diners of all ages gather at this staple for everything from the inviting booths to the buttery biscuits and everything in between. This cherished hipster café boasts a blackboard of rotating specials, but the classics are impossible to turn down. For me, it’s always a toss-up between the open-faced Dixie Benedict drenched in savory Vidalia onion gravy or the Farmer’s Omelet with veggies and citrusy homemade salsa. When my brain’s lunch bell rings, I’m all over the crisp, cool Cobb with grilled chicken, avocado, and Dixie’s lusciously garlicky house ranch.
910-762-7280 | thedixiegrillwilmington.wordpress.com
East Oceanfont Dining (Blockade Runner)
This Wrightsville Beach hotel restaurant has become a landmark for fine dining by the sea. East’s thoughtful cuisine is a blend of global flavors and locally-inspired ingredients. The phenomenal food may be the draw, but the café’s exquisite canopied garden deck overlooking the water doesn’t hurt either. It’s the ideal location for their weekly Sunday Blues Brunch, and Executive Chef Jess Cabo and her culinary team never fail to present a spectacularly beautiful plate. Freshly crisped waffles with local fruit puree, please. Their artful renditions include vegan, vegetarian, and seafood specialties—like Smoked Scottish King Salmon and southern Shrimp and Grits prepared with an array of rotating sauces.
910-344-2513 | blockade-runner.com
The name says it all. A Carolina-bred franchise, this buzzing tavern prides itself on serving “breakfast, lunch, and brunch all at once.” If you’re the type of person who longs for a turkey club at 8 AM, Famous Toastery is right up your alley. In addition to an infinite selection of brunch-time eats, the restaurant’s “every server is your server” concept means that there are always more than enough hands available to bring you that bottle of hot sauce. The menu is overflowing with creative benedicts—like gluten-free avocado halves baked with eggs and topped with spicy pepper jack and Cajun spices. For a pants popper, the Corned Beef Hash with succulent, house-roasted meat, crispy chopped potatoes, and rich hollandaise will hold you over ‘til dinner.
910-256-7030 | famoustoastery.com
Fork N Cork
Another Wilmington favorite that found its way onto Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives—Fork N Cork is a quaint, gourmet bar that serves up brunch like a boss. Chef and owner James Smith flips way more than mouthwatering burgers when he welcomes in sleepy Saturday and Sunday guests. Salmon cured with juniper berries, anyone? Fork N Cork’s Gravlax is flavored with fresh dill and lemon, thinly shaved, and accompanied by a toasted bagel, boiled egg, capers, and cream cheese. If you’re only plans for the rest of the day are to nap, you want the Brisket Biscuit—a foolproof marriage of fluffy biscuits, tangy Texas brisket, sunny side up eggs, and Creole Mustard Cream Sauce. Don’t worry, it comes with home fries.
910-228-5247 | theforkncork.com
Fresh, homemade American food and a friendly, hardworking staff are the backbone of this family-run, coastal North Carolina chain. RuckerJohn’s prides themselves on an almost-entirely scratchmade kitchen of familiar flavors. Their offerings are predominantly lunch-and-dinner based, but who doesn’t want a basket of flaky, melt-in-your-mouth croissants with homemade honey butter before noon? The salad dressings are addictive, and the Surf’s Up side of the menu is swimming with ocean classics like juicy, jumbo lump crab cakes and shrimp and stone-ground cheddar cheese grits in a parmesan-garlic sauce with Applewood bacon and mushrooms. Pair that with a steaming mug of Certified Fair-Trade coffee and you’ve got yourself the start to a good day.
910-452-1212 | ruckerjohns.com
In Carolina Beach, the word brunch has become synonymous with the name Havana’s. This island restaurant is celebrated for their weekly Sunday Funday party that includes live music from local artists and an Old Bay-rimmed “Snow’s Cut Bloody Mary” garnished with a steamed shrimp. The kitchen sources as much as possible from the nearby land and sea—ensuring that every item is bursting with freshness. Regulars adore the Pico de Gallo – sprinkled Huevos Rancheros with fried eggs on crispy corn tortillas and red bean gravy. For a mouthful Havana’s a heavenly seafood, The Oyster Catcher Benedict comes with crispy fried oysters, poached eggs, and a salty Tasso ham hollandaise. For a touch of sweetness, the coffee cake served alongside most entrees will do the trick.
910-458-2822 | havanasrestaurant.com
JohnnyLuke’s Kitchen Bar
If steak and eggs and sports are your cup of tea (or ice-cold beer), brunch at this two-story Market Street bar and restaurant has your name all over it. Not only does JohnnyLuke’s offer nearly twenty brews pouring on draft and a staff known for their topnotch, courteous service—but the New American fare is inventive and homemade. For a quieter meal, head to the cozy downstairs dining room. If a social Sunday is on your radar, grab JL’s three-dollar Mimosa and catch the game in the upstairs loft. When Wilmington weather is at its finest, you can’t beat the spacious patio. Jane’s Recovery is an open-faced flavor bomb of avocado, goat cheese, pesto, and eggs—but Uncle Stan’s Chicken Pot Pie is sinfully tasty.
910- 769-1798 | johnnylukeskb.com
Basil and Bellini’s and benedicts, oh my! Sunday brunch at Kornerstone infuses all things breakfast with a hint of Mediterranean magic. This tasteful European-inspired bistro delivers fresh, organic, high-quality cuisine topped off with excellent customer service and some seriously good French Toast. Their classic “Pain Perdu” features cinnamon-battered French bread dusted with powdered sugar and dolloped in peach jam. Hit the buffet or choose from exclusive weekend-only dishes like the Mediterranean Breakfast Burrito stuffed with all of the eggs and meat plus roast tomato relish and garlicky basil pesto. Get your buzz on with a foamy cappuccino or a pickled veggie Bloody Mary.
910-686-2296 | kornerstonebistro.com
It’s no secret I lose my mind over the inexplicably fresh raw oysters from this downtown southern sanctuary, and lucky for me—the briny gems even make a morning appearance. Chef and owner Dean Neff spreads his Lowcountry charm all over the Pinpoint’s dinner menu, and brunch is no different. Recognized for being one of the best coastal community restaurants in our area—every dish epitomizes the season, is deeply rooted in tradition, and overflows with local love. Thanks to maintaining close relationships with his purveyors, Dean’s daily selections are known for their variety. A must-have is the Fried Chicken Breast Biscuit loaded with bread and butter pickles and comeback sauce. For something sweet, you can count on the Ricotta Pancakes with roasted banana, dates, sorghum-butter, and candied walnuts.
910-769-2972 | pinpointrestaurant.com
Rise Biscuits & Donuts
Say hello to the dreamiest, flakiest biscuit you’ve ever sunk your teeth into. After getting a taste for Rise’s righteous breakfast sandwiches in Raleigh, I couldn’t believe my stomach when I heard they had made their way to the Port City. Their slogan reads “the best dang biscuits and donuts” and that bold claim holds up equally as well as their dangerously glazed Cinnamon Biscuit Roll with pecans. On the savory side, you can go classic with a country sausage patty and fried egg—but Rise’s buttermilk-brined tenderized chicken breast biscuits (like the Spicy Chickaboom with boom boom sauce, pickled jalapenos, and crispy onions) should be next on deck for mayoral candidate. Don’t forget the hashpuppies and Counter Culture coffee.
910-239-9566 | risebiscuitsdonuts.com
Rolled & Baked
Though we’re dishing on brunch items—I can’t, in good faith, rant about Rolled & Baked without mentioning their life-changing, immaculately seasoned, crunchified fried pickles. On a more breakfast-y note, the light-as-air biscuits are one to be reckoned with. The eclectic menu flaunts every southern escapade of ingredients imaginable from a sweet tea-brined chicken thigh with green goddess dressing to pork sausage with an IPA mustard maple sauce. I fell in love with the Choice bit of Calico—thinly shaved eggplant, crispy capers, pickled zucchini, and fresh mozzarella gently piled atop a parmesan-basil biscuit with R&B’s “off the ranch” sauce. Traditional offerings like a good old fashioned BEC are available, and sweet or savory biscuit bread pudding French Toast is there to tickle your taste buds.
910-899-4019 | rolledandbaked.com
If you don’t think a ceviche joint can dole out a reasonably priced, undeniably rad Sunday brunch, think again. Also—I use the word “joint” lightly as NOFO’s Savorez is home to Wilmington’s most impeccably delicious Latin treasures. This colorful neighborhood café has become a foodie favorite thanks to chef and owner Sam Cahoon. If you’re well versed on the restaurant’s most popular creation, the Langousta Y Coco (lobster ceviche in a brain-altering citrus-coconut ginger marinade spiked with habanero), don’t worry—you can get it at brunch. Next, move onto Sam’s Green Eggs & Ham—a clever combo showcasing crispy pork belly and chimichurri scrambled eggs. The Breakfast of Champions (buttermilk fried chicken, fluffy arepa, chorizo gravy, citrus slaw, and an over easy egg) is a hearty way to start your day.
910-833-8894 | savorez.com
Spoonfed Kitchen & Bake Shop
Though it often slips under the radar for those who don’t live nearby, this Wrightsville Beach café (tucked into Lumina Station) rocks a harmonious menu of nourishing, delicious, and inventive ingredients. Staples like a Sausage Egg & Cheese Biscuit may sound average—until you learn that you’re about to indulge in a hand-ground patty, farm egg, and aged cheddar on a moist and feathery biscuit. Get your guilty pleasure on with the Deviled Egg Tartine and a fresh-baked pastry, or steer your spoon towards the Spoonfed Seasonal Granola. This invigorating bowl of grass-fed yogurt is topped with fresh berries, drizzled with local honey, and speckled with coconut-infused nutty oats.
910-679-8881 | spoonfedkitchen.com
Don’t let the name trip you up. Though The Basics is known for banging out authentic southern brunch staples, every plate has a personality all of its own. Whether you're searching for a simple breakfast crafted with care or a substantial feast to soak up the weekend, this casual all-day spot will feed all of your needs. The Basics prides themselves on dishing out traditional Southern recipes with a modern sensibility and a knack for from-scratch cooking. If you’re a pancake person, I urge you to take on their earthy, oatmeal version studded with blueberries and topped with walnut butter. The Spinach Feta Grill with feta, artichokes, and poached eggs will leave you in a stupendously savory daze.
910-343-1050 | thebasicswilmington.com
True Blue Butcher & Table
You may think of this elegant cocktail bar and restaurant (that doubles as a butcher shop) as more of a dinnertime venue. But sneak a peek at their brunch lineup, and you’ll realize that True Blue is for any time of the day. They offer a unique, full-rounded culinary journey and the kitchen welcomes substitution requests—as the guests’ experience is their highest priority. True Blue is known for their meat, so you can expect the Steak & Eggs (with house made steak sauce and skinny fires) to be nothing short of stellar. The Mushroom Omelet with tangy goat cheese, tomato jam, and roasted asparagus also gets rave reviews.
910-679-4473 | wearetrueblue.com
Do you like your eggs served with a side of waterfront views? If so, Marina Grill is your ultimate brunch destination. Boat in, sit down, and eat up their satisfying Saturday and Sunday brunch. Marina Grill’s spacious, breezy atmosphere is enhanced by its clever, uncomplicated coastal-inspired cuisine. When the weather turns warm, snag a patio table by the TV and snack on their country gravy-doused Chicken and Waffles. For sweets, turn to the Chocolate Peanut Butter Crepes. For something from the sea—the Crab Benedict is always on point. Top that off with a side of nitro coffee or a fresh four-dollar Bellini. Looking good, weekend.
910-769-7974 | marinagrillwilmington.com
The Roadhouse Bar & Grill
Sister restaurant to one of Wilmington’s most beloved breakfast houses (Dixie Grill), RoadHouse has become a standout in our culinary scene. The menu is a streamlined version of Dixie favorites, but lucky for us—RoadHouse keeps their doors open for dinner. The rustic, wood-paneled country café puts their stamp on sizable southern treats like Chicken Fried Steak and mashed potatoes saturated in white-pepper gravy dotted with salty ham. On the lighter end of the spectrum, Dalton’s Breakfast Burrito is a meat-free masterpiece of spinach, potatoes, black beans, eggs, and house salsa. The Louisiana Hash (another must-have) is a zippy blend of Cajun fried potatoes, Andouille sausage, peppers, and cheese topped with two eggs any style.
910-765-1103 | facebook.com/roadhousewilmington