Fresh Catch

12 Mar 2016

Wilmington's enviable seafood restaurants come in all shapes and sizes, from upscale, fancy eateries to hole-in-the-wall shacks right on the side of the road. Here are 21 of the best seafood restaurants in Wilmington NC.


Bluewater Waterfront Grill

An unbeatable view of the Intracoastal Waterway and life-changing crab dip are just two of the celebrated features of Bluewater. This Wrightsville Beach staple has been serving up stellar seafood and courteous customer service for years. Their generous menu is filled with shareable starters, crisp salads drizzled with in-house made dressings, and entrees straight from the sea. Not into ocean fare? There are plenty of proteins from “The Land” menu to suit your needs. For a filling dinner try the Fresh Catch or Seafood Linguini, but save room for their righteous Key Lime Pie made with a buttery, homemade graham cracker crust. Hop off your boat for a casual lunch and libation on the patio and enjoy entrees like the Chicken Gorgonzola Flatbread or a less costly plate of their Crispy Coconut Shrimp with Dark Rum Marmalade Dipping Sauce. Looking for the perfect space to plan your wedding reception or private party? Yep, they do that too. 910-256-8500,


Locals and out of towners alike praise this lively, family-friendly American seafood haven. Boathouse serves up high quality, affordable plates (like the fan favorite Fried Shrimp & Flounder Platter) all day long with an emphasis on nautical-themed breakfast items and glorious Calabash-style grub. Patrons rave about their sensational southern selections—like the Fried Green Tomato Appetizer, slow cooked Collards, and Corn on the Cob. As for sunrise treats, go for the Strawberry French Toast or the creamy Crab Cake Eggs Benedict. Although Boathouse focuses on fresh-from-the-ocean eats, they’ve got plenty of options for land-loving diners as well like Saturday night’s 14 ounce Prime Rib. Throw in half price wine on Sundays and Mondays and you’ve got deals for days. 910-679-4224

Boca Bay

Easy like a Sunday morning. That is, if you dine at Boca Bay. Known for their tropical outdoor seating, broad brunch menu, and proficient servers—Boca Bay has earned a ranking as one of the most superior Sunday morning spots in the Port City. But it’s not just the omelet bar and crepes that draw an audience. This restaurant is equally as popular with the dinnertime family crowd and date night diners. With a classy, contemporary ambience and a menu stocked with specialty seafood dishes—call ahead for reservations to beat the line at this popular evening eatery. Valet parking comes as a freebie, but don’t forget to tip your drivers. Can’t miss items are the decadent Shrimp and Grits with Crispy Pancetta and half price sushi on Tuesday nights. 910-256-1887,

Bonefish Grill

Bang Bang goes the Shrimp (and the applause) for Wilmington’s Bonefish Grill. Conveniently located in a central spot on New Center Drive, this chain operates like a pro. Bonefish is known for their attentive, spectacular service and consistently delicious dishes like the Wood-Grilled Chilean Sea Bass and the aforementioned Bang Bang Shrimp—which, BTW, rings up at just $5 on Wednesdays. But come by anytime—like perhaps for brunch? Check out their morning-inspired menu—specifically the insanely tasty Half-Pound American Kobe Beef and Egg Burger with Special Sauce. Or pop in after-work for a sweet and spicy Ocean Trust Tropic Heat Martini. In addition to their traditional menu lineup, Bonefish rotates their selections along with the seasons—offering fresh new options daily of starters, entrees, and handcrafted cocktails. 910-313-1885,

Cape Fear Seafood Company

Coastal restaurants aren’t scarce in this town—but Cape Fear Seafood Company consistently crowns locals’ lists for having the finest catch around. Offering innovative New American cuisine, sublimely prepared regional seafood, and a laidback, welcoming vibe—CFSC is at the top of their game. Their fresh fare varies from upscale Figure 8 Stuffed Flounder drenched in a citrusy Beurre Blanc to casual, Crispy Cod Cabo Fish Tacos. The menu is even gluten-free friendly (like their Chicken Jarrett—a juicy Chicken Breast topped with Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese). Don’t miss the showstopper: sinful Shrimp and Grits enriched with Applewood bacon and a Lowcountry cream sauce. Between their superior food and outstanding staff, this fan favorite fills up fast on the weekend. Enjoy a cocktail at their charming bar while the tables rotate. It will be well worth the wait. 910-799-7077,


Every mouthful of Catch’s creative cuisine is a slam dunk. The restaurant’s signature Asian-southern fusion is elevated by the Chef’s uncanny ability to steadily showcase regional seafood and local produce in a fresh, inventive way. Chef Keith Rhodes—a local celeb, Top Chef Competitor, food truck owner, and James Beard nominee—is known for his humble nature and radically bold flavors. Catch delivers progressive global fare in a modernized, nautical setting. Rhodes shakes up his already-eclectic menu with specials like Scallops, Mussels, and Bok Choy in a rich Coconut Sauce. With an expertly trained staff and a hardworking kitchen crew, this restaurant is rooted in friendly teamwork and exceptional food. In addition to a clever lineup of ocean fare, Catch offers plenty of options for non-seafood lovers like their Crispy Sonoma County Duck with Black Truffle Fried Rice and a fruity Grape Salsa. 910-799-3847,

Dock Street Oyster Bar

After nearly two decades of serving up some of the finest steam pots in downtown, Dock Street is still on a roll. Pop the cap off a Red Stripe and put on your lobster bibs because this whimsical little joint ain’t messing around. From their Caribbean flair to their funky setting, Dock Street is chock full of personality. And glorious seafood, of course. Owners Steve Maillard and Louise Forbes Simpson made it their mission to serve up fresh catch that was steamed, grilled, and never fried. If you’re still unconvinced it’s some of the best in town, let their endless awards (Best Oysters, Best Seafood Restaurant, etc.) speak for themselves. If the tables and bar stools are spoken for, grab your brew and your crab legs and snag a seat on the patio before the sun goes down. 910-762-2827,

Fish House Grill

If you’re looking for a lively coastal vibe, an unbeatable view of the Intracoastal, and fun, ocean-inspired eats—Fish House just might be your new jam. Positioned along Wrightsville Beach’s notorious Airlie Road, this affordable restaurant has been a local landmark for decades. Catch the sunset over the drawbridge with a fresh Mahi Taco with Cabo Cabbage, Spicy Sour Cream, and Cilantro. Don’t forget the cold Corona to wash it down. For a heartier meal, go for the Crab Cake Sandwich topped with Chipotle Remoulade and served with their signature Lemon-Pepper Curly Fries. If you’re in a dock-and-dine kind of mood, Fish House will gladly arrange accommodations for your boat so you can grab a bite. Go on, have a cocktail on the patio. You deserve it. 910-256-3693,


Whether you’re a Wrightsville Beach local or visiting town on vacation, treat yourself to a meal and some exquisite views of the ocean with this restaurant’s magnificent on-the-pier dining. Let the sound of the waves be your dinner tunes, or stop in for live music when the weather permits. From daily fresh fish specials to skillfully fried seafood platters—this oceanfront eatery offers far more than outstanding sights. For those who crave inland specialties, The Roasted Vegetable Linguine—a seasonal mix of root veggies and asparagus tossed with apples, goat cheese, and a white wine butter sauce—is a vegetarian’s dream come true. Not sure if it’s sweater weather on The Crystal Pier? Tune into Oceanic’s live feed for up-to-date weather reports and beach action. 910-256-5551,


If it’s where the locals go—you know it’s gotta be good. From inside Wrightsville Beach’s Holiday Inn, Oceans delivers resort dining at its finest. They skillfully dish out a classic variety of homemade American cuisine, fresh from the water fish, and a view of the ocean from every seat in the house. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner—this waterfront restaurant has a tasty plate of food to please everyone in your party’s palate. On breezy summer afternoons, snatch a table on the terrace and go for the California Cobb Salad with Grilled Shrimp, Blue Cheese, Turkey, and Sliced Avocado. Stick around for live music on the weekends, and for casual eats—the pizza menu is where it’s at. For an intimate meal, cozy up inside and opt for the Chef’s fresh catch. 877-330-5050,

Pilot House

With picturesque views of the Cape Fear Riverwalk, an impeccable seafood-inspired menu, and a site rooted in tradition—it’s no wonder Pilot House has been around for nearly forty years. The restaurant is situated in a restored 19th-century house and, upon entering the building—you may think you’ve stepped into the past. Aside from Pilot House’s sense of nostalgia and historic background, their food has been a longtime favorite of Port City patrons and tourists alike. Can’t miss items include the Crab Melt Sandwich served on Butter-Grilled Sourdough and the Shrimp & Lobster Newburg (a Parmesan-dusted pasta loaded with seafood and cream). Low on funds? Their lunchtime lineup is just as delicious as dinner, and slightly easier on your pocket. When Wilmington warms up, you’ll find a packed patio and live acoustic tunes to soothe your summertime soul.  910-343-0200,

Sea Captain's Calabash

When it comes to Calabash-style seafood and scratchmade morning favorites, Sea Captain’s on Market Street is hitting high marks all across the board. This quaint family restaurant has mastered hot fried fish and warm, friendly service. They’re also known for their abundantly portioned breakfasts—crispy, fruit-topped Belgian waffles, anyone?—and expertly fried seafood platters. Go-to lunch and dinnertime dishes include the Whitefish Basket, loaded Carolina Po’ Boy sandwiches, Popcorn Shrimp, and buttery Broiled filets of fish. There are plenty of sides to choose from, but the freshly made signature Slaw and crunchy Hushpuppies are regulars’ top picks. The servings are generous and reasonably priced, the ingredients are well-seasoned, and the catch is properly cooked. Aye aye, Captain. Keep cranking out those Calabash classics. 910-769-2018

Shuckin’ Shack

Swing back Shuckin’ Shack’s screen door, belly up to the bar, and drop a lime in your drink. Despite this oyster bar’s downtown location, that doesn’t stop it from serving up some of the best beach fare around. With a relaxed, surf’s up vibe and paper towels for napkins—Shuckin’ Shack is a vacationer’s (and local's) dream come true. Their signature steam pots entice a crowd, but the servers consistently remain on point. Share an outdoor table with friends, along with the fresh Crab Dip and lightly fried Calamari with Spicy Chili Sauce. For an inexpensive evening on the town for two, check out Shuckin’ Shack’s weeknight specials like 35 cent clams and $2 pints on Wednesdays. Yes, you heard that right. Hushpuppies are a must. Feeling adventurous? Hold onto your hats and order the Bloody Bivalve: a vodka-tomato concoction topped with a raw oyster. Bottoms up. 910-833-8622,

South Beach Grill

Next time you’re cruising down Lumina Avenue and headed straight for the shore, stop into the scenic South Beach Grill for epic Seafood Nachos and a cold craft beer. Twenty years says it all. This southern-inspired restaurant has proudly served the Port City a broad menu of locally sourced, coastal ingredients for two decades. Their covered patio makes for an idyllic sunset spot, and to go along with the view: an extensive array of regional cuisine. For a not-so-light-but-totally-worth-it lunch, try out the Seafood Nachos Platter—where freshly fried tortilla chips meet creamy crabmeat and jack cheese. When dinner comes around, must have items are the Prince Edward Island Mussels and Italian-infused Calamari with Spicy Plum Tomato Marinara and sharp Asiago. Wander in on-foot from the beach or tie up your craft at the public docks across the street.  910-256-4646,

The Crab Shack

 This casual, seafood lover’s paradise has been plating up fresh ocean fare since 2005. Located in, you guessed it, an unassuming shack on Scotts Hill Loop Road—The Crab Shack radiates a dive vibe in the best sense of the word. The atmosphere screams (and of course, supplies) outdoor seating, Old Bay-sprinkled seafood, pails for shells, newspapers for tablecloths, and ice cold IPAs for sipping. Thanks to this restaurant bearing a Maryland-based owner, you’ll want to go for everything crab (from dip to legs to cakes). If spooky looking crustaceans aren’t your thing, try out the Steamed Locals Oysters or worth-the-mess Peel-and-Eat Shrimp. For land fare, you’ll want the Bacon Burger, juicy French Dip, or Scott’s Hill Nachos with Shredded Pork Barbeque and Spicy Jalapenos. 910-319-0688,

The George

In addition to stunning sunset views over the Cape Fear Riverwalk, The George offers southern coastal cuisine with a dish for every diner. The restaurant prides itself on clever cocktails, an abundant (heated when necessary) outdoor patio, and “dock and dine” service. Not to mention their broad, family-friendly menu. Kick things off with the freshly breaded, Mediterranean-inspired Calamari featuring Olives and Artichoke Hearts. For the main course, you’ll want to take a nap inside of “George’s” Shrimp and Grits—swimming with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Garlic, and Scallions in a Creamy White Wine Sauce. For those who like it hot, try out the Seafood Diablo with Seabass and Halibut tossed in a Spicy Marinara. Start Saturday and Sunday off right with The George’s two-day brunch—featuring benedicts and an out-of-this-world French Toast Banana Foster. Cheers to the weekend. 910-763-2052,


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