There are a host of restaurants located in Downtown Wilmington, NC. We can recommend the following ones for three good reasons. First, the food is reliably good. Second, the prices are very fair. Third, we can almost guarantee that you won’t be disappointed if you dine in any of them.
Two things define Cape Fear cuisine more than anything else: fresh seafood and homegrown produce. Downtown Wilmington’s new PinPoint Restaurant, open only since mid-May 2015, showcases the combination in delectable seasonal menus with the perfect dash of creativity from a chef who has worked with the best.
Dean Neff ran the kitchen at Five & Ten, one of four Georgia restaurants owned by James Beard Award-winning chef and Bravo “Top Chef” judge Hugh Acheson. Neff was working alongside Acheson when Neff met longtime restauranteur Jeff Duckworth. The chefs were catering Duckworth’s wedding reception. Neff and Duckworth kept in touch, finally landing in Wilmington to develop PinPoint.Read more
PinPoint is open for dinner at 5 p.m. every day except Tuesday. They also are open for Sunday brunch.
If you’re a fan of the CW Network show Dawson’s Creek, Hell’s Kitchen probably looks familiar. When producers worked a college bar into the program’s script, they created Hell’s Kitchen. When the show’s run ended, the watering hole went up for sale.
A local restaurateur bought the place – Dawson’s Creek décor and all. Fans of the show still stop by just to see Hell’s Kitchen, but don’t just come to relish in Hell’s Kitchen’s famous story. This is a spot for serious pub food, great drinks and good times.Read more
Bar munchies galore include grouper fingers, homemade hummus and wings as well-known as Hell’s Kitchen’s Hollywood past. Lightly breaded, the crispy numbers get coated with your choice of sauces described as tame, hot, fire and “INFERNO!!” Choose Buffalo garlic, teriyaki, barbecue, honey chipotle, bleu Buffalo or tangy N.C. barbecue sauces.
Certified Angus Beef burgers are equally popular, especially the half-pound The Devil Made Me Do It smothered in homemade bacon barbeque sauce and topped with more crisp bacon plus cheddar, fried red onions, lettuce, tomato, and an over-easy fried egg. “So good it’s sinful,” is how Hell’s Kitchen describes it. There’s a vegetarian burger too, as well as salads, sandwiches, tacos, quesadillas and seafood.
Choose fish and chips, a Maryland crab cake sandwich or a smoked salmon BLT. Hell’s Kitchen provides a full bar, extensive beer list, free Wi-Fi and a kids menu.
Daily specials bring food and drink discounts like $6.99 burgers and $3 pints on Wednesdays and half-price appetizers 4 to 7 p.m. Monday-Thursday. Put Monday night trivia and live music Friday and Saturday nights on your party agenda.
And bonus: Hell’s Kitchen serves a late-night menu until 1:30 a.m. Hell’s Kitchen hours are 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Free downtown food delivery is available 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. The pub also hosts private events including corporate gatherings and holiday parties.
Slice of Life
Whether they’re seeking pizza for comfort, celebration or a quick something to eat, Wilmingtonians grab Slice of Life. The pizzeria is a Port City institution in business for more than 20 years and with four locations.
Get pies and slices however you like them. Twenty-five toppings include standard pepperoni and Italian sausage along with bacon, chicken, steak, pineapple, spinach, jalapenos, fresh basil, feta cheese and artichoke hearts. Dough made daily in-house produces crisp tender pizzas.Read more
Gluten-free crust is available. Don’t miss the white pizza. Fresh tomatoes replace the sauce on this cheesy, flavorful pie hosting garlic, ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella and fresh basil.
On the rare occasion someone is not in the mood for pizza, Slice of Life accommodates with soups, salads, subs, wrap sandwiches and wings with various sauces, sweet red chili, tequila lime and garlic parmesan to name a few. There’s a Mexican bent here, too. Try nachos, quesadillas and tacos. Draft, craft, domestic and imported beers are served as well as wine and cocktails. No matter which location you choose, the atmosphere is red brick rustic and friendly. Plenty of televisions hang up high so everyone can see the big game. Outdoor seating is especially nice on warm, sunny days.
Find Slice of Life downtown on Market Street, uptown at Eastwood Drive and Military Cutoff and midtown at College Road and 17th Street. A visit to the downtown store is lunch and a historic stop all in one. Slice owner Ray Worrell revitalized the circa 1841 Masonic Lodge to host the pizzeria. Look for historic markers near the front door. Daniel Webster, 11th U.S. President James Polk and presidential candidate Henry Clay all visited this building in the 1800s. Slice of Life is also at Independence Mall, so you can savor some pizza while you shop. Slice of Life locations are open 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily, minus the Independence Mall spot, which is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Front Street Brewery
Happy faces at sidewalk tables and a tall, vertical, neon sign make Front Street Brewery one of Historic Downtown Wilmington’s most recognizable places. Seems everyone flocks to this distinctive, historic building for food, fun and some of the country’s finest craft beers as well as more than 70 premium and rare bourbons (in 2014, The American Bourbon Association ranked the pub as one of the United States’ “great bourbon bars”).
Brewmaster Kevin Kozak and team produce a changing array of micro-beers, some seasonal, some aged in bourbon or wine barrels, that have garnered national attention and gold medals. Flagship beers include light Coastal Kolsch, Port City IPA and the wildly popular Dram Tree Scottish Ale. Deep red and lightly hoppy, the latter is a natural with the kitchen’s Scottish ale barbecue ribs or sweet cinnamon doughnut bites.Read more
The menu also includes Front Street’s popular pulled chicken nachos as well as burgers, sandwiches, slow-roasted brisket, Shepherd’s pie, Buffalo shrimp and a bratwurst plate. You won’t believe the low prices on daily lunch and dinner prices. Additionally, half-price appetizers are available 4 to 6 p.m. and after 10 p.m. every day. Sitting and sipping is just fine. Order a beer sampler, take advantage of the $1.99 mug of the day or take your favorite beer home in a growler or in one of Front Street Brewery’s beer-laced cooking sauces.The bourbon selection is among Front Street Brewery’s more than 275 spirits. Rare bourbon tastings and beer dinners are just some of the special events. Front Street Brewery stages events for charity, too. Free brewery tours and free beer tastings happen daily. Front Street Brewery is open 11:30 a.m. to midnight every day, and the kitchen never closes. The brew pub’s lovely Beam Room upstairs is perfect for private parties, receptions and business meetings.
Rx Restaurant in downtown Wilmington, at Castle and Fifth Streets, is a true farm-to-table experience. The name was inspired by the building’s former tenant, Hall’s Drug Store, one of Wilmington’s oldest businesses. A meal here feels and tastes good.
Chef James Doss, who grew up in North Carolina’s coastal plain, describes the cooking as “seasonally inspired, ingredient-driven, Southern cuisine.” He sources local produce, meat and seafood for the menu, which changes daily. You’ll see the names of farmers and fishermen in nearly every entrée description. Herbs are grown in the restaurant’s windowsills, and the kitchen makes everything from scratch, including biscuits, bacon jam, pimento cheese, Andouille sausage and the popular shrimp and grits with bacon, braised fennel, mushrooms, garlic, peppers and onions.Read more
Rx cooks love pork, as evidenced by fine charcuterie; crispy, deep-fried, Buffalo-style pig ears that locals can’t resist; and thick pork chops served with assorted local vegetables like tender baby limas Southerners call “butter beans.” That’s not to say there’s no beef. Doss sources the best for New York strip, rib-eye and a tartare that he might serve with fried oysters, nasturtium, tarragon-horseradish aioli and pickled onions. Sunday brunch may bring bacon cinnamon rolls, a triple-decker chili cheeseburger or white sweet potato bisque crowned with duck confit, blue chevre and brown butter crumble. Special touches give homespun desserts a certain sophistication, say bourbon ice cream atop warm, sticky toffee pudding.Friendly staff and impressive bartenders enhance the rustic but stylish honeywood dining room. Local art hangs on the walls.
The wide bar is a fun place to dine or sip wine, a North Carolina beer or an Rx signature cocktail, perhaps the Crab Apple with Bulliet bourbon, Rx’s own honey syrup, Crabbies Ginger Beer and a splash of bitters. At $10, Rx has one of the area’s most reasonable corkage fees. Rx dinner hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 5 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Brunch on Sunday is served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Elijah’s is an American seafood grill and oyster bar that has been a mainstay in Historic Downtown Wilmington since 1984. Its building on Chandler’s Wharf was originally a maritime museum. Ship models, nautical artifacts and paintings depicting maritime history remain on display. A large deck facing the Cape Fear River and the pedestrian boardwalk named The Riverwalk is a wonderful spot for people-watching while enjoying drinks, lunch or dinner.
Seafood is the kitchen’s primary concentration. The famous creamy, cheesy, hot crab dip was requested for a North Carolina’s governor’s inauguration. Oysters come on the half shell, steamed, fried and Rockefeller-style. A Carolina Bucket is an abundant mix of steamed clams, mussels, shrimp, crab legs, sausage, new potatoes and corn on the cob. Seafood platters, grilled or fried, are buffets on a plate.Read more
Landlubbers find New York strip steaks, vegetable linguine, sesame chicken, stuffed pork chops and filet mignon every day. Friday and Saturday are prime rib nights. For dessert, sorbet flavors depend on seasonal fruit while old-fashioned apple pie is a mainstay year-round. Lowcountry Cheesecake is part bourbon pecan pie, part creamy cheesecake, all finished with luscious ganache. The full bar serves beer, wine and cocktails. The restaurant is open daily for lunch, beginning at 11:30 a.m., and dinner year-round.
One of downtown Wilmington’s most beautiful and most romantic restaurants, Aubriana’s features an American menu with European flair. Lovely as it is, friendly and welcoming defines this Front Street blessing, a couple blocks south of Market Street. It’s an out-of-the-way place worth finding.
The building has an interesting history (it has been a private residence and a mercantile store). Old brick work remains visible inside. What was once the horse-and-carriage area in back is a beautiful brick patio decorated with fresh herbs and flowers.
Whether you dine inside or out, native North Carolinian chef Tyson Amick and his brigade, one of the city’s best kitchen teams, present outstanding fare on a seasonally changing menu and a specials board that always impresses. Read more
Dessert is always special. Silky gelato is made in-house. Layer cakes are spectacular, especially the creamy coconut cake. A fall menu may show off spiced butternut squash crème brulee.Aubriana’s has a full bar serving classics and fresh twists. The wine list has earned an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator magazine. The restaurant is open for dinner at 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
The name of this downtown Wilmington restaurant is fitting. Manna (from Heaven) seems just right to describe the outstanding food, spot-on craft cocktails and swanky urban feel of this Princess Street spot between Front and Second streets. Billed as an American restaurant, chefs here have a wide range. They apply classic French technique to America’s melting pot of options in imaginative but not contrived ways. Nearly every ingredient is sourced from the United States, and much of what the kitchen uses is grown or raised locally. Everything is homemade. Chefs even churn the butter. Read more
Food and drinks are served in a two-part urbane setting. The dining room’s minimalist design plays exposed red brick against simple black, white and a pop of tangerine. The theme carries into the elegant bar, which has a doorway leading to an eclectic, grown-ups’ lounge named Bourgie Nights, where gifted musicians perform everything from swing to Americana.
The menu changes seasonally and according to the kitchen’s creative whims. Fine-dining describes the experience, but Manna doesn’t take itself too seriously, as evidenced by amusing names for food selections. There’s the Clawed Howell (poached lobster, local braising greens, coconut-creamed butternut squash, sunflower seed pistou and fresh tarragon); the Beets Around the Bush (roasted & glazed North Carolina beets, arugula, fresh oranges, housemade cheese, candied pecans and fig sherry vinaigrette); and the Finger Lickin’ Pig Pickin’ (marinated and grilled N.C. pork chop, Anasazi bean ragout, maple-glazed N.C. sweet potatoes, arugula and smoked pimenton jus). Manna is known for its perfectly seared scallops, the presentation for which changes regularly. Chef Jameson Chavez is a New Mexico native, so chilies show up in dishes like Out of the Friar Pan and into the Fire (braised local monkfish in “Big Jim” red chili sauce, turnips, sweet potatoes, mussels and red cabbage).
Pastry chef Rebeca Alvarado Paredes is considered by foodies to be the city’s best. If you swoon for dessert, be prepared to have someone check your pulse after her sweet potato crème caramel or “peach melba” with caramelized peaches, frozen creme brulee and raspberry ice. Selections are seldom the same. Cocktails at Manna are notable. Bartenders take pride in making them exactly right each time, whether it’s a classic Sazerac or a house special.
Reservations are a good idea most nights, required most weekends. You may also dine at the bar. Add your email to the restaurant’s newsletter list to hear about wine dinners and other special events. Manna opens for dinner at 5 p.m. each day except Monday. The kitchen closes 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and at 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Manna is available for private events and large parties are fine.
At 138 South Front Street, find Little Dipper, the first Wilmington restaurant to offer tableside fondue. In 2011, the nationally-acclaimed restaurant website OpenTable.com named The Little Dipper one of America’s top 100 restaurants. Six cheese fondues are served. Diners get to choose the beer blended into Cheddar Ale Fondue, rich with sharp cheddar and Emmenthaler cheeses. Stella Artois is light in color and flavor, Yuengling produces a medium body and nutty flavor while Guinness imparts a full-flavored dark beer taste. Classic Swiss fondue also gets a twist. Read more
A little parmigiano cheese joins Gruyere and Emmenthaler in a white wine base seasoned with nutmeg, garlic and Kirsch. Enjoy fondue and other dishes a la carte or try a three-course meal, which include a cheese fondue for the table to share, the soup of the day or one of five salads, and a selection from the many entrée choices.
Desserts are priced separately. Chefs offer six entrée cooking styles, including the most-popular White Merlot and Vegetable featuring rich vegetable stock blended with merlot wine. It or any of the other styles may be applied to the likes of blackened filet mignon, pork tenderloin or a seafood combination. A la carte dishes include grilled scallops and vegetables, a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich and vegetarian sliders. How could you not at least think about dessert for dinner, considering nut-topped caramel and dark chocolate Turtle fondue; milk chocolate, marshmallow cream and peanut butter Fluffernutter fondue; and white chocolate and mixed berry brandy sauce Berry White fondue? Six liqueurs let you create your own dark, milk or white chocolate fondue. As if 12 chocolate fondues were not enough, you may add a slice of cheesecake and berries to any fondue. Old-fashioned, pane-glass picture windows front the main dining room. The Garden Room deck out back can be set up for private parties. The restaurant has a wide-ranging wine list and a full bar offering classic and signature cocktails such as the wonderful chocolate martini. The Little Dipper opens for dinner at 5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. The restaurant is open daily from Memorial Day through October. The Little Dipper offers specials several nights a week. Get half-price bottles of wine on Sunday and a four-course, bargain prix fixe menu on Thursday.
Fork ‘n’ Cork
Chef James Smith first grabbed Wilmington with his wildly popular burger truck named The Patty Wagon. When he traded in the truck for permanent gastropub digs on downtown Wilmington’s Market Street, fans got a full taste of his comfort food with a twist. His famous burgers as well as brisket and meatloaf sandwiches still populate the menu at Fork ‘n’ Cork, (gluten-free buns available), but think gastronomic experience rather than typical pub food at this oh-so-comfy restaurant.
The intimate, 36-seat space is all red brick, dark wood and artsy stained glass wall hangings. Scotch eggs and deep-fried, confit duck legs are famous here. Fans adore the mac ’n’ cheese creations. Read more
Sunday brunch is a must at Fork ’n’ Cork when you consider lobster pot pie that combines tender lobster chunks with corn, baby potatoes and fennel in a champagne cream sauce. For brunch, you also might encounter Texas-style barbecue brisket, two sunny-side-up eggs and Creole mustard cream sauce crowning a hefty buttermilk biscuit alongside home fries. Chef Smith likes surprises.
Polished wood wine racks hold nice but affordable labels. Cocktails might mean bourbon on the rocks, a spiked Bananas Foster milkshake or a Bloody Mary bar. Find craft beers here, too. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday–Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and noon to 1 p.m. Sunday.
Downtown Wilmington dining is at its best with a waterfront view. The George is one of the most beautiful places to dine along Cape Fear River. The covered deck is wide and cozy, with tables under an awning and in full sunshine, even heaters for chilly days. Watch sailboats breeze by and the most spectacular sunsets you can imagine as you enjoy Southern coastal cuisine featuring steaks, pasta, salads and, of course, fresh local seafood. Sip crisp, cool white wine while nibbling Cajun Angels – five jumbo shrimp wrapped in applewood smoked bacon and lightly blackened before being served atop jicama-apple slaw and fried rice noodles, all drizzled with red wine reduction. Read more
The Pilot House opened in 1978 and was the first restaurant in then-newly restored Chandler’s Wharf, a significant section of Wilmington’s port city industrial past. Initially, only salads and sandwiches were dispensed from a service window to customers who sat outdoors. Lots more delicious things have happened since an on-site kitchen was added in 1988.The restaurant specializes in Southern regional cuisine, traditional and with contemporary flair.
From-scratch dishes showcase fresh, local ingredients. Read more
Everything from “down home cooking” to Cajun to Low Country and other coastal cuisines inspire chefs. For lunch, arugula, goat cheese and roasted red pepper embellish a fried green tomato sandwich on a toasted Mexican telera roll. Shrimp and grits includes kielbasa sausage, mushrooms, scallions and collards on fried grits cakes. Shrimp and grits is on the dinner menu as well as everything from lobster macaroni and cheese to cioppino to filet mignon and herb-crusted rack of lamb. Sweet potato-crusted grouper is served with mushroom ravioli, mixed greens and balsamic vinaigrette. Brown sugar, cider vinegar, toasted pecans, fresh thyme and butter season pan-seared Southern Pecan Chicken Cutlets.
The restaurant has a full bar menu that includes wine, beer and delightful cocktails. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday throughout the year. The restaurant, deck and private rooms are available for weddings and other special events for groups of 30 to 300.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
Hankering for a USDA Prime steak? Ruth’s Chris Steak House in downtown Wilmington’s Hilton Wilmington Riverside hotel is the place. Enjoy your favorite cut in the main dining room overlooking the Cape Fear River and the magnificent Battleship North Carolina. Selections include filet, strip, rib-eye, T-bone and a porterhouse for two.
The lamb, pork and veal chops are delectable. Seafood, including a huge, three-pound live Maine lobster, is available. Read more
Follow your nose to Kilwin’s Chocolates and Ice Cream, a Market Street sweets shop in the heart of downtown Wilmington. Fudge, kettle corn, nut brittles and waffle cones made on the premises emit sugary aromas. Just beyond the fudge factory, visible through the front window, fudge bricks in various flavors greet you near the door. Next is a line of chocolate candies and chocolate-dipped madness. Read more
Kilwin’s has plenty of take-away selections that are pre-bagged and boxed. You can get a gift card for those who envy your place in line. The shop is on Market Street between Water and Front streets. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.