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Downtown Wilmington Restaurants
There are a host of restaurants located in Downtown Wilmington. 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.
Rx Restaurant on Castle at 5th Street has been a big hit since it opened. The restaurant features Southern regional foods that are prepared from local farmers and fishermen, resulting in a menu that changes daily. The restaurant’s name celebrates its location in the former Hall’s Drug Store, one of Wilmington’s oldest businesses.
Rx is open from Tuesday-Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to late and Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. till late. Brunch on the weekends at Rx Restaurant is popular since the menu features everything from omelets to quiche to apple-cinnamon pancakes to meatloaf. There surely is something for every taste.
Recent lunch offerings included pork belly served with a farm egg and stone ground cheddar grits or a fried chicken sandwich served with Rx pickles, spicy aioli and potato salad. Homemade soups have included a white sweet potato soup with ricotta, toasted pecans and brown butter crumble or a stew of cow peas and collard greens served with shaved Parmesan cheese. On the “supper” menu recently (known as dinner to Yankees) were first courses as diverse as clams, bacon, toasted garlic, shallots, white wine, herbs and crostini or gnocchi with country ham, preserved lemon and spinach.
Staples always on the menu are shrimp and grits with andouille sausage, mushrooms, fennel, garden peas and a poached egg as well as skillet fried chicken served with sweet potato mash and braised greens. Rx has a full bar. At $10, they also have one of the area’s most reasonable corkage fees.
Elijah’s is an American seafood grill and oyster bar that has been a mainstay in Historic Downtown Wilmington since 1984. It is located on Chandler’s Wharf in a building that was originally a maritime museum. Several of the paintings, ships models and nautical artifacts remain on display in the restaurant today. Elijah’s has a large deck overlooking the Cape Fear River and Riverwalk, which is a wonderful spot for people watching while enjoying lunch, drinks or dinner.
The menu at Elijah’s is extensive enough to please any diner. Of course the primary concentration is on seafood of all types, with oysters available on the half shell, steamed, fried, and Rockefeller. A Carolina bucket is comprised of steamed clams, mussels, shrimp, crab legs, sausage, new potatoes and corn on the cob. Other popular seafood items are seafood platters available either grilled or fried and shrimp stuffed with crabmeat. Landlubbers will find plenty of choices too, with New York strip steaks, vegetable linguine, sesame chicken, stuffed pork chop and filet mignon available daily with prime rib added on Friday and Saturday nights. The restaurant is open seven days a week year round. It has a full bar with all ABC permits.
Fat Tony’s Italian Pub has been on Front Street downtown for many years. The new owners who came in in 2012 are earning very good reviews for their changes that include an emphasis and fresh, local ingredients. The menu is extensive, with all sorts of appetizers including delicious pizza chips served with a variety of dips definitely suitable for sharing; stuffed pizza twists made to order and worth the wait, a variety of salads, big burgers and a host of pasta dishes. They also have brick fired New York style pizza as well as a large selection of calzone.
Lunch, served from 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., features very economical prices. Two meals are just $5.99: choice either spaghetti with marinara sauce served with garlic bread or three meatball sliders topped with marinara and shaved parmesan for a filling meal.
The dinner menu has something to please everyone. Among the host of items are such favorites as baked ziti, chicken or eggplant parmigiana, pasta pomodoro or an Italian seafood medley. You can build you own pasta dish too, by choosing a pasta, a sauce and adding any extras you might want. Whole wheat angel hair and gluten free penne are among the pasta choices available.
Fat Tony’s offers the largest selection of draft beers in Wilmington. There are 25 craft beers on tap (you’re served a true 16-ounce pour) in addition to wine and a full bar. Fat Tony’s offers specials several days each week. The restaurant is open from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.; on Sunday they close at midnight.
Front Street Brewery, located in a beautiful historic building, is the place to go not only for a terrific variety of pub food, but for handcrafted beers brewed on site as well. Throughout the year, different types of micro-beers are produced by brewmaster Kevin Kozak, winner of two Gold Medals, with everything from lagers to porters to stouts to ales available at different times. You can order a beer sampler or take advantage of the $1.99 mug of the day, and you can take your favorite beer home with you too.
As you might expect, there is a huge assortment of sandwiches from burgers, to pulled pork or chicken barbecue to homemade meatloaf to portabella mushroom wraps. Shepherd’s pie, shrimp and grits, fried shrimp and a bratwurst plate are just a few of the entrees.
Food is a bargain at Front Street where half-price appetizers are available from 4:00-6:00 p.m. and after 10:00 p.m. every day. Front Street also has special events several nights a week.
Front Street Brewery is open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and from 11:30 to midnight the rest of the week.
The George on the Riverwalk is wonderfully situated with a very large deck overlooking the Cape Fear River. The only riverfront restaurant in Downtown Wilmington offering dock and dine, boaters can pull right up to the dock and moor free of charge while dining.
At The George patrons can sample Southern coastal cuisine for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Specials are prepared daily and the revamped menu is extensive, offering a large assortment of appetizers as well as soups, salads, sandwiches, vegetarian dishes, seafood entrees, kids meals, steaks and pasta dishes.
One of the most popular dinner entrees is George’s Shrimp & Grits, featuring sautéed shrimp, applewood smoked bacon, roma tomatoes, scallions, garlic and white wine in a cream sauce served over white cheddar stone ground grits. A full bar that includes a large selection of martinis and a large and thoughtful variety of wines are offered too.
Aubriana’s is another of Historic Downtown Wilmington’s fine dining restaurants. Aubriana’s has a brand new chef, but one who is familiar to Wilmingtonians who appreciate fine food. Chef Tyson Amick, who helped Marc’s on Market be recognized as one of Wilmington’s top restaurants. The new chef has just settled in so the seasonal menu is evolving. Since the owners of Aubriana’s are passionate about serving excellent food and the chef has proven his talents elsewhere, the future is bright here.
One of the items that will remain on the appetizer menu at Aubriana’s are the lollipop lamb chops, a favorite for good reason with so many of Aubriana’s regular diners.
Other appetizers include shrimp, crab and corn chowder with fingerling potatoes, applewood bacon and a petit buttermilk biscuit; cornmeal fried calamari with house made dill pickles served with white cheddar-peppercorn dressing and a blue lump crab tart with bay spiced crust, fresh mozzarella, creamy citrus custard and chili-garlic greens. Entrees include a chargrilled filet mignon served with layered potatoes, asparagus, horseradish creme fraiche and fried vidalia onions or North Carolina Rainbow trout with creamed fresh corn, baby green beans, stewed blackberries and toasted country ham vinaigrette.
Aubriana’s has a full bar (try a schrubb cocktail) and a wine list that earned a 2012 Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. The restaurant is open Tuesday-Saturday from 5:00 p.m. till close.
Manna is a restaurant that many consider particularly aptly named since they offer food of outstanding quality. Located on Princess Street between Front and Second, Manna is beautifully decorated, tastefully appointed and serves food using local ingredients of outstanding quality when they are available.
Outstanding appetizers, among many, are the beets around the bush, a beet terrine with local arugula, apples, chevre mousse, pistachio and sherry molasses vinaigrette or homard simpson, comprised of house made ravioli of poached Maine lobster and cauliflower mousse, brandied leeks and fennel, brown butter and ginger lobster veloute. Bread and butter is an item you’ll want to order since the bread is made in house and is accompanied by wonderful, infused home churned butter.
Just some of the delicious entrees – obviously named by a clever writer – include ewe-phemism, coffee spiced lamb loin, roasted local root vegetable with a pinot noir Amarenata cherry glace or out of the friar pan and into the fire, braised local monkfish in “Big Jim” red chile sauce, turnips, sweet potatoes, mussels and red cabbage. Manna’s menu changes often depending on what great ingredients are locally available. If these items are not available, just try anything on the menu. You’ll undoubtedly be glad you did.
Manna also has an outstanding pastry chef. If you are a person who swoons over great desserts, be prepared: if you don’t swoon here, have someone check your pulse to be sure your heart is beating.
Cocktails at Manna are earning outstanding reviews, and clients appreciate the quality of the service too. Reservations are a very good idea and are required most weekends, although one could do worse than to enjoy sitting at the bar while waiting patiently for a table. Manna is open daily for dinner at 5:00 p.m. each day except Monday, closing at 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and at 11:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Manna is available to cater events for special occasions.
At 138 South Front Street you’ll find Little Dipper, Wilmington’s first restaurant offering numerous types of fondue. For example, there are five different cheese fondues on the menu, with variations within those five. Cheddar ale fondue, a blend of sharp cheddar and emmenthaler cheese melted in a beer base, offers a choice of beers as mixtures, each producing its own distinctive taste. 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.
Several salads and numerous vegetarian dishes are available to meet the dietary wishes of vegans. Other options include beef, chicken, pork and several seafood entrees and those who are totally undecided can mix and match.
Try to save room for dessert since chocolate fondues are delicious and popular for good reason.
The restaurant has a full bar and is open Tuesday through Sunday at 5:00 p.m. Little Dipper has an extensive wine list and several special drinks. Try the chocolate martini. It is delicious.
Little Dipper offers specials several nights a week with half-price bottles of wine on Sunday and a four course, bargain prix fixe menu on Thursday.
The Pilot House opened in 1978 and was the first restaurant in Chandler’s Wharf, which had just been restored. Only salads and sandwiches, dispensed from a service window to customers who sat in an outdoor dining area, were served since an on-site kitchen was not added until 1988.
The restaurant specializes in Southern regional cuisine and all dishes are made from scratch with fresh ingredients and fish and fowl that is native to the area. Everything from “down home cooking” to Cajun to traditional southern fare with a contemporary flair is offered. Two examples illustrate the diversity of menu choices at lunch. A fried green tomato sandwich with goat cheese, roasted red pepper and mixed greens on sourdough bread is one while another is chicken breast sautéed in olive oil, Marsala wine and garlic, with mushrooms, shallots and sage served over linguine. Crunchy pan fried catfish served with collard greens, grits and red-eye gravy represents a traditional southern choice.
Both the chicken breast and catfish are on the dinner menu as well, as are a tremendous choice of other dishes. Everything from a 9-oz. filet mignon to fried seafood platters to crabcakes served with vegetables, rice pilaf and beurre blanc, to Louisiana hot and spicy shrimp are just some of the items offered. The restaurant has a full bar menu with all ABC permits and is open for lunch, drinks and dinner seven days throughout the year. The restaurant and deck is available for weddings and other special events. With several private rooms and deck spaces, events from 30 to 300 can be accommodated easily and with style.
Riverboat Landing has been a dining destination in Wilmington for more than 25 years. The restaurant is housed in an elegant building dating back to 1856, and has nine private balconies suitable for dining for two people on the second floor overlooking the Cape Fear River and bustling Riverwalk. There also is a main dining room on the first floor as well as an al fresco dining room on the second floor. The restaurant features Southern regional cuisine with French, Mediterranean, and Asian influences.
Open daily for lunch and dinner, a kid’s menu is always available. For lunch, try the delicious low country BLT comprised of apple wood bacon, lettuce and fried green tomato with remoulade sauce on toasted hearty white bread or a charbroiled burger served on a wheat Kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and a dressing made in house. Dinner choices include seared beef tenderloin, sautéed fingerling potatoes, cremini mushrooms, asparagus, grilled fennel and charred tomato-chili hollandaise or lobster risotto with English peas, crème fraiche, parmesan cheese, lobster fumet and cremini mushrooms.
Prices are moderate and the restaurant has a full bar with all ABC permits and an extensive, well-chosen wine list. Riverboat Landing also has a private room that is available for 30 or more for special occasions.
If you’re craving a USDA Prime steak, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, located in the Hilton Wilmington Riverside, serves only prime meats in all the best cuts of steak, including filet, strip, ribeye, t-bone, and a porterhouse, which is prepared for two.
Lamb, pork or veal chops and seafood, including a huge three-pound live Maine lobster, is on the extensive menu too, as is a wide choice of side dishes, including nine vegetables dishes, potatoes prepared eight ways, and seven salads. If you are really, really hungry, you’ll also find a vast assortment of appetizers, an extensive, award winning wine list, numerous beers, a full bar and delicious desserts. The comfortable lounge, with a special menu featuring several appetizers and small plates, opens at 3:00 p.m. daily with dinner beginning at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday and at 5:00 p.m. all other days.
Sixteen sakes, an extensive wine list and a large number of special drinks such as a Pomegranate ginger mojito are found at YoSake, located on the second floor of the historic Roundabush building on Front Street. The restaurant has a full pan-Asian menu as well as all types of sushi available nightly from 5:00 p.m.
Some of the favorite entrees are a Thai-style bone in pork chop served with wasabi potato cake and marinated asparagus, caramelized jumbo shrimp served with vegetable tempura and a warm soba salad and spicy braised coconut chicken served with fresh fennel, fresh chilis, tomatoes, spinach and rice. Firecracker shrimp is another popular choice. Don’t pass up dessert either: fresh mango cheesecake or scrumptious coconut banana ice cream are available. YoSake has half-price sushi and appetizers each evening from 5:00-7:00 p.m. and a local service industry special on Tuesday night, with a 20 percent discount on food from 7:00-10:00 p.m.
The Husk is located on the street level of the Roundabush on Front Street. The Husk specializes in hot dogs and beer, a winning combination at any time. It features a perfect spot for resting after a hard day of shopping or sightseeing downtown and also is a great place for people watching since there are very large windows facing all the activity on Front Street.
Prices are low and the wait staff is friendly and welcoming in this newest downtown spot.
When you’re ready for a little pick-me-up to keep you going, stop in to one of Wilmington’s favorite places. Kilwin’s Chocolates and Ice Cream, located on Market Street between Water and Front Streets, has great ice cream, which you can have in a cup, regular cone or waffle cone that is made on site.
You’ll also find creamy homemade fudge that many consider the best anywhere. Hand-dipped chocolates in all varieties also are available. Why not take some to enjoy later also?