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A Week in Wilmington, NC

My girlfriend and I are from Southern California and are flying out to North Carolina next week for a family reunion in Wilmington. I haven't been there since I was a toddler.

What are the "Not to be Missed" chow-ventures? Where should we go to sample dishes that we can't find in California? Doesn't matter if it's a 5 star restaurant or a tiny shack with a still out back. Just has to be amazing food.

We figure we should definitely try the BBQ (both East NC and West NC style). I'd like to have Maryland-Style Steamed Blue Crabs if that's possible.

Also, we'll be flying in and out of Raleigh so recommendations for lunch in the Triangle area would be great as well. We also welcome any non-chow suggestions for things to do between meals ;-)

Thanks!!!

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  1. Deluxe, Circa and caprice bistro are some of my favorites in wilmington for more upscale food. All three are in the downtown area on the water. There is a nice pub down there too but I can't remember the name. Lots to do downtown just park and walk.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chefcolin

      Deluxe and Caprice, yes, but I don't know, Circa can be kind of ho-hum. Don't miss Catch, a small seafood place downtown on Princess, and Big Thai, up 4th Street near the PPD building. You'll probably have to cook your own crabs, and I'd suggest a night of pier fishing inbetween meals.

    2. Definitely go to South Beach Grill in Wrightsville Beach. Not much great BBQ in Wilmington...do a search for Raleigh 'Q...I think the concensus is that Clyde Coopers does a pretty good job. If you have time to backtrack from the RDU airport you can hit Allen and Son BBQ, on Highway 86, just north of I-40. My personal favorite in NC.

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        1. many say Portland Grille is the best. Very pricey, though.

          1. Lunch:
            Catch 215 Princess St downtown- I second Catch. It's one of our favorites. The chef, Keith Rhodes, does some wonderful things with local ingredients.This would probably top my do not miss list. My brother and his wife, visiting from Denver, made us eat there for lunch every day they were here, they liked it so much.
            El Guajiro 1015 S Kerr Ave- authentic Cuban hole in the wall on Kerr. Excellent food.
            Big Thai 1001 N 4th St downtown - personally, I think they have the best Thai food in town. There are other good ones, but I like Big best. The coconut cake is a must-try for dessert. Lunch or dinner.
            El Agave 3803 Oleander Dr - Really good Mexican - hand-made tortillas.

            Dinner:
            Deluxe 114 Market St - Keith Rhodes is also the chef here, for now. One of our favorites for downtown nice dining.
            Zooi Bistro 1121 Military Cutoff Rd - really excellent dining. We love eating there. THe menu is imaginative and well-executed. They have a great bar and a good wine list.
            Marc's on Market - 7213 Market St - (not open Mondays) A little off the beaten path, but Marc's has consistently great food at really reasonable prices. White tablecloth, good wine list, great bar, great service and wonderful food.
            Brasserie Du Soleil - 1908 Eastwood Rd in Lumina Station- loud and boisterous, but lots of fun. Their pommes frites are some of the best in town. Great wine list, excellent food all around. But it is loud and usually crowded, so just be prepared for that.
            K38 - Baja Grill 5410 Oleander Dr - More casual, always busy - Baja/Mexican - good food, good margaritas - a local favorite
            South Beach Grill 100 S Lumina Ave - Wrightsville Beach - I get some disagreement here with the following statement, but I think it's about the only decent place on the beach. Others may recommend Bluewater Grill or Dockside, but I have been consistently disappointed with every meal I've had at those places, so I'll defend my position. South Beach is very good, and is on the sound side of Wrightsville Beach.
            Dock Street Oyster Bar - 12 Dock St downtown - if you're looking for a seriously casual place to just kick back and enjoy a bucket of steamed oysters and a beer, I'd recommend them. Their other food isn't any great shakes, but they're about the oysters.

            I'll confess that I'm not a huge fan of Southern country cooking, despite having been born and raised in the South, and I'm also not fond of NC 'cue. I grew up around Memphis, so I prefer that style of bbq. So others will no doubt have better recommendations for that kind of food than I will. There are lots of really good places to eat in Wilmington, so it should be easy for you to avoid chains while you're here. Hope you have a great visit, and we'd love a report back on where you ate and how you liked it!

            -----
            El Guajiro
            Wilmington, NC, Wilmington, NC

            Catch
            Wilmington, NC, Wilmington, NC

            3 Replies
            1. re: Andiereid

              I will have to agree with Andiereid and here suggestions. She seems right on the money!
              I have some additional recs:
              Breakfast
              Sweet and Savory is just before the Wrightsville Beach bridge. Recently underwent a complete makeover and is now a much more comfortable dining spot.
              Lunch
              Definately agree on Catch and Big Thai and will also add on Double Happiness on Wrightsville Ave.
              Also Two Guys Grille. There is one near beach and one on College Rd and one at Porter's Neck. Good cheesesteak. Sanwiches are also good but I am not a big fan of the salads.
              We do not get out much for dinner so someone else will help here.
              Other attractions, of course the beach and Arlie Gardens is a beautiful place to stroll around. There is a water taxi that you can get to take you over to Masonboro Island if you do not have a boat. Most of what Wilmington has to offer requires a boat.

              1. re: Andiereid

                Andiereid wrote:

                . I grew up around Memphis, so I prefer that style of bbq. So others will no doubt have better recommendations for that kind of food than I will.

                So, is there any place like Buntyn Cafe, The Cupboard, etc., in the Wilmington area you'd recommend? I'll skip NC bar-b-que (it's not up to Mfs standards) but a good meat and three, plus refrigerator rolls, now that's something I can't get here in my neighborhood.

                1. re: Coco Pazzo

                  I wouldn't say NC bbq is bad, it's just very different from Memphis 'cue. It's maybe worth trying if you've never had any, just so you can sample some interesting regional differences in cuisine.

                  But as far as your question, hmmm - I'm honestly not sure, Coco Pazzo. I might recommend Bon Appetit for something like that, but for lunch, not dinner. There are some similar places in town, but I can't recommend them, just because I haven't tried them.