The Basics - Wilmington, NC
Had dinner at The Basics downtown last night and were favorably impressed. It's in the Cotton Exchange on Front Street down by Cape Fear Community College. We used to eat there a lot when it was Italian Bistro a few years ago. It's a nice space and they've done a good job of decorating for this venture. It's kind of retro-hip - elegant without being too fussy.
The wine list is good and I think a good variety without having so much available by the glass that you risk getting a stale bottle. They have some creative specialty cocktails that looked good. The menu offers chef takes on classic Southern food. A good variety of side dishes, from greens to mac and cheese to Hoppin' John were available, as was the option of selecting three for a vegetable plate.They offered "The Basics", which were simple dinners - meatloaf and mashed potatoes, smoked/roasted chicken with hoppin john and a side, "the hook" which was their catch of the day, and a few others that were all really inexpensive. Then they had Chef's choices which were a little more upscale and a little higher in price. My husband ordered a vegetable plate with a house salad, fried okra and Hoppin' John. I ordered "The Bird" which was a smoked small chicken half rubbed in sugar and salt with Hoppin' John and Mac and Cheese. The portion size was perfect - the plates weren't heaped with food, but they weren't stingy either. My order was $8, and the main reason I noticed the price at all was that I thought it was really low. The chicken was tender and flavorful, the Hoppin' John was really very good and the mac and cheese was good. I prefer mine a little creamier, but it was still very tasty with a nice crust in a ramekin. My husband loved his vegetable plate. I tasted his fried okra and it was perfect. Crispy, not the least bit greasy, and the okra tasted really fresh.
Desserts were also good - they made his molten chocolate cake to order, so it took a little longer, but we were warned about that and didn't care anyway. I think we waited about ten minutes or so for it. It came hot from the oven and gooey and he all but licked the plate, so I'd take that as a positive review. I ordered a berry trifle, which came in a martini glass. The raspberries were some of the best I've had in a while - they tasted very fresh.
The service was some of the best we've had anywhere. The greeting was friendly and low-key, the staff was all very pleasant, and our waiter was point-on perfect. I couldn't have asked for better service.
We will definitely go back - my father-in-law will be thrilled about the vegetable plate - and I'd recommend it for anyone looking for something a little different downtown.