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Casual Lunch in Wilmington

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Heading to the beach this weekend. Since there are few choices between Raleigh and Wilmington, we figured we would stop in Wilmington for lunch. We're looking for something not too expensive, ethnic is great with us. Something near historic downtown or a nice view would be a plus. So what's your suggestions?

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  1. In Wrightsville Beach, Dockside has an excellent setting - a large deck overlooking the intracoastal waterway. The food varies from ok to pretty good...I think its better than many other chowhounds seem to think. Also in WB, South Beach Grill has excellent food, and nice outdoor seating are looking out over the sound. There is a busy street between the restaurant and the sound, though. Many of the downtown restaurants have outdoor dining...some down by the river have water views.

    4 Replies
    1. re: carolinadawg

      I wish I could recommend a restaurant in Wilmington that had great food AND a nice view, (Cape Fear River, Atlantic Ocean). Alas... none come to mind. IMO Dockside is GREAT for the view. Can't get much better. Food is okay. South Beach Grill again IMO is okay. Nothing special, but fun. Downtown has several wonderful restaurants. Circa 1922, for small plates, (one of our favorites), Chelsea's (Tapas and wine bar), Deluxe (for more upscale, wonderful food), The Copper Penny, (bar and pub food), & Caffe Pheonix, (great space and good food). As for ethnic downtown you could try Big Thai for really good Thai food.There's also a new place on Front and Princess called Mediterra. Have not been and have not heard anything about it.They serve Turkish, Lebanese, and Moroccan? Don't know anything about the food, but I hear the space is beautiful.

      1. re: Ando

        Do what we do...go to Catch or Big Thai for lunch and then go to Kilwins Ice Cream And Fudge At the base of Market Street. The toasted coconut ice cream is great. Then walk down to the riverfront, sit on a bench, and eat your ice cream. You can even get a glimce of Ned and Ed the horses that pull the carriage. There is not a place in Wilmington that serves delicious food with a view of the water. South Beach is good, Airlie Seafood on the waterway, just down from Dockside at Wrightsville is okay with a good view, but, do not expect to get great food and scenery in one stop. If you are near Wrightsville, The food at Oseteria Chechetti or the Bento Box is good and then you could go to Airlie Gardens for your Scenery. Actually, get a to go order or, pack a picnic, Airlie is so pretty!

        1. re: wineandcheese

          Thanks for all the suggestions. Just FYI neither Deluxe nor Circa 1922 serve lunch. My reason for posting was actually that many of the places listed in other Wilmington threads don't do lunch either. Too bad, since I think Tapas are perfect for lunch! I'm guessing we'll try Catch ot Big Thai, they look right up our West-Coast transplant alley!

          1. re: Lucydevil

            Lucydevil, I would highly recommend Catch. It's one of the best lunch spots in town. But if you're feeling like you'd like to try something ethnic, I'd also say try El Guajiro at 1015 S Kerr Ave. It's a hole-in-the-wall Cuban joint that has really excellent food. Worth it, even though there is utterly no view and the joint is definitely lacking in elegance of character. But I have to say, it's one of my favorite spots for lunch. Whatever special they have is always what I order - it is usually some grilled meat and some of the best beans and rice ever. Add a pineapple soda, a side of fried plantains and a "dessert" of their coffee, and you'll be wired for sound all afternoon.

            But Big Thai (1001 N 4th St) is also great, and you can see what they're doing with our North End. It's made some progress in the last couple of years, and PPD's relocation to downtown can't have done anything but helped.

            Also nice is The Basics (319 N. Front Street), at the Cotton Exchange. If you're in the mood for "upscale Southern", they have a pretty good lunch menu. My in-laws, one from rural Alabama and one from rural Tennessee, both loved it there. My father-in-law was especially pleased with the vegetable plate - collards, okra, and hoppin' John. I intend to try their grilled homemade pimento cheese sandwich next time around. I got the BLT last time, and it was really good. Their dinners are also wonderful.

            It is a shame, really, that none of our restaurants with the best views have the best food, but if you're willing to eat first and dawdle at the water afterward, the rewards are better (in my opinion). An excellent meal can make you forget all about the lack of scenery, but even a gorgeous view can't mask a mediocre meal.