People are often asking me where I like to eat around town. With tourist season on the horizon, I thought i'd round up my favorites for locals and also any upcoming visitors! This list includes everything from date night favorites to quick lunch spots. I'll continue to updates to the list as I discover new places - so check back in the YE Living section in the header above for new spots!
Near Wrightsville, semi-formal, French bistro food
Order the: Filet Bordelaise, Macaroni and Cheese, Brasserie Burgers, Profiteroles, Roast Chicken
Why I love it: Brasserie is my go-to date night spot. Always reliable with great atmosphere and reasonably priced considering the quality of food. Great, inexpensive house wines by the carafe. The same person also owns the OC, Boca Bay, Circa 1922, and Towne.
Downtown, fairly casual, southern classics
Order the: Fried Green Tomatoes, Parmesan Pesto Salmon, Goat Cheese Crusted Filet (substitute risotto for the mashed potatoes - you won't regret it!), Half Bird
Why I love it: The Basics has the most amazing date night deal, and they offer it EVERY night. For $65, you can get 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, 2 desserts, AND a BOTTLE of wine (no, seriously). The appetizer portions are slightly smaller, but I love that you get 2 because it is always so hard to choose one.
Near wrightsville, semi-formal, mostly tapas and small plates
Order the: Candied Bacon Pops, Stuffed Dates, Seared Scallops
Why I love it: This is a great spot for ladies night (if you have a husband like mine who doesn't like 'small food'). I love going with a big group and ordering half the menu. The restaurant is an extension of Taste the Olive, a great shop with a variety of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. I haven't been yet, but every so often they host a dog friendly night outdoors!
Near Wrightsville, semi-formal, some tapas, sushi, seafood, brunch buffet on Sundays
Order the: Calamari, Mussels, Crab Dip, Spring Rolls
Why I love it: Boca Bay is famous for their epic brunch buffet. Reasonably priced at $16, the buffet has everything you can imagine, from crisp bacon, fresh biscuits, homemade pastries, bagels, grits, to omelette stations and waffle bars. For dinner, check out their $5 bar menu (everyday), and try to coordinate with half-priced wine night (Wednesday). You can't beat that deal - with spring rolls, lettuce wraps, calamari, mussels, and more.
Market street, semi-formal or casual (there is a lot of variety in Wilmington!), gourmet seafood
Order the: Sweet Potato Salad, Miso Salmon with Drunken Noodles, Firecracker Shrimp
Why I love it: James Beard nominee Keith Rhodes always comes through with innovative dishes. The atmosphere seems casual compared to the quality of food. Be sure to make a reservation - they fill up fast! Avoid non-seafood dishes, this isn't a place to take land-lubbers.
Near Wrightsville, semi-formal, local cuisine, lots of variety in the menu
Order the: Crabcake with Green Goddess Dressing, Lobster Mac and Cheese, Shake & Bake fries, Cowboy Steak, Caesar Salad
Why I love it: PLG is a special occasion restaurant for us, but it doesn't necessarily have to be. We go all out, but they do have a large variety of inexpensive options, including a simple grill and also a small plates menu. Mike loves the Cowboy Steak, and I like to get the crab cake appetizer (served over lima beans with bacon and a great sauce) and splurge on the lobster mac.
Mid-Town, casual, seafood
Order the: Buffalo Shrimp (big portion!), New Bedford Scallops
Why I love it: A Wilmington classic. I think because this restaurant is off the beaten path, they can afford to offer reasonably priced options. The seafood is always super fresh and the portions are very generous. The menu is classic, nothing too crazy, just good quality basics.
Near Downtown, Casual, Thai/Vietnamese
Order the: Happy Asian Melody, Dumpling Sampler, Shrimp & Pineapple Curry
Why I love it: Great atmosphere, and a great spot to take out of town visitors. Indochine is almost always packed, so head there early (I don't think they take reservations unless you have a large party). On a nice night you can sit in a private hut in their gorgeous garden. My personal favorite is the Happy Asian Melody, which is a mixture of beef, chicken, scallops, and shrimp, tossed with lots of vegetables in a savory brown sauce. My curry-loving friends enjoy the shrimp and pineapple, but there are quite a few to choose from.
In Mayfaire, casual
Order the: Nachos! Turkey Club, Fried Zucchini Chips,
Why I love it: Did I say Nachos? I always get my own order as my meal. Add the pulled chicken on top of the crispy chips with fresh guacamole, pico, homemade queso and jalapeños. Mike loves the turkey club and burgers. Stick to the pub food.
Multiple locations (Tower 7, Las Olas, Oleander and Porters Neck locations - some slight variation in menus), casual, Mexican
Order the: Prickly Pear Margarita, Queso, Street Corn, Fajitas
Why I love it: There is no better salsa. Try to resist filling up on chips (impossible), and enjoy nightly weeknight specials. We love to go on half priced fajita night, dollar taco night (always super busy though), and half priced quesadilla night. Quesadilla night is usually the least expensive because there is also a half priced miller-lite special!
Multiple locations (downtown, Wrightsville, Monkey Junction), very casual
Order the: Amsterdam, Plymouth, Marseille, or any others!
Why I love it: Gourmet deli sandwiches, with daily mac and cheese flavors and also soups. You can't beat the quality or creativity. I love the Plymouth (turkey, apples, havarti, cranberry relish) when I'm in the mood for a cold sanwchich, and the Amsterdam (pot roast, melted cheddar, mushroom gravy) when I want something warm and comforting.
Downtown, very casual
Order the: Spanikopita (big!), Souvlaki, Gyro
Why I love it: A quick, delicious, and inexpensive lunch or dinner. Authentic Greek food and you can't beat their Tzatziki.
Multiple Locations, Sushi, Hibachi, casual
Order the: Bento box, Shrimp Avocado Roll, Green Bean Fries, Teriyaki Chicken
Why I love it: Our go-to Sushi spot. Each location has different specials and also specialties, with the Mayfair location offering great Hibachi. We enjoy the Oleander location often, with an extensive half-priced menu before 6. The menu is huge, with everything from burgers and sandwiches, to a traditional Sushi menu.
Mid-Town, casual, Italian
Order the: Spaghetti & Meatballs, Meatball Tower, Pizza, Cheesecake
Why I love it: This is our go-to pizza spot. We sometimes have them deliver, but also venture to the restaurant quite often. The food is very reasonably priced and you can bring your own wine (no cork fee!) since they don't have a license to sell alcohol. In the restaurant you'll be greeted with buttery garlic knots. Our favorite appetizer is the meatball tower, a giant meatball in their amazing red sauce over cool ricotta, served with crusty garlic bread.