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Wilmington eateries


hazardnc
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I will be meeting my brother (a New Yorker) in Wilmington, NC this weekend. What are some restaurants worth visiting - a good upscale, a good local and a good barbecue or home cooking establishment?

Edited by hazardnc (log)
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Varmint is right about PortLand Grille being the place to go for high end.

I don't know about BBQ, but Breakfast House/Middle of the Island is good for home cooking, as is Salt Works, the one on Wrightsville Ave. Check out the boardwalk in Wilmington and have a glass of wine and a pate/cheese plate at Catalan and watch the sunset and then dinner at at Deluxe or Cafe Phoenix. I heard Pilot House and Elijah's had some trouble during Bonnie, don't know if they are back up and running. Anyone? They are great for sitting outside, having a bite and a drink, I don't know if I would call it fine dining, but nonetheless and enjoyable place to spend some time. See my old post for more.

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I really love Cafe Phoenix (definitely go for the Risotto cakes), and Elijah's and Pilot House are both good (I can never remember which is which) but this past week we were down on the beach south of Wilmington and went to Stars Waterfront Cafe on Ocean Isle Beach, about 30 minutes drive from Wilmington. It definitely was one of the best meal's I have eaten in North Carolina hands down.

Ocean Isle is kind of a mini-Myrtle Beach and that is not intended as a compliment. Stars is on the main drag onto the island and it is sandwhiched between two real estate agents. From the front you would probably never go in. But both the indoor and outdoor eating areas are really beautiful and the food is mostly fantastic (see below for minuses). And it is kid friendly. The first night we went there it was just me and my wife, but then we went back the next night with my five year old. It is a real interesting mix of a restaurant aspiring for 4 star food with a real informal atmosphere, but formal service. Really. Silverware was replaced between courses. The staff is well trained, professional and knowledgeable (even discussing in detail the correct temperature to serve wine and the history of what temperature it has been served) and people eating in shorts and flip-flops. Sit outside and watch the sun set over the marsh!!

The first night I had a Tamarind Glazed Grilled Shrimp for my app and "Macaroni and Cheese" for the main course. It was definitely not out of a blue box. It was two whole lobster tails on top of orzo in what is described on the menu as a roasted garlic mascarpone cream, but it tasted really much lighter than that sounds. My wife had a "Wild Mushroom Cigar" which was basically a crepe filled with wild mushrooms and Cabarnet Poached Bosc Pear that was served with Stilton Mouse and toast spread with house made fig jam.

The second night I had a Japanese style Carpaccio which was definetly the best carpaccion I have ever eaten. It cam served with little cubes of sake/wasabi jello, wasabi peas, and seaweed salad. Sometimes cute isn't tasty and many things on the menu have that too cute ring to them, but all the ones we tried worked really nicely. I mean, wasabi jello? But it was really a nice surprise and I would gladly have ordered a bowl for dessert. The five-spice duck breast I had the second night was just OK. A bit too close to medium-well for my tastes. It was the only slip up in the service. They didn't ask, and I assumed it would come rare. Both of our faults really.

My wife ordered the Macaroni and cheese since she liked mine so much the day before.

The kids menu is real basic, but that is a kids menu. They gave us enough chicken fingers (which were house made and not bad as chicken fingers go) and fries to feed several kids.

They had a very interesting looking tasting menu, but it was way more food than we could eat the first night and kids and tasting menus are not a good idea when we went the next day.

The desserts were just ok. A bit too sweet for my tastes. The chocolate cake glazed with port on top of creme brulee sounded good, and the brulee was tasty but the cake itself tasted a bit like stale Sarah Lee and the port glaze didn't help it much. We had a bittersweet ganache that was better. The Root Beer float with house made sassafras ice cream was very nice though.

Surprisingly the coffee was undrinkable. Both nights and both the decaf and regular. Truly vile diner style. And no espresso or anything like that. I was really amazed by that.

The reviews on the wall say it has won various awards, and I think they are well deserved with the above caveats. If you order duck specify and bring coffee in a thermos. Worth a drive from Wilmington or Myrtle Beach.

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I will second the recommendation made on the other thread for MOI (Middle of the Island). Definitely a locals spot and very down home (formica tables, paper napkins, plastic drink glasses etc.). I had a terrific meal there.

My only other Wilminogton dining experience was at a place that is represented as Thai/Vietnamese - it's a mile or so out of downtown Wilmington on the main drag. I wasn't over impressed. It was basically just a Thai place with a couple Viet influenced items on the menu.

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The Thai place is called Indochine. Went about a year ago, it was okay. We had the steamed fish and must have been one of the few who ordered it as the chef came out to see if we liked it. It was good. The other dishes were fine, nothing to write home about.

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Circa 1922 has great food and a great bar.

The Chophouse (might have another name first) has great prices on aged Scotch, and a good menu as well.

There is a sofa bar around the corner and upstairs from Circa that supposedly has awesome food from what everyone kept telling me, but I didn't get a chance to eat there.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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Thanks for all of the suggestions - especially for Ocean Isle, as I will be there in mid-October for the Oyster Fest and fun run. If no one has ever been to this event, the oyster stew cookoff is worth trying and you can get buckets of steamed oysters and a beer for a deal. The weather in mid-October is the perfect time to be in Ocean Isle - clear, blue skies and water still warm enough for swimming.

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If you make it to Stars, let us know what you think!

Thanks for the heads up about the Oyster Fest.

Post the dates when you know them.

Also, although not food related, if you are looking for a place to stay Sunset Beach is one island south and is much nicer and less over developed. They still have the natural dunes on most of the beaches!

Challah-baker

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We had a great, ultra-quick visit to Wilmington and high-tailed it back to Charlotte before the worst of Gaston hit the town. It looks like Charleston got it much worse!

We did not have much time for trying the local food, but we did visit Elijahs and the Dixie Grill.

Elijahs was good - not great. I was told to try the shrimp bread, which was a heavy cheesey dish. Rich, not flavorful. I was very disappointed in the oysters. Though I know the Stump Sound oysters are not yet in season, the kitchen sent some Guilf oysters to the table that should have been sent to the trash bin. There was very little oyster. I had a simple broiled mahi mahi that was fresh. I imagine the best reason to go to Elijahs is for the atmosphere.

Now, the Dixie Grill's breakfast was GREAT. My husband had the cajun grill and I had the huevos rancheros. Both were very good - I ate far more than I should have. My daughter tried an unusual saugsage, egg and cheese sandwich - only unusual in that they include mayo. But it was tasty. My son loved their hash browns and bacon. This was worth the wait and the price was very reasonable.

Next time when I have more time I will try some of these other locations - I must go back the the Stump Sound oysters are in

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