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North Carolina trip in July


njduchess
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My husband and I (from Northern New Jersey) are attending a wedding celebration mid-July in Wilmington. We are flying into Raleigh/Durham and then driving a rental car into Wilmington.

We would like to sample some regional food during our trip. We would like to stop for lunch not too far from the airport, since we will be getting in at about 1:00 p.m. We would probably be stopping for a late breakfast or early lunch on the way back from Wilmington to the airport.

While we will be in Wilmington, we might have one night when it will be just the two of us dining together. For the other two nights, we may be dining with a crowd.

We are not necessarily looking for elegant and fancy restaurants but rather a few dining experiences that we just can't get at home. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Thanks for your help!

Marie

NJDuchess

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I can't speak for the Raleigh airport. I've never flown in or out there. But Wilmington is a lot of fun -- it's got the history of Charleston, but it's less crowded, more laid-back. I'm sure there are others with more up-to-date information than mine. I'm in Charllotte and last did extensive eating in Wilmington about two years ago. But I'll throw out a few suggestions: Caffe Phoenix or Circa 1922 in downtown (I think it's called High Street -- the street about a block up from the waterfront that borders the river). Both are locally owned, have creative menus. On the waterfront, Elijah's has pretty views, but otherwise it's a pretty standard fried-or-broiled seafood place.

If you want something very nice for the two of you, consider Port Land Grille. It's out from town on the road to Wrightsville Beach, in Lumina Station. It's very nice and when I was there the menu was well-larded with local catch.

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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My husband and I (from Northern New Jersey) are attending a wedding celebration mid-July in Wilmington.  We are flying into Raleigh/Durham and then driving a rental car into Wilmington. 

We would like to sample some regional food during our trip.  We would like to stop for lunch not too far from the airport, since we will be getting in at about 1:00 p.m.  We would probably be stopping for a late breakfast or early lunch on the way back from Wilmington to the airport.

While we will be in Wilmington, we might have one night when it will be just the two of us dining together.  For the other two nights, we may be dining with a crowd. 

We are not necessarily looking for elegant and fancy restaurants but rather a few dining experiences that we just can't get at home.  Does anyone have any suggestions? 

Thanks for your help!

Marie

A couple of other suggestions for dinner:

Deluxe Cafe -- downtown on Market Street. Used to be one of the best downtown, though I haven't been in a few years.

The Bridge Tender -- right at the Intracoastal Canal before Wrightsville Beach. I was there 2 months ago, and thought it very good. Very fresh seafood, plenty of variety, and great views of the waterway and Sound. (My blog archives should have pics, a review, and link.)

Just across the Intracoastal is the Causeway Cafe. This is a popular greasy-spoon with plenty of local color. It would be a fun place for breakfast before you hit the road.

Have fun.

LPM - Nashville-Based Food Enthusiast

Personal Blog: Boston Dreams and Michelin Stars

lpm@wardandsmith.com

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We had brunch at Deluxe when we were last in Wilmington - it was wonderful. I second the motion!

If you go to Elijahs, be sure to sit out on the deck for a sundowner...

Here's a link to a site full of useful info for the area Insider's Guide to Wilmington

If you can wait for lunch and take a more circuitous route to Wilmington, there are some great barbecue joints you can visit -- Wilber's in out of this world

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Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I'm starting to prepare my folder of possibilities, and I will definitely report back. Can anyone tell me what particular types of fish are native to the area?

Yes, HazardNC, we were definitely hoping for some barbeque. I went to Roadfood.com to see if they had suggestions. The only one they listed that was not too far out of the way was Allen & Son in Chapel Hill. The Sterns had been there is 2000, and someone else posted a review in 2003. I welcome your suggestion of Wilbur's. Where is it?

Marie

NJDuchess

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Thanks everyone for your suggestions.  I'm starting to prepare my folder of possibilities, and I will definitely report back.  Can anyone tell me what particular types of fish are native to the area?

Yes, HazardNC, we were definitely hoping for some barbeque.  I went to Roadfood.com to see if they had suggestions.  The only one they listed that was not too far out of the way was Allen & Son in Chapel Hill.  The Sterns had been there is 2000, and someone else posted a review in 2003.  I welcome your suggestion of Wilbur's.  Where is it?

Marie

Check out Holly Eats

The trip will take about 1 1/2 hours from the RDU airport, and then you wil have another 1 1/2 hours to get to Wilmington - all in all adding about an hour to your travel time (not including eating time) But, if you want really good cue, this may be worth it to you. I do not know of any place in the Wilmington area that is as good.

Allen & Sons is also very good. I think it would take you about 30 minutes to get to Chapel Hill - maybe I am wrong? That would certainly be a shorter detour for good cue, but IMHO, Wilbers beats Allen & Sons -- but perhaps not enough to warrant the extra travel time.

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  • 4 weeks later...

We just returned from a very enjoyable trip to North Carolina. We opted for Allen & Sons for our barbeque upon arrival. It was closer to the airport and we arrived at 1:00 p.m. We didn't feel like waiting for 3:00 p.m. which is when we might have arrived at Wilber's. Everything was outstanding. That night, we went to Deluxe Cafe for dinner. All of the food was well-prepared and very tall on the plate. We all enjoyed it.

Saturday was the wedding celebration and most of our eating and drinking took place there. On Sunday, we had a nice dinner at Boca Bay (on the road to Wrightsville Beach). There were eight of us, and service was excellent as well as very good food. They served tapas style with a great emphasis on seafood. Most of us shared large salads, and then had another dish that was appetizer size. Wanting a taste of something regional, I had shrimp and grits with some bacon thrown in. It was incredible. Then we got a few desserts for the table. The creme brulee was gigantic served in a platter-sized gratin dish big enough for a good portion for each of six of us. I would recommend this place.

On Monday, we went to the Causeway Cafe for breakfast. I had French toast, but the winner was shrimp and grits, ordered by my husband. It was very different than the version I had with dinner the previous night, but enjoyable nonetheless. For dinner, we went to South Beach. This is actually in Wrightsville Beach (make a right as soon as you go over the second bridge). The bride works there and, of course, we got top-notch service. We started with fried pickles - hadn't had these since Memphis. Between the three of us we had salmon, flounder, and grouper Linda. They were all good, but the Grouper Linda was outstanding. The French Martinis put us in a great mood, too. The prices were very good.

For the trip back to the airport, we found that Wilber's started making lunch at 10:00 a.m. All of you felt it was superior to Allen & Sons. The people we were visiting with in Wilmington also said Wilber's was a better bet. We decided to have a very light and early breakfast and go there for lunch. We were cutting it close, but felt it was worth it. Then we hit road construction on 70, and we had to turn back to the airport or risk missing our flight. We were hungry and needed to use a bathroom, so we stopped at Smithfield's chicken and barbecue (chain) - it was really bland and soft - no texture. Even the hushpuppies were tough. So sad to end such a great trip on a low note.

Thanks for all of your help and input.

NJDuchess

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Sorry for the late reply but wanted to add this for future reference for anybody looking for a quality bbq joint between Raleigh and Wilmington off of I-40.

Stephenson's Bar-B-Q is located just 5 minutes or so off of I-40 directly on your way to Wilmington. It's about 20 miles or so out of Raleigh. To get there, take the McGee's Crossroads exit off of I-40 East (Exit 319). After exiting, take a right onto NC Highway 210 and go a couple of miles to the intersection with NC Highway 50 (McGee's Crossroads). Turn right onto Highway 50 and go another couple of miles and Stephenson's is located on the right.

I grew up in eastern NC and think Wilber's is at the top of the list but frankly my palate is not sophisticated enough to justify a detour to Wilber's when excellent cue is so close by at Stephenson's. I've heard some say this is "B-level" cue compared to Wilber's or Allen & Son but I frankly have not experienced that in my several visits. In fact, I would put this above typical Allen & Son most days just because I've had some inconsistent stuff at Allen & Son. (I agree when Allen & Son is on, however, it's just about perfect.)

I understand that Stepehnson's cooks over hardwood coals so I guess they are not a true "woodburner" like Wilber's and Allen & Son but they also aren't using an electric or gas cooker. At any rate, I believe it's superior to the other nearby options. I love the smoky flavor. It also has a great atmoshphere--an old country Bar-B-Q joint with tons of locals eating around lunchtime. Was in Saturday and there must have been about 30 Legion baseball players in eating in addition to the farmers, families and several "little old ladies." It's just classic. They also serve fried chicken and tons of vegetables.

Edited by Guilty Gourmand (log)
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