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A bowl of bisque with shrimp and a red cocktail.
Carolina shrimp and cocktails at Dram Yard.
Matt Ray Photography

11 Hottest Restaurants in Wilmington, North Carolina

From Carolina shrimp at Dram Yard to big breakfasts at Vicious Biscuit, here’s where to eat in Wilmington

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Carolina shrimp and cocktails at Dram Yard.
| Matt Ray Photography

Wilmington’s dining scene continues to expand at a breathtaking pace. The city and surrounding areas not only benefit from the yearly tourism boom associated with nearby beach towns like Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach, but New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties are among the fastest-growing in the state in terms of permanent residents. With that growth has come a renaissance in the ILM dining scene, with a trend towards more diverse cuisine and year-round restaurants that aren’t totally dependent on tourists.

Eater Carolina’s Wilmington Heat Map will track some of the hottest new restaurants that have opened in the area within the last year. From high-end, locally sourced seafood to brewpubs with modern beach vibes, the Port City is poised to be one of the most exciting places to dine in 2022.

The map is continually updated, so if you have a favorite new spot send a note to charleston@eater.com.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Sauce'd

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Cocktails and french fries might not sound like a common pairing, but the high-low combo has found its following with Sauce’d, located on the downtown Riverwalk. The signature cocktails are all made with North Carolina spirits and are extremely Instagrammable — the Raspberry Beret is made with Cape Fear Distillery Vodka, Oak City Amaretto liqueur, and comes with a burstable bubble just begging for a Boomerang. Soak up all that booze with the fries, which come in three different varieties alongside 11 different dipping sauces.

Dram Yard

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The team behind Dram Yard and the accompanying Arrive Hotel (set to open later this year) recruited chef Joe Wolfson up from Charleston to reopen the restaurant after a 10-month hiatus, giving him full control of the menu and staffing. Dram Yard reopened in February with Wolfson’s brand new menu of local cuisine with Southeast Asian inspiration. The charred Brussels sprouts come with a garlic fondue, peanuts, nam jim jaew, and toasted rice. Other standouts on the menu include the uni carbonara, a whole fried snapper with a tangy tamarind sauce, and Wolfson’s signature beef tartare, held together with a beef tallow mayonnaise and served with a bright and bracing arugula salad.

Vientiane Kitchen

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Located in the former Hungry Sparrow space on Castle Street, Vientiane Kitchen is one of the few Laotian restaurants in the entire state. The menu is a combination of traditional Lao dishes like larbs, Lao sausage, and tom khem (a caramelized stew of either pork leg or beef short rib), alongside fusion specials like the Lao-American-style grilled salmon and a ribeye steak with stir-fried vegetables. There are plenty of traditional Lao drinks to wash it all down and a variety of traditional Lao desserts.

Cheese Smith

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After three year’s as one of Wilmington’s most beloved food truck Cheese Smith has found a permanent home in the Port City’s Cargo District. They’ve got the full menu of cheese-stuffed sandwiches like the Southern Charm (cheddar, hickory smoked pulled pork, pickled red onion, slaw) and the Brendito (cheddar, bacon, pepper jack, roasted jalapenos, pepper jam, cilantro, and chive cream cheese) along with sides like bulgogi-style Brussels sprouts and fries with toppings like parmesan, beer cheese, kimchi, and more.

The Green House Restaurant

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An upscale lunch and dinner menu, craft cocktails, and a global wine list define the Green House — oh, and it’s all vegan too. There’s a raw beet ravioli, creamy tahini Caesar salad, glazed lion’s mane mushroom, and a gnocchi that comes with a gingered leek pomace, preserved lemon, herbs, and carrots that have been marinated, fermented, roasted, topped. The lunch menu features items like cauliflower raw tacos, a root vegetable poutine, and BLT lettuce cups with mushroom bacon. Bakery items are also available to go.

Vicious Biscuit Wilmington

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This is the second North Carolina location for the small Southeastern breakfast chain. As one might guess from the name, biscuits are the star of the show here. There’s the Ranchero, a cheddar and jalapeno biscuit with black bean spread, panko-crusted avocado, pico de gallo, spicy remoulade, and a sunny side up egg. The Gravy Train comes with two buttermilk biscuits smothered in maple sausage gravy. There’s also a shrimp and grits burger, with the classic Southern breakfast dish poured over some biscuits. A small offering of breakfast plates, salads, and small plates complement the biscuit list.

Blueberry's Grill

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A Myrtle Beach breakfast favorite has opened in Lumina Station near Wrightsville Beach. Blueberry’s Grill offers all-day breakfast and lunch until 3 p.m. Pancakes, challah French toast, and Belgian waffles will satisfy a morning sweet tooth, while more savory options include chicken and waffles, steak and eggs, a variety of omelets and Benedicts, and the “Monie Cristo” — a sandwich of Virginia ham, smoked turkey, American and Swiss cheese, that’s battered, fried, topped with powdered sugar, and served with berry compote. Small plates like tuna tataki and crab cakes, along with sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads, and an abbreviated list of entrees make up the lunch menu. Cocktails, beer, and wine are also available.

Point Break NC

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Located on Market Street out in Ogden, Point Break showcases “wings, wraps, and good vibes,” with those vibes definitely catering to those who just spent a morning surfing at Wrightsville Beach. There are the signature PB wings or Jamaican jerk wings — available on special for $1.00 per wing (with purchase of a beverage, 12 wings per person max). There’s also a bevy of salads, wraps, and shareables like loaded potato wedges and nachos. The Market Street location is the new dine-in spot, but it also offers a regular catering menu for those who prefer to have their post-surf chowdown at home.

Artisano Pizza and Gelato

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The newest outpost of popular dessert spot Artisano (located right before the drawbridge to Wrightsville Beach) offers all of the original spots popular gelatos alongside an extensive menu of appetizers, pastas, soups, salads, and Roman-style thin crust pizzas. There is a large beer and wine menu, along with both vegan and vegetarian options throughout the menu. Pizza options run from the traditional (margherita, funghi, four-cheese) to the locally-inspired (the Wilmington comes with shrimp) and the avant-garde (an entire pizza inspired by a traditional English breakfast). The full range of the gelatos, still hand-made by the Grassi family in Turin, Italy from milk sourced from their own herd of dairy cows, is available for dessert or to take home.

Flying Machine at Wrightsville Beach

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One of the Port City’s most popular breweries opened a new brewpub in Wrightsville Beach over the summer, transforming the former Banks Channel Pub space into a modern, airy eatery. The full range of Flying Machine’s beers are available along with an exceptional craft cocktail menu, all backed up by superb lunch and dinner menus, plus Sunday brunch. The menus span the globe, with everything from its take on fish and chips or a pastrami sandwich to fried oysters in a chili glaze, a falafel and cauliflower burger, vegan plantain enchiladas. Standouts on the popular Sunday brunch menu include a stuffed blueberry French toast, short rib hash, and a chicken biscuit with chorizo sausage gravy.

Solstice Oceanfront Kitchen + Cocktails

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The Holiday Inn resort on Wrightsville Beach was due for a makeover, and when that time finally came it spruced up the dining options too. Now known as the Lumina, the bright and airy beachside hotel has a cafe/coffee bar, a poolside grill, and, on the main level, Solstice Oceanfront Kitchen + Cocktails. The sleek modern space overlooks the beach and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The food skews Coastal Carolina, with crab cakes, mussels, and Calabash shrimp just some of the lunch and dinner offerings. The Mermaid Water cocktail is a bartender favorite, made with two times of rum, Blue Curacao, and fruit juices for that perfect beach resort sipper vibe.

Sauce'd

Cocktails and french fries might not sound like a common pairing, but the high-low combo has found its following with Sauce’d, located on the downtown Riverwalk. The signature cocktails are all made with North Carolina spirits and are extremely Instagrammable — the Raspberry Beret is made with Cape Fear Distillery Vodka, Oak City Amaretto liqueur, and comes with a burstable bubble just begging for a Boomerang. Soak up all that booze with the fries, which come in three different varieties alongside 11 different dipping sauces.

Dram Yard

The team behind Dram Yard and the accompanying Arrive Hotel (set to open later this year) recruited chef Joe Wolfson up from Charleston to reopen the restaurant after a 10-month hiatus, giving him full control of the menu and staffing. Dram Yard reopened in February with Wolfson’s brand new menu of local cuisine with Southeast Asian inspiration. The charred Brussels sprouts come with a garlic fondue, peanuts, nam jim jaew, and toasted rice. Other standouts on the menu include the uni carbonara, a whole fried snapper with a tangy tamarind sauce, and Wolfson’s signature beef tartare, held together with a beef tallow mayonnaise and served with a bright and bracing arugula salad.

Vientiane Kitchen

Located in the former Hungry Sparrow space on Castle Street, Vientiane Kitchen is one of the few Laotian restaurants in the entire state. The menu is a combination of traditional Lao dishes like larbs, Lao sausage, and tom khem (a caramelized stew of either pork leg or beef short rib), alongside fusion specials like the Lao-American-style grilled salmon and a ribeye steak with stir-fried vegetables. There are plenty of traditional Lao drinks to wash it all down and a variety of traditional Lao desserts.

Cheese Smith

After three year’s as one of Wilmington’s most beloved food truck Cheese Smith has found a permanent home in the Port City’s Cargo District. They’ve got the full menu of cheese-stuffed sandwiches like the Southern Charm (cheddar, hickory smoked pulled pork, pickled red onion, slaw) and the Brendito (cheddar, bacon, pepper jack, roasted jalapenos, pepper jam, cilantro, and chive cream cheese) along with sides like bulgogi-style Brussels sprouts and fries with toppings like parmesan, beer cheese, kimchi, and more.

The Green House Restaurant

An upscale lunch and dinner menu, craft cocktails, and a global wine list define the Green House — oh, and it’s all vegan too. There’s a raw beet ravioli, creamy tahini Caesar salad, glazed lion’s mane mushroom, and a gnocchi that comes with a gingered leek pomace, preserved lemon, herbs, and carrots that have been marinated, fermented, roasted, topped. The lunch menu features items like cauliflower raw tacos, a root vegetable poutine, and BLT lettuce cups with mushroom bacon. Bakery items are also available to go.

Vicious Biscuit Wilmington

This is the second North Carolina location for the small Southeastern breakfast chain. As one might guess from the name, biscuits are the star of the show here. There’s the Ranchero, a cheddar and jalapeno biscuit with black bean spread, panko-crusted avocado, pico de gallo, spicy remoulade, and a sunny side up egg. The Gravy Train comes with two buttermilk biscuits smothered in maple sausage gravy. There’s also a shrimp and grits burger, with the classic Southern breakfast dish poured over some biscuits. A small offering of breakfast plates, salads, and small plates complement the biscuit list.

Blueberry's Grill

A Myrtle Beach breakfast favorite has opened in Lumina Station near Wrightsville Beach. Blueberry’s Grill offers all-day breakfast and lunch until 3 p.m. Pancakes, challah French toast, and Belgian waffles will satisfy a morning sweet tooth, while more savory options include chicken and waffles, steak and eggs, a variety of omelets and Benedicts, and the “Monie Cristo” — a sandwich of Virginia ham, smoked turkey, American and Swiss cheese, that’s battered, fried, topped with powdered sugar, and served with berry compote. Small plates like tuna tataki and crab cakes, along with sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads, and an abbreviated list of entrees make up the lunch menu. Cocktails, beer, and wine are also available.

Point Break NC

Located on Market Street out in Ogden, Point Break showcases “wings, wraps, and good vibes,” with those vibes definitely catering to those who just spent a morning surfing at Wrightsville Beach. There are the signature PB wings or Jamaican jerk wings — available on special for $1.00 per wing (with purchase of a beverage, 12 wings per person max). There’s also a bevy of salads, wraps, and shareables like loaded potato wedges and nachos. The Market Street location is the new dine-in spot, but it also offers a regular catering menu for those who prefer to have their post-surf chowdown at home.

Artisano Pizza and Gelato

The newest outpost of popular dessert spot Artisano (located right before the drawbridge to Wrightsville Beach) offers all of the original spots popular gelatos alongside an extensive menu of appetizers, pastas, soups, salads, and Roman-style thin crust pizzas. There is a large beer and wine menu, along with both vegan and vegetarian options throughout the menu. Pizza options run from the traditional (margherita, funghi, four-cheese) to the locally-inspired (the Wilmington comes with shrimp) and the avant-garde (an entire pizza inspired by a traditional English breakfast). The full range of the gelatos, still hand-made by the Grassi family in Turin, Italy from milk sourced from their own herd of dairy cows, is available for dessert or to take home.

Flying Machine at Wrightsville Beach

One of the Port City’s most popular breweries opened a new brewpub in Wrightsville Beach over the summer, transforming the former Banks Channel Pub space into a modern, airy eatery. The full range of Flying Machine’s beers are available along with an exceptional craft cocktail menu, all backed up by superb lunch and dinner menus, plus Sunday brunch. The menus span the globe, with everything from its take on fish and chips or a pastrami sandwich to fried oysters in a chili glaze, a falafel and cauliflower burger, vegan plantain enchiladas. Standouts on the popular Sunday brunch menu include a stuffed blueberry French toast, short rib hash, and a chicken biscuit with chorizo sausage gravy.

Solstice Oceanfront Kitchen + Cocktails

The Holiday Inn resort on Wrightsville Beach was due for a makeover, and when that time finally came it spruced up the dining options too. Now known as the Lumina, the bright and airy beachside hotel has a cafe/coffee bar, a poolside grill, and, on the main level, Solstice Oceanfront Kitchen + Cocktails. The sleek modern space overlooks the beach and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The food skews Coastal Carolina, with crab cakes, mussels, and Calabash shrimp just some of the lunch and dinner offerings. The Mermaid Water cocktail is a bartender favorite, made with two times of rum, Blue Curacao, and fruit juices for that perfect beach resort sipper vibe.

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