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Table at Benny’s
Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria/Facebook

18 Essential Restaurants in Wilmington, North Carolina

From fun pizzas to waterfront seafood

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Table at Benny’s
| Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria/Facebook

Beach season is almost here, and North Carolina’s 8th largest city, Wilmington, is about to see an influx of visitors. Sure the big draw might be the surrounding shores of Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach, but Wilmington packs in its fair share of visitors who visit the Battleship North Carolina, stroll the boardwalk along the Cape Fear River, and check out the historic homes downtown.

One thing visitors to the Port City and its surroundings have in common is an appetite for good food. Seafood might be the logical choice for an oceanside nibble and there is no shortage of options that run the gamut from old timey to high brow and everything in between. Diners in the mood for some Southeast Asian cuisine might themselves eating in one of the state’s most photogenic restaurants, while those with a sweet tooth can join the line for piping hot donuts straight off the boardwalk. Whatever the mood the food in Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, and Carolina Beach is as much a reason to visit as are the beaches.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Catch

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6623 Market St
Wilmington, NC 28405
(910) 799-3847
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Chef Keith Rhodes’s ode to the seafood of the Cape Fear Coast has been one of Wilmington’s most-lauded restaurants since opening in 2006. The menu is certainly seafood focused, with dishes like Cajun-crusted North Carolina oysters, seared Ahi tuna (with coconut-saffron risotto, baby spinach, oyster mushrooms, and a sesame buerre blanc), and a fried seafood platter that comes with the catch of the day plus jumbo shrimp and local oysters. The fish-averse can choose from the “Land Offerings” (steak, duck, ribs), although the shrimp and grits with Benton’s bacon might be hard to turn down.

Seafood at Catch
Catch Restaurant/Wilmington

2. Indochine Restaurant

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7 Wayne Dr
Wilmington, NC 28403
(910) 251-9229
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Enter through Indochine’s front door into a moody, wood-filled bar and transition to the bright and colorful dining room before being transported to the practically jungle-like backyard, where tables are tucked into corners or perched underneath giant tropical palms. Dining at Indochine is nothing if not an experience. The lush setting is complemented by a Southeast-Asian menu focused on Thai and Vietnamese staples like chicken satay, Thai curries, and pho. Other options include bun bo hue, a spicy Vietnamese beef and noodle soup originating from central Vietnam, Cambodian-style steamed mussels, and a braised Vietnamese-style catfish. Sushi, sweets like mango sticky rice and key lime mousse, and cocktails that lean tropical are also available.

3. Savorez

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402 Chestnut St #4026
Wilmington, NC 28401
(910) 833-8894
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Wilmington native Sam Cahoon’s downtown restaurant offers what the website calls “local fare with Latin flair.” Formerly the executive chef at Ceviche’s, Cahoon’s menu includes a entire section dedicated to salsas, shareables like BLT arepas and chicken tinga empanadas, and entrees like the caliente tuna, a blackened tuna filet served with cilantro-lime quinoa, pineapple salsa, oven-dried tomatoes, balsamic glaze, avocado, and pickled shallots. The lunch menu is heavy on tacos and tostadas, and Sunday brunch is available as well.

4. Manna

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123 Princess St
Wilmington, NC 28401
(910) 763-5252
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Manna sets the bar for new American cuisine in Wilmington, and it sets it high. The menu changes so constantly it’s almost futile to list dishes (who knows how long the Pig League Ball Pork, a hickory-smoked pork chop with barbecued peas, Tokyo turnips, and boiled peanut jus will last?), but rest assured that executive chef Carson Jewell is always serving up something tasty. Executive pastry chef Rebeca Edelmira Alvarado-Paredes takes care of the sweets, and between them and general manager/owner WM Mellon they’ve managed to turn Manna into one of the Port City’s must-have dinner reservations.

5. Roko Italian Cuisine

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6801-105 Parker Farm Dr
Wilmington, NC 28405
(910) 679-4783
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Located in the bustling Mayfaire shopping plaza, Roko is the crowning jewel of Wilmington’s Italian food scene. Croatian-American chef Jadran Peros runs the kitchen while his Serbian-born wife Vojka expertly manages the small dining room, greeting both longtime and brand new guests as though they were family. The menu sticks to classics like bruschetta, linguine with clam sauce, flounder francaisca, and of course a parmigiana (choice of eggplant, chicken, or veal). The wine menu is heavy on Italian and Californian favorites, and the martinis are the stars of the cocktail list.

Crab-stuffed grouper
Roko Italian Cuisine/Facebook

6. The Fortunate Glass

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29 S Front St
Wilmington, NC 28401
(910) 399-4292
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Every city deserves a good wine bar, and Wilmington has hers with the Fortunate Glass. A mix-and-match menu of cheeses and meats will please any charcuterie lover, while the small plates menu tempts those who might need a bigger bite to go along with their glass. The bruschetta comes with melted brie, caramelized onions, and grapes, while the duck sliders consist of duck confit topped with bacon, kimchi, cheddar, and a spicy 1000 Island dressing. Of course the main draw is the wine menu, which at more than 20 pages long has a bit of the familiar (Oregon Pinot Noir and plenty of Californian Chardonnay) as well as some glasses for the more adventurous. The Areni Noir red wine from Armenia might be the perfect pairing with those duck confit sliders.

Duck sliders
The Fortunate Glass/Facebook

7. Nippy's Soul Food Restaurant

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2206 Carolina Beach Rd
Wilmington, NC 28401
(910) 769-7807
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Brother and sister duo William and Marsha Boudreaux offer classic Southern coastal soul food a few minutes east of downtown Wilmington. Inspired by the home cooking of their mother, Carrie, the menu at Nippy’s features dishes like crab rice, butter beans and okra, turkey wings, barbecue ribs, ox tails, and fish and grits. All dinners come with two sides and optional rice and gravy, although for that true home cooked meal feeling the rice and gravy is never really optional.

8. Brasserie Du Soleil

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1908 Eastwood Rd STE 118
Wilmington, NC 28403
(910) 256-2226
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From the tin-paneled ceilings to the airy patio, Brasserie du Soleil serves up classic Parisian vibes to go with the bistro-style menu. Escargots, bouef bourgignon, and steak with pomme frites are just a few of the French classics on the menu. Flounder with brown butter, haricots vert, boulangere potatoes, lemon, and capers and a bouillabaise of fish, shrimp, clams, and mussels in a saffron olive oil broth are nods to the nearly-seaside location. Lunch is available, as is a popular weekend brunch.

Sliders at Brasserie Du Soleil
Brasserie Du Soleil

9. Ceviche's

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7210 Wrightsville Ave
Wilmington, NC 28403
(910) 256-3131
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Ceviche’s serves up Panamanian staples in a rambling, beach-shack-esque spot just north of the Wrightsville Beach drawbridge. As the name implies there are a variety of different ceviches to choose from including langoustine de coco (langoustine tails in a citrus and coconut milk marinade with ginger, red bell pepper, red onion, avocado, and cilantro) and the mango mahi (with jalapeno, red onion, red bell pepper, cilantro, and their house-made hot sauce). A variety of tapas and empanadas are ideal for sharing, and larger plates like grilled sea bass, ropa vieja, and Panamanian paella are available alongside daily specials, cocktails, beer, and wine.

10. The Bridge Tender

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1414 Airlie Rd
Wilmington, NC 28403
(910) 256-4519
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Classic surf ‘n turf options overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway have brought generations of hungry folks to Bridge Tender. Diners walk over the bridge from Wrightsville Beach, arrive by car, or pull up in their boats to chow down on oysters Rockefeller, crab cakes, and the BT chopped salad. Seafood (mahi, tuna, scallops, jumbo shrimp, salmon, and crab cakes) come either grilled or blackened with an herb buerre blanc and choice of two sides, while the steaks (filet mignon, NY strip, ribeye, sirloin, and tenderloin medallions) are available with a horseradish cream sauce or shallot demi-glace in addition to two sides. Special entrees like crab-stuffed flounder and horseradish-crusted tuna, along with two pasta options round out the dinner menu.

11. Benny's Big Time Pizzeria

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206 Greenfield St
Wilmington, NC 28401
(910) 550-2525
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Named after her husband Ben, Benny’s Big Time is Vivian Howard’s first (and so far only) foray into the Wilmington dining scene. Elevated red sauce Italian-American cuisine might be the easiest way to describe the food at Benny’s. The chicken parm is actually an appetizer and comes with stracciatella cheese, hot honey, pickled peppers, and sage, while the spaghetti and meatballs hews more towards the classic that everyone knows and loves. Neapolitan-style pizzas are probably the biggest draw, with options like the King Louie (pineapple jam, calabrian and serrano chilies, speck, and mint) or the Little Greenie (red sauce, garlic, red onion, Brussels sprouts, guindilla peppers, and nutritional yeast). Those in the know order the most popular pizza, the Kevin McAlister (Grayson taleggio, mozzarella, and hot honey) and add pepperoni. A large selection of homemade gelatos makes for a great ending to a meal at Benny’s.

Pizza at Benny’s
Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria/Facebook

12. Flaming Amy's Burrito Barn

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4002 Oleander Dr
Wilmington, NC 28403
(910) 799-2919
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Opened in 2000 by owners Amy and Jay Muxworthy, Flaming Amy’s is as well-known for its burritos as it is for the nearly-ubiquitous “Eat At Flaming Amy’s” bumper stickers. There are chips and queso and nacho platters, but the unique burritos are the real draw. The Bayou comes with spicy Creole jambalaya sauce, rice, beans, cheese, and a choice of grilled filling seasoned with Cajun spices, while the Philly “Phatboy” has grilled steak, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, lettuce, diced tomato, sour cream, and cheese. Heat lovers should stick with the original Flaming Amy burrito, packed with chipotle peppers, fresh jalapeños, mild green chiles, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, rice, beans, “Flaming Hot” salsa, and a choice of grilled filling. There is a second location in Carolina Beach for those not wanting to make the trek into town.

Flaming Amy’s
Flaming Amy’s/Facebook

13. Casey’s Buffet

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5559 Oleander Dr
Wilmington, NC 28403
(910) 798-2913
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“EAT PIG FEET AT CASEYS BBQ” reads hundreds, if not thousands of bumper stickers around town (and maybe around the country), and indeed, the barbecued pig feet are always on the menu at Casey’s. If that sounds a bit too adventurous, stick with the classics like pulled pork, fried chicken, catfish, chitlin’s, and more. With rotating daily specials like barbecued pork chops (Wednesdays), squash casserole (Thursdays), and deviled crab (Fridays and Saturdays between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. only), it’s hard to find a more traditionally Southern meal in Wilmington.

Food at Casey’s
Casey’s Buffet/Facebook

14. Tower 7 Baja Mexican Grill

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4 N Lumina Ave
Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480
(910) 256-8585
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The folks behind the Live.Eat.Surf restaurant group operate five Baja-Cali-Mexican-style restaurants in the area, but Tower 7 is easily the most iconic. Located just steps from the sand in Wrightsville Beach, the restaurant offers a range of tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and more. Customers can try the San Felipe tacos, filled with Dos Equis-battered fried cod and topped with salsa fresca, shaved cabbage, avocado, cotija cheese, and a yogurt Ranch dressing, or opt for the Tower 7 burrito, stuffed with black beans, Mexican rice, guacamole, salsa fresca, cheese, sour cream, and cilantro along with a choice of a variety of meats or veggies (hello yellow fin tuna). Wash everything down with one of their many margarita varieties and head back out to the beach.

15. South Beach Grill

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100 S Lumina Ave
Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480
(910) 256-4646
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Just across the final bridge to Wrightsville Beach’s barrier island, South Beach Grill is a favorite among locals and tourists. Whether dining inside or people watching outside on the dog-friendly patio, South Beach Grill has a large menu of Southern seafood classics like benne shrimp (lightly fried, tail-on shrimp, benne seeds, house pickled onion and a spiced comeback sauce) and fried seafood platters. The grouper Linda, a local grouper with a spiced pecan crust, pan seared with crab meat, spring onion, and cream sherry beurre blanc sauce, has been a menu staple for nearly two decades. A small menu of dinner shareables and entree salads complement the ever-changing specials board, and lunch is available for those who worked up an appetite with a morning beach stroll.

Seared sea scallops with pimento cheese pierogies
South Beach Grill/Facebook

16. Trolly Stop

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94 S Lumina Ave
Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480
(910) 256-3421
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Since 1976, beach-goers and locals alike have been lining up at Trolly Stop in Wrightsville Beach for one (or more) of their iconic hotdogs. Customers pick a style of dog, the beef and pork “Traditional Southern Dog”, the all beef “Northern Dog”, the smoked turkey dog, the veggie dog, or a smoked pork sausage, before deciding on toppings. The Surfer Dog comes topped with mustard, cheese, and bacon bits, while the Mexican Dog has salsa, cheese, onions, jalapenos, and two strips of bacon. Out-of-staters should probably go for the true North Carolina experience and order the Carolina Dog with deli mustard, chili, and coleslaw.

17. Ida Thai Cuisine

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304 N Lake Park Blvd
Carolina Beach, NC 28428
(910) 458-8136
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Ida Thai is a Carolina Beach mainstay serving up classic Thai cuisine like som tom (papaya salad), tom kha kai soup, and pad Thai. Red, green, yellow, pananag, and massaman curries are available, and the chef’s recommendations menu includes dishes such as Thai three flavor fish (a whole fried fish with sweet, sour, and spicy sauce), a roasted duck, and Soft Shell Crabs Garee (fried soft shell crabs with celery, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, onion, tomato and egg). Takeout is a popular option, and they recently began offering beer and wine to go for those who want the Ida Thai experience in the comfort of their vacation rental.

18. Britts Donuts

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11 Carolina Beach Ave N
Carolina Beach, NC 28428
(910) 707-0755
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The line might appear before the smell does, but soon enough almost every visitor to Carolina Beach finds themselves queued up for a chance to grab a piping hot glazed donut from Britt’s. The shop first opened in 1939 and has been operated by the Nivens family for the past 40 years. The menu is simple — glazed donuts, plus some drinks. And that’s it. Open Friday through Sunday, the weekend line starts to form well before the 8:30am opening, but it tends to move fast. Britt’s is open until they sell out, which during the high season is a distinct possibility.

1. Catch

6623 Market St, Wilmington, NC 28405
Seafood at Catch
Catch Restaurant/Wilmington

Chef Keith Rhodes’s ode to the seafood of the Cape Fear Coast has been one of Wilmington’s most-lauded restaurants since opening in 2006. The menu is certainly seafood focused, with dishes like Cajun-crusted North Carolina oysters, seared Ahi tuna (with coconut-saffron risotto, baby spinach, oyster mushrooms, and a sesame buerre blanc), and a fried seafood platter that comes with the catch of the day plus jumbo shrimp and local oysters. The fish-averse can choose from the “Land Offerings” (steak, duck, ribs), although the shrimp and grits with Benton’s bacon might be hard to turn down.

6623 Market St
Wilmington, NC 28405

2. Indochine Restaurant

7 Wayne Dr, Wilmington, NC 28403

Enter through Indochine’s front door into a moody, wood-filled bar and transition to the bright and colorful dining room before being transported to the practically jungle-like backyard, where tables are tucked into corners or perched underneath giant tropical palms. Dining at Indochine is nothing if not an experience. The lush setting is complemented by a Southeast-Asian menu focused on Thai and Vietnamese staples like chicken satay, Thai curries, and pho. Other options include bun bo hue, a spicy Vietnamese beef and noodle soup originating from central Vietnam, Cambodian-style steamed mussels, and a braised Vietnamese-style catfish. Sushi, sweets like mango sticky rice and key lime mousse, and cocktails that lean tropical are also available.

7 Wayne Dr
Wilmington, NC 28403

3. Savorez

402 Chestnut St #4026, Wilmington, NC 28401

Wilmington native Sam Cahoon’s downtown restaurant offers what the website calls “local fare with Latin flair.” Formerly the executive chef at Ceviche’s, Cahoon’s menu includes a entire section dedicated to salsas, shareables like BLT arepas and chicken tinga empanadas, and entrees like the caliente tuna, a blackened tuna filet served with cilantro-lime quinoa, pineapple salsa, oven-dried tomatoes, balsamic glaze, avocado, and pickled shallots. The lunch menu is heavy on tacos and tostadas, and Sunday brunch is available as well.

402 Chestnut St #4026
Wilmington, NC 28401

4. Manna

123 Princess St, Wilmington, NC 28401

Manna sets the bar for new American cuisine in Wilmington, and it sets it high. The menu changes so constantly it’s almost futile to list dishes (who knows how long the Pig League Ball Pork, a hickory-smoked pork chop with barbecued peas, Tokyo turnips, and boiled peanut jus will last?), but rest assured that executive chef Carson Jewell is always serving up something tasty. Executive pastry chef Rebeca Edelmira Alvarado-Paredes takes care of the sweets, and between them and general manager/owner WM Mellon they’ve managed to turn Manna into one of the Port City’s must-have dinner reservations.

123 Princess St
Wilmington, NC 28401

5. Roko Italian Cuisine

6801-105 Parker Farm Dr, Wilmington, NC 28405
Crab-stuffed grouper
Roko Italian Cuisine/Facebook

Located in the bustling Mayfaire shopping plaza, Roko is the crowning jewel of Wilmington’s Italian food scene. Croatian-American chef Jadran Peros runs the kitchen while his Serbian-born wife Vojka expertly manages the small dining room, greeting both longtime and brand new guests as though they were family. The menu sticks to classics like bruschetta, linguine with clam sauce, flounder francaisca, and of course a parmigiana (choice of eggplant, chicken, or veal). The wine menu is heavy on Italian and Californian favorites, and the martinis are the stars of the cocktail list.

6801-105 Parker Farm Dr
Wilmington, NC 28405

6. The Fortunate Glass

29 S Front St, Wilmington, NC 28401
Duck sliders
The Fortunate Glass/Facebook

Every city deserves a good wine bar, and Wilmington has hers with the Fortunate Glass. A mix-and-match menu of cheeses and meats will please any charcuterie lover, while the small plates menu tempts those who might need a bigger bite to go along with their glass. The bruschetta comes with melted brie, caramelized onions, and grapes, while the duck sliders consist of duck confit topped with bacon, kimchi, cheddar, and a spicy 1000 Island dressing. Of course the main draw is the wine menu, which at more than 20 pages long has a bit of the familiar (Oregon Pinot Noir and plenty of Californian Chardonnay) as well as some glasses for the more adventurous. The Areni Noir red wine from Armenia might be the perfect pairing with those duck confit sliders.

29 S Front St
Wilmington, NC 28401

7. Nippy's Soul Food Restaurant

2206 Carolina Beach Rd, Wilmington, NC 28401

Brother and sister duo William and Marsha Boudreaux offer classic Southern coastal soul food a few minutes east of downtown Wilmington. Inspired by the home cooking of their mother, Carrie, the menu at Nippy’s features dishes like crab rice, butter beans and okra, turkey wings, barbecue ribs, ox tails, and fish and grits. All dinners come with two sides and optional rice and gravy, although for that true home cooked meal feeling the rice and gravy is never really optional.

2206 Carolina Beach Rd
Wilmington, NC 28401

8. Brasserie Du Soleil

1908 Eastwood Rd STE 118, Wilmington, NC 28403
Sliders at Brasserie Du Soleil
Brasserie Du Soleil

From the tin-paneled ceilings to the airy patio, Brasserie du Soleil serves up classic Parisian vibes to go with the bistro-style menu. Escargots, bouef bourgignon, and steak with pomme frites are just a few of the French classics on the menu. Flounder with brown butter, haricots vert, boulangere potatoes, lemon, and capers and a bouillabaise of fish, shrimp, clams, and mussels in a saffron olive oil broth are nods to the nearly-seaside location. Lunch is available, as is a popular weekend brunch.

1908 Eastwood Rd STE 118
Wilmington, NC 28403

9. Ceviche's

7210 Wrightsville Ave, Wilmington, NC 28403

Ceviche’s serves up Panamanian staples in a rambling, beach-shack-esque spot just north of the Wrightsville Beach drawbridge. As the name implies there are a variety of different ceviches to choose from including langoustine de coco (langoustine tails in a citrus and coconut milk marinade with ginger, red bell pepper, red onion, avocado, and cilantro) and the mango mahi (with jalapeno, red onion, red bell pepper, cilantro, and their house-made hot sauce). A variety of tapas and empanadas are ideal for sharing, and larger plates like grilled sea bass, ropa vieja, and Panamanian paella are available alongside daily specials, cocktails, beer, and wine.

7210 Wrightsville Ave
Wilmington, NC 28403

10. The Bridge Tender

1414 Airlie Rd, Wilmington, NC 28403

Classic surf ‘n turf options overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway have brought generations of hungry folks to Bridge Tender. Diners walk over the bridge from Wrightsville Beach, arrive by car, or pull up in their boats to chow down on oysters Rockefeller, crab cakes, and the BT chopped salad. Seafood (mahi, tuna, scallops, jumbo shrimp, salmon, and crab cakes) come either grilled or blackened with an herb buerre blanc and choice of two sides, while the steaks (filet mignon, NY strip, ribeye, sirloin, and tenderloin medallions) are available with a horseradish cream sauce or shallot demi-glace in addition to two sides. Special entrees like crab-stuffed flounder and horseradish-crusted tuna, along with two pasta options round out the dinner menu.

1414 Airlie Rd
Wilmington, NC 28403

11. Benny's Big Time Pizzeria

206 Greenfield St, Wilmington, NC 28401
Pizza at Benny’s
Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria/Facebook

Named after her husband Ben, Benny’s Big Time is Vivian Howard’s first (and so far only) foray into the Wilmington dining scene. Elevated red sauce Italian-American cuisine might be the easiest way to describe the food at Benny’s. The chicken parm is actually an appetizer and comes with stracciatella cheese, hot honey, pickled peppers, and sage, while the spaghetti and meatballs hews more towards the classic that everyone knows and loves. Neapolitan-style pizzas are probably the biggest draw, with options like the King Louie (pineapple jam, calabrian and serrano chilies, speck, and mint) or the Little Greenie (red sauce, garlic, red onion, Brussels sprouts, guindilla peppers, and nutritional yeast). Those in the know order the most popular pizza, the Kevin McAlister (Grayson taleggio, mozzarella, and hot honey) and add pepperoni. A large selection of homemade gelatos makes for a great ending to a meal at Benny’s.

206 Greenfield St
Wilmington, NC 28401

12. Flaming Amy's Burrito Barn

4002 Oleander Dr, Wilmington, NC 28403
Flaming Amy’s
Flaming Amy’s/Facebook

Opened in 2000 by owners Amy and Jay Muxworthy, Flaming Amy’s is as well-known for its burritos as it is for the nearly-ubiquitous “Eat At Flaming Amy’s” bumper stickers. There are chips and queso and nacho platters, but the unique burritos are the real draw. The Bayou comes with spicy Creole jambalaya sauce, rice, beans, cheese, and a choice of grilled filling seasoned with Cajun spices, while the Philly “Phatboy” has grilled steak, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, lettuce, diced tomato, sour cream, and cheese. Heat lovers should stick with the original Flaming Amy burrito, packed with chipotle peppers, fresh jalapeños, mild green chiles, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, rice, beans, “Flaming Hot” salsa, and a choice of grilled filling. There is a second location in Carolina Beach for those not wanting to make the trek into town.

4002 Oleander Dr
Wilmington, NC 28403

13. Casey’s Buffet

5559 Oleander Dr, Wilmington, NC 28403
Food at Casey’s
Casey’s Buffet/Facebook

“EAT PIG FEET AT CASEYS BBQ” reads hundreds, if not thousands of bumper stickers around town (and maybe around the country), and indeed, the barbecued pig feet are always on the menu at Casey’s. If that sounds a bit too adventurous, stick with the classics like pulled pork, fried chicken, catfish, chitlin’s, and more. With rotating daily specials like barbecued pork chops (Wednesdays), squash casserole (Thursdays), and deviled crab (Fridays and Saturdays between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. only), it’s hard to find a more traditionally Southern meal in Wilmington.

5559 Oleander Dr
Wilmington, NC 28403

14. Tower 7 Baja Mexican Grill

4 N Lumina Ave, Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480

The folks behind the Live.Eat.Surf restaurant group operate five Baja-Cali-Mexican-style restaurants in the area, but Tower 7 is easily the most iconic. Located just steps from the sand in Wrightsville Beach, the restaurant offers a range of tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and more. Customers can try the San Felipe tacos, filled with Dos Equis-battered fried cod and topped with salsa fresca, shaved cabbage, avocado, cotija cheese, and a yogurt Ranch dressing, or opt for the Tower 7 burrito, stuffed with black beans, Mexican rice, guacamole, salsa fresca, cheese, sour cream, and cilantro along with a choice of a variety of meats or veggies (hello yellow fin tuna). Wash everything down with one of their many margarita varieties and head back out to the beach.

4 N Lumina Ave
Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480

15. South Beach Grill

100 S Lumina Ave, Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480
Seared sea scallops with pimento cheese pierogies
South Beach Grill/Facebook

Just across the final bridge to Wrightsville Beach’s barrier island, South Beach Grill is a favorite among locals and tourists. Whether dining inside or people watching outside on the dog-friendly patio, South Beach Grill has a large menu of Southern seafood classics like benne shrimp (lightly fried, tail-on shrimp, benne seeds, house pickled onion and a spiced comeback sauce) and fried seafood platters. The grouper Linda, a local grouper with a spiced pecan crust, pan seared with crab meat, spring onion, and cream sherry beurre blanc sauce, has been a menu staple for nearly two decades. A small menu of dinner shareables and entree salads complement the ever-changing specials board, and lunch is available for those who worked up an appetite with a morning beach stroll.

100 S Lumina Ave
Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480

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16. Trolly Stop

94 S Lumina Ave, Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480

Since 1976, beach-goers and locals alike have been lining up at Trolly Stop in Wrightsville Beach for one (or more) of their iconic hotdogs. Customers pick a style of dog, the beef and pork “Traditional Southern Dog”, the all beef “Northern Dog”, the smoked turkey dog, the veggie dog, or a smoked pork sausage, before deciding on toppings. The Surfer Dog comes topped with mustard, cheese, and bacon bits, while the Mexican Dog has salsa, cheese, onions, jalapenos, and two strips of bacon. Out-of-staters should probably go for the true North Carolina experience and order the Carolina Dog with deli mustard, chili, and coleslaw.

94 S Lumina Ave
Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480

17. Ida Thai Cuisine

304 N Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

Ida Thai is a Carolina Beach mainstay serving up classic Thai cuisine like som tom (papaya salad), tom kha kai soup, and pad Thai. Red, green, yellow, pananag, and massaman curries are available, and the chef’s recommendations menu includes dishes such as Thai three flavor fish (a whole fried fish with sweet, sour, and spicy sauce), a roasted duck, and Soft Shell Crabs Garee (fried soft shell crabs with celery, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, onion, tomato and egg). Takeout is a popular option, and they recently began offering beer and wine to go for those who want the Ida Thai experience in the comfort of their vacation rental.

304 N Lake Park Blvd
Carolina Beach, NC 28428

18. Britts Donuts

11 Carolina Beach Ave N, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

The line might appear before the smell does, but soon enough almost every visitor to Carolina Beach finds themselves queued up for a chance to grab a piping hot glazed donut from Britt’s. The shop first opened in 1939 and has been operated by the Nivens family for the past 40 years. The menu is simple — glazed donuts, plus some drinks. And that’s it. Open Friday through Sunday, the weekend line starts to form well before the 8:30am opening, but it tends to move fast. Britt’s is open until they sell out, which during the high season is a distinct possibility.

11 Carolina Beach Ave N
Carolina Beach, NC 28428

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