Even before COVID-19’s vicious onslaught, the food and beverage industry has always been treacherous, tough sledding, fickle and cut throat. With the average lifespan of a restaurant only being a little over four years, 60 percent of establishments bite the dust before celebrating a first year anniversary. While other beloved Wilmington restaurants like Eddie Romanelli’s, Booty’s Soul Food, and Parchie’s are fading out of memory, these nine stalwarts have stood the test of time with blessings, hard work, and timeless food.Read More
9 Old-School Wilmington Restaurants Worth a Visit
From Goody Goody Omelet House to Caprice Bistro
1. Hieronymus Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar
People throw the word “institution” around too casually, but Hieronymus is the epitome of one. The same way one thinks of the oyster Rockefeller and turtle soup au sherry at Galatoire’s in New Orleans is the same way one should think of hot crab dip and blackened catch of the day at Hieronymus, the anchor of classic Lower Cape Fear cuisine.
2. Goody Goody Omelet House
With the unfortunate closing of the legendary Parchie’s, Goody Goody doesn’t have to share the throne for breakfast in Wilmington anymore. Customers squeeze into this retro shoebox of a restaurant and enjoy the puffiest, fluffiest omelets —the secret is in blending the eggs. Remember to bring cash money, because that’s all the restaurant can accept.
3. The Basics
Thelonious Monk posters hanging on exposed brick set the mood for the Basics, which as the name suggests, focuses on perfecting “the basics” of Southern cuisine. There are hunks of hummingbird cake, Brunswick stew, and what some call the best bowls of shrimp and grits north of Charleston, South Carolina.
4. The Copper Penny
The pinnacle of Wilmington pub fare is in the dim clubby setting at Copper Penny. Get the award-winning chicken wings, gargantuan burgers, and Reubens to balance out the pints of Guinness and boilermakers. And yes, Guy Fieri ate here.
5. Shirley's Diner
Seekers of nostalgia should make this short trip across the Cape Fear River. Shirley’s is what a diner is supposed to be —unfussy and full of loyal customers who’ve been eating the “famous” shrimp burger and country fried steak for generations. Those not familiar with the area should use their navigation systems, because the diner is so tucked away, it’s almost hidden.
6. Caprice Bistro
Not only did chef Thierry Moity start the trend of Wilmingtonians dipping their frites in mayonnaise instead of ketchup, he introduced coq au vin and escargot to a town filled to the brim with peel-n-eat shrimp and jumbo lump crab cakes with his snug little bistro, and where else in North Carolina will diners have the opportunity to eat waterzooi (a traditional Belgian chicken or fish soup)?
7. Jackson's Big Oak Barbecue
This is the place that represents all the hype and hoopla about Eastern North Carolina style barbecue. Yes, it’s vinegar based, and no, nothing on the hog is wasted. Those in the know use the fingerling hush puppies to scrape together the last little pile of finely chopped meat.
8. J. Michael's Philly Deli
The hustle and bustle continues for Philly subs at J. Michael’s. The steak is always piping hot off the flat top griddle, and the cheese is goopy in the best way possible — all slapped on a fresh hoagie. It’s an undeniable classic.
9. A Taste of Italy
Cured salami dangling from the ceiling, endless shelves of chianti, chicken parmesan, cans of anchovies, and cannolis galore make up the experience at A Taste of Italy. It’s like you’re in a piazza in Milan, but you’re actually in a converted Kentucky Fried Chicken on College Road.