With a vibrant and varied dining scene, visitors to the picturesque city of Wilmington, North Carolina will not be disappointed. From contemporary seafood by a James Beard Award nominee and Southern comfort food, to French fare on the riverside and upscale Italian cuisine, we’ve narrowed it down to ten of the best restaurants Wilmington has to offer.
Aubriana’s Fine Dining
Boasting an enviable location in downtown Wilmington, just a short walk from the scenic Cape Fear River, Aubriana’s Fine Dining does exactly what it says on the tin. Guests experience fine dining based around unique and delicious dishes, in a cosy and rustic space that includes a covered courtyard perfect for warmer evenings. With talented chef Tyson Amick at the helm, Aubriana’s serves up a menu of contemporary American fare, including dishes like the blackened Carolina catfish with shrimp perlau, spicy tasso ham and calasparra rice. Finish with a dessert like peanut butter pie with an Oreo crust and dark chocolate ganache, washed down with a glass of wine from Aubriana’s extensive selection.
Catch was established in 2006 by local chef Keith Rhodes and his wife. Rhodes was a 2011 nominee for the James Beard Best Southeast Chef Award, and he also appeared on the American cookery show Top Chef. The goal with Catch is to serve the best locally caught seafood with a contemporary twist. Guests can choose dishes such as the firecracker shrimp with spicy cognac cream and toasted sesame seeds, or the pan-seared red grouper, served with a side of baby lima beans, sweet corn, jumbo crab, Thai basil and oven-dried tomatoes. The stylish interior of the restaurant matches its nautical menu, with sleek wood floors complemented by cool blue accents and artworks and sculptures on the walls.
Serving a mix of Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, Indochine offers an authentic Asian dining experience in the heart of downtown Wilmington, perfect for any diners looking for a night exotic fare. The winner of Encore Magazine’s Best Restaurant award in 2011, Indochine is a venture by Vietnamese local Solange Thompson, who, after years thinking of opening a Thai-Vietnamese restaurant, realised her dream when the unique restaurant building, complete with Oriental-style architecture and beautiful gardens, came on the market. Guests can choose from dishes like fried coconut shrimp, served with sweet and sour sauce, or the Vietnamese pork balls with shrimp fried rice, steamed broccoli and pickled vegetables.
Established in 2012 by husband-and-wife team Vojka and Jadron Peros, who moved to North Carolina from their native Croatia in 1985, Roko serves upscale, authentic Italian cuisine in a relaxed, unpretentious, and rustic space. Jadron, who is also the restaurant’s head chef, brings over 30 years of experience to the table, and creates a delicious menu typified by Italian fare infused with fresh, locally sourced ingredients, with a range of seafood, meat, pasta and salad dishes available. Try the baked clams oreganato on the half shell and topped with breadcrumbs and parmesan, or the veal Sorrentino sautéed in sherry wine and served with prosciutto, eggplant and mozzarella.
Sunny Sushi and Sake Lounge
Sunny Sushi and Sake Lounge opened downtown in early 2013, with two brothers at the helm who share a passion for fresh Japanese sushi and authentic Thai dishes. It boasts a stylish interior that is a mix of Japanese-themed minimalism combined with contemporary industrial elements. Guests can enjoy its classy ambience while dining on dishes like the double dragon sushi made with shrimp, crab and cucumber, topped with smoked eel, avocado and a sweet glaze, or a heartier dish like braised duck breast in a red curry sauce of peppers, bamboo shoots, baby string beans and fresh Thai basil.
The Little Dipper
For a unique and fun dining experience try The Little Dipper, a cosy but modern restaurant in historic downtown Wilmington specialising in fondue. Located in a building dating back to 1937, the restaurant has a historical yet contemporary ambience, and includes its own back deck on which guests can enjoy their food on warmer evenings. The Little Dipper, which in 2011 was listed in the OpenTable Diner’s Top 100 Restaurants in the country, serves many fondue varieties, like the cheddar ale and Fontina. Alongside these is a range of other dishes like filet mignon with portobello mushrooms and Southern pork tenderloin.
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