Fresh to Table, From Farm & Sea
Wilmington and our Island Beaches are surrounded by water, and the climate here allows for bountiful farmland produce. Everywhere you turn, you'll find fresh-caught seafood — from the most beautifully prepared fish and perfectly plump shrimp to succulent blue crab and local oysters. There is also plenty of locally smoked meats, fresh greens, seasonal vegetables and artisanal cheeses. Get ready to savor our unique Southern-coastal fare with this sampling of restaurants — just a few that put fresh ingredients first.
Benny's Bigtime Pizzeria
Guests who visit Benny's Bigtime Pizzeria can expect farm- and sea-to-fork Italian cuisine that ranges from wood-fired pizza, homemade pastas, big salads and smaller, shareable dishes. The restaurant is owned by celebrity chef Vivian Howard, star of the Daytime Emmy Award-winning PBS series, “A Chef’s Life," James Beard Foundation winner of Best Television Personality and Best Chef: Southeast semifinalist.
Blue Surf Cafe
Travel+Leisure said “Blue Surf really captures Wilmington's laid-back beach vibe,” and we couldn't agree more. Grab a quick, healthy bite at Blue Surf Café in midtown Wilmington. The menu changes each spring and fall to include local ingredients found in-season. These seasonal offerings accompany their signature dishes like Mojo pork, braised beef brisket and Mahi.
You may recognize Catch owner and chef Keith Rhodes from Bravo TV’s "Top Chef." He has also been nominated by the James Beard Foundation as a finalist for Best Chef: Southeast. The menu shows off his passion for North Carolina seafood, and he sources every ingredient from organic growers and local fisheries that support sustainable practices. First-timers must try the award-winning Catch Signature NC Lump Crab Cakes.
East Oceanfront Dining
EAST Oceanfront, a chef-driven restaurant located at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort in Wrightsville Beach, is set in a posh oceanfront garden and serves some of the best coastal food in the state. Executive Chef Jessica Cabo, a runner-up on FOX’s “Hell’s Kitchen,” and her culinary team create vegetarian and seafood-centric dishes to reflect tastes from Mexico, Asia, the Mediterranean and California.
manna ave. 123
The menu at manna features the freshest ingredients from the local farmers and fisheries of North Carolina. Their chef selects the best ingredients in arranging his vision of the American restaurant, with locally sourced meats, vegetables and seafood, like the popular grilled or braised octopus. manna is Wilmington's only AAA Four Diamond Award-winning restaurant, noted by the reviewer for its "warm and knowledgeable" service and "heavenly" food and beverages.
Named among “The South's Best Restaurants” by Southern Living, PinPoint Restaurant is known for showcasing the bounty of Wilmington and our Island Beaches. The restaurant's menu changes daily and features local seasonal offerings from Wilmington-area farmers, fishermen, oystermen and crabbers. For an exquisite example of classic Southern fare, try the Cornmeal Crusted NC Catfish, which was featured on The Cooking Channel’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.”
Port Land Grille
Port Land Grille searches out local sources for ingredients and purchases only when in season, bringing freshness and vibrancy to the menu while supporting those who make their livelihood off the land and the sea. Those in the know order their Signature Crab Cake and Butter Beans with Bacon Vinaigrette.
RX Restaurant owner James Doss strives to offer his guests seasonally inspired, ingredient-driven Southern cuisine. The menu is packed with regional dishes like Kyle’s fried chicken, Lady Edison Pork Chop, NC Clams and Humble Roots pork belly. Rx has a plethora of accolades and glowing reviews under its belt.
Salt Fish Restaurant and Bar
Inventive and exotic, Salt Fish Restaurant and Bar brings a unique variety of Caribbean- and Polynesian-inspired cuisine to Carolina Beach. Enjoy Polynesian Fried Boneless Chicken or pair a “Rummy Yummy” cocktail with the eye-catching Shrimp, Chinese Sausage and Fried Rice-Stuffed Pineapple. While the dishes may be exotic, the interior reflects the laid-back, fun vibe of Carolina Beach, instantly transporting you to island time.
Spanish-inspired Savorez restaurant brings big Latin flavor using local ingredients. The menu includes fresh salsas, tacos and traditional Latin seafood dishes. Their vegan and vegetarian options are also popular, like vegan rellenos or sweet potato and black bean empanadas. Savorez was previously featured as one of the best new restaurants to try in North Carolina by Buzzfeed.
Captained by James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southeast semi-finalist Dean Neff, Seabird is a seafood and oyster bar dedicated to sharing the Wilmington area's coastal and land bounty. Savor freshly caught oysters raw with lemon, hot sauce, champagne mignonette and sambal cocktail or try them baked with Worcestershire butter with lemon, harissa and roasted shrimp. Or, drop in for breakfast to enjoy made-to-order biscuits with fried chicken and pimento cheese or an olive oil muffin with passion fruit curd, all made in-house by award-winning pastry chef and Neff's wife, Linda Clopton.
Steam Restaurant & Bar
Oysters Wilmington, Pimento and Pickles, Riverside Caesar...and those are just to get you started. Steam Restaurant and Bar prides itself on bringing locally sourced meals to your Cape Fear River-view table. Each day, from brunch through dinner, Steam provides dishes packed full of the area's freshest offerings.
South Beach Grill
The menu at South Beach Grill highlights the bounty of fresh Carolina coastal seafood. Situated just across from Banks Channel in Wrightsville Beach, a meal on their large patio offers spectacular water views, especially at sunset. You'll find seafood classics and contemporary twists with dishes like Carolina Spiced Shrimp, Sweet Potato Crusted Flounder and Grouper Linda.
Coast Craft Cocktails & Calabash
The dishes created by Chef Craig Love at Coast Craft Cocktails & Calabash in Carolina Beach rely on small, local farm involvement and sustainable regional seafood. The restaurant serves quality calabash seafood in a beach-chic atmosphere. Raw, roasted and fried oysters and shrimp 'n grits are served alongside classic fried calabash seafood dishes.