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Wilmington, North Carolina offers plenty to do whether at the beach, or enjoying the downtown area. It’s also a great spot for foodies. Here are some of our favorite Wilmington restaurants for foodies, for families and for foodie families!
Wilmington, NC has much to offer, from a vibrant downtown to several fabulous beaches. Families can enjoy plenty of local activities. And when it comes time to eat, this coastal destination doesn’t disappoint. There’s a wide variety to choose from here, whether you love seafood or just want to explore the local cuisine.
TravelingMom Sarah Ricks visited Wilmington with her husband and checked out several dining options. Deb Steenhagen and her family also explored the area. Both share their top picks below.
Places Fit for Foodies
After a walk on one of the beautiful Wilmington beaches, revive yourselves with the tangy lime of fresh ceviche and guacamole at Ceviche’s Inspired Panamanian Restaurant and Bar. Ceviche’s opens at 5 pm and fills up right away. This Latin American restaurant offers dishes inspired by the owner’s upbringing in Panama.
Like Ceviche’s, another restaurant fit for foodies is Surf House in Carolina Beach. The shrimp grits had a delicious smoky flavor. The bourbon pecan tart was flaky, buttery perfection. Surf House relies on small local farms. While this gourmet restaurant would only work for kids who are into food, Sarah and her husband loved both the food and the friendly atmosphere. For example, when the staff learned it was Sarah’s husband’s birthday, the chefs sent over two glasses of champagne.
Before you head to the beach, stop at Veggie Wagon in Carolina Beach. It’s a gourmet grocery with prepared foods, fresh produce, good breads, and a great selection of coffees and beer and a weekly beer tasting.
TravelingMom Tip: If you want to start the day with a delicious farm-to-table breakfast, stay at Beacon House Inn Bed and Breakfast in Carolina Beach.
Restaurants with a Water View
This restaurant sits on a pier that juts more than 400 feet into the ocean. The ocean view is unbeatable. Oceanic Restaurant only takes reservations for groups of 8, so call ahead to be put on the list for a table. While it is tempting to go near sunset, the restaurant can be very crowded then. Avoid the dinner rush by going in late afternoon or around 5 pm. It is also open for lunch.
Deb’s picky family was happy to see some non-seafood on the menu at the Bluewater Grill in Wrightsville Beach. She was thrilled to try the Fresh Catch – grouper. It was absolutely delicious. It was a very hot day so they sat inside in the air conditioning, but the Bluewater Grill has beautiful porches on the rear overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway. She and her daughters sat there to watch the boats go by after they finished eating, before exploring Wilmington’s historic downtown and riverwalk.
Read More: Fun Things to Do in Wilmington NC
Family-Friendly Restaurants in Wilmington NC
Seawitch Cafe and Tiki Bar
Family fun at beaches near Wilmington, North Carolina could include the relaxed outdoor area of Seawitch Café and Tiki Bar, where you can eat under palm trees. During the day, this family-friendly spot in Carolina Beach offers burgers, salads, and fish tacos. After 5 pm, it becomes a bar.
South Beach Grill
South Beach Grill in Wrightsville Beach also has casual, family-friendly outdoor tables. It specializes in fresh fish and salads. But Sarah loved her barbecued pulled pork sandwich topped with caraway seed coleslaw on a squishy brioche bun.
The Pilot House
The Pilot House is located in downtown Wilmington, right on the Cape Fear River. Just as Deb’s family got there, a storm rolled in so they couldn’t eat outside, but they still enjoyed a wonderful meal in the dining room. Her picky husband and kids were able to find non seafood options on the menu here while Deb had salmon with wild rice and seasonal vegetables and it was amazing. This restaurant was great with the girls – they had kids menus to color on, crayons, and several choices on the menu for them. They even easily changed the pasta alfredo to buttered noodles for Abbi and Hannah.
Michael’s Seafood Restaurant
Deb and her girls also stopped in at Michael’s Seafood Restaurant in Carolina Beach for a late lunch. This was one of the most kid-friendly restaurants they experienced in the Wilmington area. There was a large variety on the kids menu, of both seafood and ‘regular’ food. Hannah was even able to get her favorite dish – penne noodles with spaghetti sauce. Abbi had a flatbread pizza and Becca got a hot dog. Deb was thrilled to yet again get a fresh catch – this time salmon on a bun. And it was absolutely wonderful. Michael’s offers regular dining as well as takeout.
The food was great, the service was top-notch and they loved the straw tiki hut décor with some beautiful murals on the walls. There’s an option to eat outside (that we didn’t notice until we left) but we sat at a high table, which the girls loved. Even the dessert had a special touch – ice cream sandwiches on plates with drizzled chocolate, whipped cream and a cherry. Yum!
Other Wilmington NC Restaurants
Neither Sarah nor Deb had a chance to personally check out these options, but they recommend trying them if you’re in the area:
- RX Restaurant and Bar is located near downtown Wilmington and offers dishes sourced from local ingredients. This popular Southern cuisine spot takes reservations 60 days in advance. The restaurants is open for brunch and supper.
- Cape Fear Seafood Company is a great option for families who enjoy seafood with Family Meals which serve four people. The menu also includes a variety of entrees from both the sea and land. Locations in both Wilmington and Raleigh.
- Dock Street Oyster Bar specializes in seafood and has won awards for Best Oyster Bar in the Wilmington area.
- PinPoint Restaurant is open for brunch and dinner with offerings from local fishermen, oystermen and crabbers. Vegetarian options include the Mediterranean Vegetable Plate.
- The Front Street Brewery offers free tours and tastings daily along with lunch and dinner specials. The menu includes a variety of entrees, sandwiches, salads and burgers, along with a kids menu.
- The Copper Penny is located in downtown Wilmington. It has a relaxed atmosphere for lunch, dinner or drinks and has been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives!
- Caprice Bistro provides a bit of French cuisine in Wilmington with mussels, duck confit, beef bourguignon and more. Hors d’oeuvres include escargot and calamari.
- The Fork n Cork is located on Market Street in Wilmington with a menu that includes brunch, burgers and sandwiches. Some of the eclectic appetizer options include rattlesnake bites, Texas poutine (with house BBQ sauce) and deep fried confit duck wings.
- Indochine offers a delicious Far East option with a Thai and Vietnamese menu. You can find sushi, curry and more for dine in or takeout.
- Manna is American comfort food made with local ingredients. The menu changes regularly to keep it fresh.