Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and we'll send you a FREE Printable NC Waterfalls Checklist!

30+ of the Best Restaurants in Wilmington, NC (and Surrounding Beach Towns)

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on April 9, 2024.

Disclaimer: This site uses demographic data, email opt-ins, display advertising, and affiliate links. Please visit our Disclosure and Privacy Policy pages for further explanation.

Looking for the best Wilmington restaurants? These are some of our favorite restaurants in Wilmington, from beachside pizza to cocktails with a river-view sunset. We’ve included spots found downtown, along the Cape Fear River, and surrounding beach towns.

No matter where you’re staying, you have great places to eat within reach. These are the best Wilmington NC restaurants we could find, featuring fresh, local, and unique spin that draws visitors and locals alike.

Dive on in and use this article to plan your next meals in Port City, North Carolina!

If you’re searching for something specific, this article is organized by:

  • Map of Wilmington Restaurants
  • Guide to Restaurants in Wilmington
    • Fine Dining
    • Casual
  • Guide to Restaurants in Wilmington’s Surroundings
    • Carolina Beach
    • Kure Beach
    • Wrightsville Beach

You can skip ahead to places to eat nearby or continue reading about the best food in Wilmington NC.

Read More: 50+ Awesome Things to Do in Wilmington

Whether you’re a new resident, a frequent visitor, or a local, we’re leaving no detail behind. If you live in the Wilmington area and are wondering, “What are the best places to eat near me?” we think this NC travel guide will help you out!

Map of Restaurants in Wilmington

Our guide includes addresses to these Wilmington restaurants, but you can also visually plan your adventures through this map we’ve created.

Read More: The NC Tripping North Carolina Travel Map

Fine Dining in Wilmington NC

These Wilmington NC restaurants are great for date night and any other special occasion.

Dram Yard

Address: 101 S. 2nd Street, Wilmington, NC

New to the Wilmington restaurant scene, Dram Yard has a beautiful Gazebo Bar and a cocktail menu that is just the tip of its deliciousness. Perfect for a date night, the food, decor, and ambiance create a beautiful experience.

Dram Yard Wilmington restaurants

From the banana-leaf papered ceiling, tall windows, and subtle lighting, Dram Yard is where you go in Wilmington to impress someone special.

Elijah’s

Address: 2 Ann St, Wilmington, NC

If you are looking for fine-dining restaurants in Wilmington, Elijah’s is one of the best! With a waterfront deck that overlooks the Cape Fear River, Elijah’s has been serving delicious plates of upscale dishes since 1984.

We recommend asking for a table outside to watch the sunset and romantically share some of their Goat Cheese and Bacon Stuffed Oysters! But don’t be fooled by the upscale atmosphere; Elijah’s does have a kid’s menu if you are traveling with tiny foodies, too.

It’s easily our favorite riverfront restaurant in Wilmington, NC!

Read More: How to Explore the NC Oyster Trail (10+ Adventurous Ways!)

Indochine 

Address: 7 Wayne Dr, Wilmington, NC

Indochine is one of Wilmington’s most unique restaurants serving Thai and Vietnamese food. With a picturesque garden and decor, including a tuk-tuk, just walking to your table transports you to some of our favorite Southeast Asian spots. 

Dine at this Wilmington restaurant if you’re craving Southeast Asian cuisine with a stunning ambiance.

The Pilot House

Address: 2 Ann St, Wilmington, NC

Enjoy gorgeous views of the Cape Fear River while dining at The Pilot House. Fresh seafood and gorgeous sunset views make The Pilot House one of our personal favorites and a local pick for the best restaurants in Wilmington NC.

Add in their kid’s menu, and this restaurant can easily change from your date night spot to a place for you and the kids!

Olivero

Address: 522 S 3rd St

Olivero is one of the newest Wilmington restaurants to hit the foodie scene, and it is making quite a buzz for itself. Coming from the James Beard nominated Chef Sunny Gerhart of St. Rock in Raleigh, Olivero is Italian meets Spanish flair with a splash of Cajun. 

See, the restaurant is named after Gerhart’s grandfather- and with any family, his lineage is a mix of flavors. A beignet of fontina funduta and mortadella. Twice-cooked pork lightly flavored with roasted red pepper and aged provolone. And the most intriguing olive oil panna cotta I’ve ever tasted. 

Olivero is worthy of a date night out in Wilmington- but make sure to secure reservations as it is quickly becoming one of the most in-demand restaurants in Wilmington! 

rx Chicken and Oysters

421 Castle Street

Chicken, oysters, and lionfish!? Yes, it’s an odd combination, but honestly, it is one that we are here for. rx Chicken and Oysters is chef-driven and focuses on local and sustainable practices. The Wilmington restaurant sits on Castle Street in a converted drugstore and draws a crowd even on a Tuesday night.

rx Chicken and oysters seafood tower

But the hook for me is their signature farm-raised NC oysters and a new delicacy- lionfish. Lionfish, while beautiful, is an invasive species that destroys everything in their surrounding environment. Going 35 miles offshore, the RX Chicken and Oysters (as their commercial fishing operation) spearfish the lionfish and serve it up fresh.

Lion fish at rx chicken and oysters wilmington restaurant
Lion Fish over Carolina gold rice

But how does lion fish taste? Delicious, meaty, and not at all fishy. By showcasing this incredible fish, they hope more chefs will be inclined to cook with it more and help control the widespread population that destroys Wilmington’s reefs and fish population.

My meal at this Wilmington restaurant was one of the best I’ve had, and I highly recommend you make reservations and save room for the seafood tower!

Savorez

Address: 402 Chestnut Street, NC

shrip taco on a white place with radish and oranges

Food for Wilmington made by a Wilmingtonian. Chef Sam Cahoon is a Wilmington native, working his way through the culinary scene.  Savorez has been one of those Wilmington restaurants on our to-eat list for a long time.

Plating up Latin American flavors in an unassuming brick corner building, the flavors burst, and the vibe is chill. The menu is comprised of locally sourced ingredients. In fact, I saw a plat of microgreens growing in the back of the building! 

After our first visit to Savorez, my DMs flooded with recommendations to go back for Sunday brunch! So, if you’re looking for where to eat brunch in Wilmington, try Savorez! 

Seabird

Address: 1 S Front S

Seabird Oysters Wilmington

When Seabird first opened, I immediately started trying to find an excuse to go to Wilmington just for their seafood tower. Sourcing local and honoring the natural culinary resources, Seabird might be the one Wilmington restaurant that I recommend to anyone and everyone. I went for brunch and found everything to be absolutely incredible.

Seabird Wilmington

I dined on fresh NC Oysters and the only Sturgeon caviar in the world (which is produced in North Carolina!). A slurp of a pickled deviled egg and the local coffee brewed into an espresso martini. While I didn’t get a chance to dive into the seafood tower this visit- it is on my agenda to secure a babysitter and take Carl so he can experience this incredible Wilmington restaurant with me.

Casual Wilmington NC Restaurants

The Basics 

Address: 319 N Front St, Wilmington, NC

A plate of collard greens and eggs Benedict at The Basics - one of the best Restaurants in Wilmington NC

The Basics offers much more than its name indicates. This place will fill your hungry belly with a menu that is as diverse as the visitors and locals.

Inside the Cotton Exchange, you’ll find ample seating and album covers lining the walls of Historic Downtown Wilmington.

Stop by for breakfast and brunch, lunch, and dinner in Wilmington NC for delicious Southern and American comfort food with contemporary favorites, too! 

Read More: Battleship North Carolina (Visiting Our Namesake Ship and How She Arrived at Wilmington)

Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria

Address: 206 Greenfield St, Wilmington, NC

From celebrity chef and North Carolina rockstar, Vivian Howard, comes Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria. With a fun mix of cocktails, delectable appetizers, and pizzas beyond your average slice, you are definitely going to want to visit this delicious Wilmington restaurant! 

Read More: Awesome Things to Do in Kinston (and Why We’ll Be Back for More!)

Boombalattis Homemade Ice Cream

Addresses
1127 Military Cutoff Rd, Wilmington, NC
1005 N 4th St, Wilmington, NC
15919 HWY 17N Hampstead, Wilmington, NC

a bowl of ice cream in a waffle cone and a blue spoon

Look… I have been on a quest for some of the best ice cream in North Carolina, and Boombalattis? Quite possibly the winner. Boombalattis is a family-owned ice cream shop with three locations around Wilmington. Their ice cream is made using fresh local dairy, with no unnatural colors or flavors, and they also have a wide selection of dairy-free options.

Whether it’s a scoop of Fluffer Nutter or Strawberry Shortcake, the texture of the ice cream at Boombalattis is just unreal. Trust us and leave the room after these other restaurants in Wilmington for dessert at Bommbalattis.

Read More: Visiting Airlie Gardens in Wilmington (+ 10 Things We Love!)

Copper Penny

Address: 109 Chestnut St, Wilmington, NC

With local beer, delicious pub food, and a warm environment, The Copper Penny even has the famous Guy Fieri’s stamp of approval!

Stop by a spot featured by Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives and order onion rings, wings, and a roast beef sandwich for a truly astounding meal.

Also, if you dine here on Tuesdays for their “Giving Back” special, The Copper Penny donates part of the profit from your meal to their “charity of the month.”

Read More: Eastern North Carolina (and 100+ Awesome Places to Visit)

Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn

Addresses:
4002 Oleander Drive, Wilmington, NC
1140-A N Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC

Serving Wilmington since 2000, Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn is a local favorite! With stuffed burritos at an affordable price, there is no way you won’t enjoy some of their unique combinations.

Get a Thai-inspired burrito, a Philly Hot, a Grilled Flounder, or even a Po’boy–there are so many options that you’ll find yourself trying something new each time!

The chill, family-friendly vibe makes this restaurant the perfect spot to fill your bellies during your beach vacation.

Read More: 45+ Great Things to Do With Kids in Wilmington

Front Street Brewery

Address: 9 N Front St, Wilmington, NC

a tall BBQ burger with onion rings and french fries

A huge menu plus house-crafted beer? Count us in!

Front Street Brewery isn’t just a pub but a place to gather and enjoy good food and drink. With over 25 sandwiches, 35 entrees, and a wonderful lineup of award-winning taps, this Wilmington brewery is unbeatable.

Read More: 50+ Easy Day Trips from Fayetteville (Great Getaways!)

The Half

Address: 510 1/2 Red Cross St

It has to be said- The Half might just be the best sandwich in all of North Carolina. Perhaps even my life. And that’s a bold statement coming from a girl who grew up on Hoagies on the regular in Philadelphia. 

The Half is a tiny building located in the Northside neighborhood. You’d probably walk right past it if it weren’t for the droves of people coming in and out with butcher paper-wrapped sandwiches. The concept- half sandwiches, half beer, and a little bit of art to funk things up. 

With the rise of craft breweries, The Half is inviting some of the best beer on its taps from around the country, inviting you to try something new that you probably haven’t ever had before. 

And while I love a good cold beer, the sandwiches at The Half were a love letter slathered between two slices of freshly baked bread. My favorite: Ernie cold cuts- ham, Genoa salami, mortadella thick slice of mozzarella, cherry pepper relish, and balsamic. But what my eye caught and I am so sad I didn’t order was the Mumbai, a vegan sandwich with potatoes, cheese, onion, cucumber, chaat masala, and cilantro chutney. 

If there was one Wilmington restaurant that I could eat at every day, please make it The Half… 

Mess Hall

Address: 2136 Wrightsville Ave, NC

If you follow us on social media, you know that I had a Burger Era and attempted to go to all the best burgers in North Carolina. Well, one that our followers highly recommended was Mess Hall in Wilmington. Located in the Cargo District, Mess Hall asks, “Are you Ready to Get Messy!?”… And they aren’t wrong! Their hand-painted and made-to-order burgers are dripping with a tangy yet delicious sauce.

A friend chicken burger with lettuce and tomato

Everything at Mess Hall is made fresh- from grinding the meat for the patties to the sauces. Mess Hall also makes some pretty incredible vegan patties- so roll up and be prepared to be wowed! 

a plate of tater tots with house sauce and chives

To add to the long list of why we love this Wilmington restaurant- tots. You can steal Carl’s heart with a tray of tots, especially if they are named after one of the best (or is the worst?) episodes of The Office, Scott’s Tots. 

Check out Mess Hall when you are looking for the best casual restaurant in Wilmington! 

On Thyme

Address: 918 Castle St

On Thyme gained a cult following from its food truck days and opened a brick-and-mortar just to keep up with the demand. Locally owned, the first thing you’ll notice when you pull up to On Thyme is the colorful mural on the side of the Castle Street building. The mural depicts Wilmington greats like Althea Gibson, Meadowlark Lemon, and, of course, Chef Corey Scott. 

But the food is what we are here to talk about- and On Thyme delivers! The food truck was known for its huge shrimp Po’boys, Hot Honey Chicken Sandwiches, and handmade Philly Cheesesteak Egg Rolls. 

Everything on this Wilmington restaurant’s menu is to die for, and the customer service exceeded your typical counter service spots. If you go, make sure you’ve got plenty of room in your belly because you’ll want to try a bit of everything! 

On Thyme has also opened up a brunch concept in the Brooklyn Arts District (Brunch Thyme) that has incredible shrimp and grits and crispy chicken and waffles!

PT’s Old Fashioned Grille

PT’s Grille is an institution in Wilmington restaurants. Opening in 1990 to flame grill the best dang burgers on the coast, PT’s continues to pack lines and fire out orders. When you arrive, you grab a paper, mark your order down, hand it to the staff, and wait for your name to be called. The result- delicious, juicy, fresh (never frozen) burgers. 

Here are some of my hot tips for eating at PT’s Grille. Don’t be a hero. Even though you think you just want a “small” 4oz burger, go big or go home! Pictured above is that small burger, and while delicious, I wish I had gotten the 8oz to fill out the rest of the bun. 

Also, don’t skip on the freshly squeezed lemonade! I’m typically a water or Diet Coke girlie, but for the lemonade caught my eye and I am sure glad it did! I wish they sold it by the gallon so I could take it back to Durham

PT’s Grille has 7 locations: Fountain Drive, Military Cutoff, Monkey Junction, Leland, Porters Neck, Crossroads at Independence, and Wayne Memorial Drive in Goldsboro, NC.

Restaurants in Wilmington’s Surroundings (Carolina Beach)

These restaurants in Wilmington’s neighbor Carolina Beach keep us returning to one of NC’s most popular beach towns.

Britts Donuts

Address: 11 Carolina Beach Ave N, Carolina Beach, NC

A glazed donut in front of a sign for Britt's Donut Shop

Britts Donuts is seasonally open and THE place to go for quality donuts. It’s been a staple of the community since 1939 and has been owned by Bobby Nivens and his wife for over forty years.

If you’re visiting Carolina Beach in the on-season, you must try one of their homemade glazed donuts. We promise they’re worth it! 

Celtic Creamery

Address: 201 N Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC

vanilla ice cream in a waffle cone

Celtic Creamery is a locally owned ice cream spot run by an Irish family. They wanted to bring the rich and creamy tradition to the shores of Carolina Beach, and they deliver on that promise every day!

Hang Ten Grill 

Address: 308 S Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC

Thriving on that laid-back surfer vibe, Hang Ten Grill serves delicious handhelds and seafood and has an awesome weekend brunch! Chow down on locally sourced seafood and tacos for dinner, or wake up to your best life with fluffy waffles and eggs.

Michael’s Seafood

Address: 1206 N Lake Park Blvd A, Carolina Beach, NC

If you are looking for family-friendly restaurants in Wilmington, Michael’s in Carolina Beach is your golden ticket! While there are a lot of fried seafood joints around the beach, Michael’s doesn’t have a fryer, meaning their menu is entirely gluten-free, too!

Chow down on the Admiral’s Delight (crab legs, scallops, shrimp, and oysters) and definitely order a cup of their famous seafood chowder and enjoy the taste of local seafood.

Nauti Dog

Address: 5 Cape Fear Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC

Nauti dog outdoor seating area

Nauti Dog is a relatively newer eatery located on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk. Snack on gourmet hot dogs right along the beach at this clean, classy beachside takeout window. Nauti Dog has something for many people, as they offer gluten-free and vegan options.

Pop’s Diner

Address: 109 N Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC

The front of Pop's Diner at Carolina Beach

One of the most nostalgic Carolina beach restaurants, Pop’s Diner is a 50s-inspired eatery with classic food. Funnel cake fries, a Cuban sandwich, and a Ruben is a meal to die for–you can’t beat the prices or the flavor!

Right along the boardwalk, we recommend going for a stroll after you enjoy hot dogs and ice cream.

Stoked 

Address: 313 Canal Dr, Carolina Beach, NC

Overlooking the boats, Stoked is one of the best restaurants in Carolina Beach for fresh seafood. Start with their irresistible lump crab dip, followed by some blackened Mahi, and with plenty of room left for their key lime pie.

Stoked also has live music on Fridays and Saturdays for a rocking good time!

Read More: 20+ Great Things to Do in Carolina Beach (and Nearby!)

Wake N Bake Donuts

Address: 1401 N Lake Park Blvd #46, Carolina Beach, NC

close up photo of a donut from wake n bake donuts

Lastly, if you are looking for that sugar rush to start your day, Wake N Bake Donuts is the spot! Baked fresh daily, Wake N Bake often closes when they run out, so be sure to start your day early with a fresh dozen before hitting the beach!

More Restaurants in Wilmington’s Surroundings (Kure Beach)

Kure Beach is a bit quieter than the other beach towns, but we love coming here for dinner and think it has some of the best places to eat in Wilmington NC.

Jack Mackerels

Address: 113 K Avenue, Kure Beach, NC

Jack Mackerels serves Caribbean fusion in a colorful atmosphere next to the Kure Beach Pier. Grab Calabash-style seafood and a crab cake sandwich, and don’t skip the Old Bay Chips!

Jack Mackerels is one of our favorite Kure Beach restaurants with amazing daily specials.

Even More Restaurants in Wilmington’s Surroundings (Wrightsville Beach)

We keep returning to these restaurants in Wilmington’s surroundings of Wrightsville Beach. Read on to see why!

Oceanic

Address: 703 S Lumina Ave, Wrightsville Beach, NC

Sitting on the old Crystal Pier, Oceanic is a Wrightsville Beach restaurant that stands out. Located on the beach, it’s a beautiful location to enjoy fresh seafood and then take a walk on the restored pier.

Poe’s Tavern

Address: 212 Causeway Dr, Wrightsville Beach, NC

Yes, that’s right–an Edgar Allen Poe-inspired restaurant in Wrightsville Beach! While it is uncertain whether Poe would have ordered a Raven burger or the Annabel Lee from Poe’s Tavern, one must surely chow down on a Tell-Tale Heart.

Punny names aside, the food at Poe’s Tavern is delicious, fresh, and cooked to order.

Ready to Dig Into these Restaurants in Wilmington (and Surrounding Beach Towns)?

Whether you are visiting the area or live here, we think this list of restaurants in Wilmington and its surroundings should keep you busy.

They’ll also make you hungry and ready to eat! From the pizza at Benny’s Big Time to the treats at The Peppered Cupcake, there is something for everyone to eat in Wilmington!

Do you have a favorite place to eat in the area? We’d love to know about it either here in the comments or by email. You can also tell us about your favorite Wilmington food spots in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group.

Beyond Restaurants in Wilmington (More Things to Do)

Leave a Comment