A Roundup of Wilmington Eats and Drinks

Our recs for where to eat and drink in Wilmington right now.

Wilmington’s food and bev scene is on the comeup. And shining a spotlight on all those great eats and drinks is the first inaugural Feast Wilmington, which took place at Live Oak Bank Pavilion at Riverfront Park March 22–24—and Raleigh Magazine got the pleasure of attending. 

With an MO of “showcasing and celebrating the Wilmington region’s emergence as a top culinary destination,” the F&B fest boasted four unique events over the course of the weekend, including a VIP kickoff Friday, an elevated brunch and evening pier party Saturday, and a beer and food pairing Sunday. To boot, Raleigh chefs who opened coastal restos repped during the fest—think Giorgios Bakatsias (G Prime) and Sunny Gerhart (Olivero). 

Local musical guests set the tone as the city’s top chefs flexed their culinary skills each day while End of Days Distillery provided the sips—in addition to the 20 local breweries featured on day three. 

After a full weekend of eating and drinking our way through the events, it’s safe to say Wilm proved itself as a burgeoning foodie city. Save a handful of dishes, almost everything we tasted at Feast was a hit—with our biggest complaint being we wished the bite-sizes were bigger (and that’s saying something). 

Naturally, it’s hard to play favorites when there’s so much food to enjoy—but there were a few that stood out to us during our three-day foray into Wilm’s extensive eateries by way of Feast. During the VIP Kickoff on Friday night, it was the Anatra Alla Cacciatora Pizza from Benny’s Big Time that had us coming back for seconds… and thirds (and maybe fourths—no judgment!). You can’t beat a good slice, and this one starring duck was quite impressive. Olivero’s crispy lasagna was another big hit in our book, as was Covey’s slow-roasted pork cheek with sour cherries, maple and crispy oats. An unusual combo, but it worked!

With EIC Melissa Howsam being a brunch stan, we had high hopes for day two’s morning event—and it did not disappoint. There were tons of shrimp and grits ops from which to choose (naturally), but our fave had to be Brunches’ version with a velvety lobster cream sauce. Other standouts included Buen Dia’s rajitas con crema (roasted poblano pepper, onions and corn in a creamy sauce); Drift’s blueberry pancakes; and Oliver’s on the Cape Fear’s green eggs and ham, aka avocado devilled eggs topped with crispy pancetta and served with a side of smoked maplewood bacon.

While it started off as a rainy weekend, the sun finally came up in time for the end of the brunch event, and by time the Pier Party rolled around things were drying off. Our faves from this night included Coquina Fishbar’s house-smoked fish dip, Maine Lobstah Shack’s lobster bisque and PinPoint’s smoked pork belly. 

And while we were relatively stuffed by Sunday, we legit couldn’t wait to ~feast~ some more. Standouts included Beat Street’s Ahi Tuna Toastada Copper Penny’s meatballs and Los Portales Taqueria’s tacos al pastor. We’ll definitely be adding all of these spots to our list of places to visit the next time we’re in town—and you should too. 

Beyond our, well, feast, Wilm’s sip + stay vibes are too good not to imbibe. Here, where to tuck in the next time you’re on the coast. 

The Blind Elephant
It’s worth sleuthing down an alley off North Front Street—and potentially getting lost— to experience this hidden speakeasy and “home of spirits and secrets.” Peep the colorful chalkboard menu for a rotating lineup of cheekily named “elixirs” (see: the spicy Fire Walk With Me and Game, Set, Matcha), cocktails on tap and mocktails—or just ask the bartender to whip you up something fun and fresh. We rec cozying up in one of the spacious booths to experience the lively yet intimate atmosphere, plus regular live tunes. @theblindelephant

We can guarantee it’s worth ~drifting~ out of bed for a cup of java—or refreshing latte or smoothie—paired with a healthy yet delicious brekkie or lunch in the casual light-filled atmosphere (it’s a vibe—and you’ll def feel like you’re on the coast). The Bodega Breakfast Sandwich and breakfast burrito are cult faves, but the Market Bowl Breakfast is also a tasty light op. Ask for the homemade pesto on the side to top your meal with—I promise it’s a game changer. P.S. Stay tuned to our May issue for news on Drift’s wave into Raleigh! driftcoffee.kitchen 

Arrive + Dram Yard
For a cute and quaint stay, look no further than this highly ’Grammable boutique hotel boasting 34 guest rooms, a restaurant and courtyard bar with fire pits. When we tell you we spent half our weekend at the gazebo bar sipping cocktails and chatting with the bartender and other guests, we’re not kidding. Frankly, there’s nowhere else we’d rather be on a warm sunny day—save the beach, obv. Our rooms were also gorgeous (s/o the pink bathroom!), and the beds were oh-so-cozy. A serene stay all around—would sleep (and drink) there again. arrivehotels.com

Fill that empty hole in your heart left when Coglin’s Raleigh location closed (RIP) and break out your dancing shoes. The ’80s- and ’90s-themed bar is truly a blast from the past, with all your fave jams on rotation and a dance floor big enough to really bust a move—plus jiggle juice in the form of fish bowls, shooters, buckets and cocktails. “This is how we do it!” coglins.com

The Husk
With an ever-so-apt tagline—“A neighborhood bar where you feel like a neighbor, even if you aren’t”—you’ll feel right at home in the casual drinking den (especially if there’s a State game on—go Pack!), with the vibey patio being a prime socializing spot. The full bar offers up all your faves—from classic ’tails to beer and seltzer—while the food menu comes in clutch when the drunchies hit. Think fries and tots, hot dogs, pizza, pretzel bites, and more. huskdowntown.com 

Hidden Grounds
Giving major “rex” appeal (get it?!), this cute backyard oasis dino-themed coffee shop is a major vibe. Upon discovering it a few months ago, it’s now a must whenever I visit Wilm. The line will inevitably be long, but it’s worth it once you’re sipping on one of the specialty coffee bevs (the chai is also killer) out on the grassy back patio, which offers myriad seating ops—from covered couches to swing chairs to plush seats. And, naturally, hidden dinos are aplenty (a fan + fam fave). Talk about a dino-mite experience! @hiddengroundsilm

Duck and Dive Pub
Duck into this dive bar for none other than a simple mixed drink, beer, wine or shot to get the night started or close it out. A genuine watering hole without all the frills—but with plenty of character—the spot also hosts live music on the reg, in addition to drink specials daily. Cheap drinks and a good time? Say less. @duck_and_dive_pub_ilm

Dram & Draught
Miss home? Dram’s signature cool-classy ambiance gets a Wilmington makeover with more casual surrounds and the same exquisite cocktails you know and love—plus a few local specialties. Post up at the bar or slide into one of the window seats for a street view perf for people-watching. Cheers! dramanddraught.com

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About the Author

Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.