Here in Raleigh, in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, life has largely returned to normal. Our power has long been back on, the floodwaters have receded, we’re happy to have hurricane season behind us and we’re busy prepping for the holidays.
It’s a different story down at the coast, and especially in Wilmington. Many stores and businesses are still closed and thousands of people are out of their homes—there’s a long way to go in terms of rebuilding.
If you’re wondering how to help our neighbors on the coast, the best way is, as always, to make a donation to a reputable aid organization. But you can also support the coastal community by taking a day trip to Wilmington and visiting some of the city’s superb locally owned cafés, restaurants, bars and breweries.
It’s only a two-hour drive to Wilmington from Raleigh, and a getaway makes for a wonderful way to spend some holiday free time. Here are a few locally owned places to eat and drink we recommend you visit and support.
Love, Lydia Bakery & Café
1502 S 3rd St, Wilmington
The small corner café hasn’t even been open a year yet but it is rave worthy. The old fashioned charm of the front porch rocking chairs and chef-made pastries makes Love, Lydia a daily stop for locals. Chef/owner Lydia Clopton’s menu features focaccia bread, sticky buns, cookies and pastries. The breads and sweets are good but, if possible, the coffee and tea selection is even better.
6623 Market St, Wilmington; catchwilmington.com
Catch’s menu is described as “modern seafood cuisine served alongside vibrant, organic produce and herbs—a feast for the senses.” A James Beard Finalist for best Southeast Chef and featured on Bravo TV’s Top Chef (Season 9), Keith Rhodes favors wild-caught or sustainably raised seafood.
Our fave: Dirty South Oysters on the half shell, with bacon, spinach, pimento cheese and butter crunch.
Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria
206 Greenfield St, Wilmington
The name says it all—it’s big, tasty and fun. Founded and owned by Chef Vivian Howard and her team, Benny’s is all-Italian, from its wood-fired pizza and ravioli to bucatini and spiedini. This is a family spot, and fun for everyone.
Our fave: Guilty Pleasure pizza with pineapple, chili braised pork, red pepper salsa and cilantro or the Southern Fried Chicken Parm with sage, stracciatella, Italian hot honey and pickled peppers.
New Anthem Beer Project
116 Dock St, Wilmington
Located in historic downtown, New Anthem is inspired by the classic styles of European Farmhouse beers but with an added, unique American spin. The brewery opened in 2016 and offers a fresh take on innovative Belgian beers.
1895 Burnett Blvd, Wilmington
Ask any local and they will tell you, Winnie’s has the best burger in Wilmington, hands down. The menu is filled with great burgers, but also includes the Impossible Burger an all-plant based burger.
Our fave: Trailer Park Burger with Cajun fried green tomatoes, homemade jalapeño pimento cheese, bacon, pickles, lettuce and onion.
114 Market St, Wilmington; pinpointrestaurant.com
PinPoint is located just one block from the Cape Fear River, in the heart of downtown Wilmington. Chef Dean Neff’s menu changes daily to highlight the best produce and seafood from Wilmington’s farmers and fishermen. In 2016, the restaurant was named among the best new restaurants in the South by Southern Living Magazine and was featured on The Best Thing I Ever Ate in 2018.
Our fave: Local Soft Shell Crab Bucatini alla Puttanesa with shrimp, local tomatoes, local herbs and parmesan.