Unique Restaurants In Wilmington, NC: 10 Highly Creative Wilmington Dining Spots And Pubs

by Jen
Unique Restaurants In Wilmington, NC
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Explore the charm and diversity of unique restaurants in Wilmington NC. Our guide highlights places with one-of-a-kind menus, from historic pubs to rooftop bistros. Experience Wilmington’s most unusual dining spots, where each restaurant tells its own delicious story!

Welcome to Wilmington, a North Carolina gem and a charming city where the Cape Fear River meets the Atlantic Ocean. This coastal haven isn’t only about picturesque beaches and historic streets; it’s a treasure trove for food enthusiasts! Wilmington’s dining scene is buzzing with unique eateries, each offering a taste of local and global flavors. From cozy fondue spots to innovative gastro-pubs, the city’s restaurants are a blend of creativity, tradition, and culinary excellence.

Imagine dipping into a pot of melted cheese at Little Dipper Fondue, or savoring Latin-inspired dishes at Savorez. Picture yourself enjoying quirky combinations at Platypus and Gnome, or diving into the cultural fusion at The Sorrow Drowner. Each restaurant in Wilmington tells a story, not just through its menu but also through its ambiance and the people behind it.

Whether you’re a local or a traveler, these culinary destinations promise an unforgettable experience. They are perfect for those who love to explore new tastes and enjoy memorable meals. So, get ready to embark on a delicious journey through Wilmington’s most unique restaurants. Your taste buds are in for a delightful adventure!

The top restaurants to visit in Wilmington right now

Unique Restaurants in Wilmington: 10 Incredible Wilmington Eateries

Wilmington, nestled by the sea in North Carolina, offers more than just scenic views and historic charm. At Wilmington’s unique restaurants, you can taste a variety of dishes, from fresh seafood caught daily to Southern classics with a twist. Join us as we explore these delightful dining spots!

1. Little Dipper Fondue

Little Dipper Fondue stands out as one of the unique restaurants in Wilmington NC, offering a dining experience that’s both fun and memorable. Located in the heart of downtown Wilmington, this restaurant brings a special twist to dining with its fondue-focused menu. Imagine dipping fresh bread into a pot of hot, melted cheese, prepared right at your table. It’s not only delicious but also an engaging way to enjoy a meal.

The menu at Little Dipper Fondue features a variety of choices, from premium meats to fresh seafood, all accompanied by homemade sauces. Whether you’re craving filet mignon with a warm au poivre sauce or shrimp with wasabi lime aioli, there’s something for every palate. And for dessert, who can resist strawberries dipped in milk chocolate or bananas with a dark chocolate and peanut butter blend?

Little Dipper Fondue is more than a restaurant; it’s a place where food becomes an interactive adventure. It’s perfect for a night out with friends or a cozy dinner for two. Recognized as one of the Top 100 Restaurants in the US by OpenTable, it’s a must-visit for anyone looking for fun places to eat in Wilmington NC.

Little Dipper Fondue is one of the unique restaurants in Wilmington, NC.
Little Dipper Fondue in downtown Wilmington NC offers a uniquely interactive dining experience centered around fondue.

2. Savorez

Offering a vibrant twist on Latin cuisine, Savorez is a standout among the unique restaurants in Wilmington NC. Led by Chef Sam Cahoon, a local culinary star, Savorez brings a creative flair to traditional Latin dishes. The restaurant, nestled on Chestnut Street, is a cozy spot with a lively atmosphere. It’s a place where the food is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the palate.

At Savorez, every dish is a work of art. Take the Seared Tuna Tostadas, for instance. Topped with ingredients like pickled shallots, pineapple salsa, and caviar, these tostadas are a burst of flavor and color. It’s the kind of dish that makes you pause to admire before you dive in.

The menu features innovative takes on classics, like sweet potato and goat cheese “guacamole.” It’s a bold twist that pays respect to the original while adding something new. And then there’s the Arroz con Pollo. This dish is a staple in many Latin homes, and Savorez’s version is a must-try. It’s a perfect blend of traditional taste and modern flair.

For anyone searching for the best restaurants in Wilmington NC, Savorez is a must-visit. From the artful presentation to the explosion of flavors, dining at Savorez is an adventure in culinary creativity.

Savorez offers creative renditions of traditional dishes in a cozy, lively setting on Chestnut Street.
Savorez offers creative renditions of traditional dishes in a cozy, lively setting on Chestnut Street.

3. Platypus and Gnome

Located at the Grand View Luxury Apartments near Wrightsville Beach, Platypus and Gnome is one of the best places to eat in Wilmington NC. This restaurant is famous for its unique approach to food, especially its game meat dishes. Imagine biting into a camel burger, savoring wild boar soup, or enjoying a kangaroo panini. It’s not just a meal; it’s an adventure for your taste buds.

Recently, Platypus and Gnome has added a new twist to its menu: pizza. But these aren’t your ordinary pizzas. They come topped with exotic meats like braised elk, duck salami, bison chorizo, and wild boar ham. Each pizza is a new experience, blending familiar flavors with something exciting and different. The Game Changer pizza, for example, is a meat lover’s dream, featuring a mix of these unique meats.

Platypus and Gnome is more than a restaurant; it’s a culinary journey. It’s one of the unique restaurants in Wilmington NC for dinner, where dining is about exploring new flavors and combinations.

Platypus and Gnome offers an adventurous menu with game meats like camel burgers and kangaroo panini.
Platypus and Gnome offers an adventurous menu with game meats like camel burgers and kangaroo panini.

4. The Sorrow Drowner

The Sorrow Drowner is one of the fun restaurants in Wilmington NC, offering an immersive tiki-noir bar experience. This hidden gem, located on the corner of 10th and Dock Street, is a world of its own. As you step inside, you’re transported to a place filled with adventure and enchantment. The decor, inspired by places like the Adventurers Club at Walt Disney World Resort, is a mix of old paintings, books, and even a shrunken head or two.

The Sorrow Drowner is not just about the ambiance. The menu is a delightful surprise, featuring shareable plates and pupu platters. Chef Al DeVane from Carolina Son BBQ brings his expertise to the table, ensuring that each dish is as delicious as it is unique. The drinks, crafted mostly by the owner Alfred Brian Wheatley and his wife, Bunny, are the result of years of perfecting recipes. Each cocktail is a masterpiece, adding to the overall experience of the place.

As one of the coolest places to eat in Wilmington NC, The Sorrow Drowner also offers entertainment. On select evenings, the stage comes alive with a vaudeville-style revue. The acts range from burlesque shows to comedic performances, all adding to the lively atmosphere. It’s a place where food, drinks, and entertainment come together to create an unforgettable experience.

The Sorrow Drowner offers an immersive tiki-noir bar experience with enchanting, vintage-inspired decor.
The Sorrow Drowner offers an immersive tiki-noir bar experience with enchanting, vintage-inspired decor.

5. Steam Restaurant and Bar

Steam Restaurant & Bar offers a dining experience with a view. This 160-seat restaurant on the second floor of the Embassy Suites by Hilton Wilmington Riverfront is a gem among scenic places in Wilmington NC to eat. It features a 50-seat indoor/outdoor terrace with floor-to-ceiling windows, providing sweeping views of the river. The ambiance is perfect for a romantic dinner or a relaxing meal with friends.

At Steam Restaurant & Bar, the menu is a celebration of seafood and more. Led by Chef Tyler Powell, a Memphis native with a rich culinary background, the restaurant serves dishes like low country boil, diver scallops, and crab cakes. Meat lovers can enjoy Duroc pork, free-range chicken, and steaks. The daily specials include a fresh catch and a selection of hand-cut meats. For lunch, guests can choose from a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches, and substantial plates like steak frites and seared salmon.

Steam Restaurant & Bar is designed with locals in mind, making it one of the coolest places to eat in Wilmington NC. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, this restaurant offers an experience that combines great cuisine, stunning views, and a welcoming atmosphere.

Steam Restaurant & Bar features a 160-seat restaurant and a 50-seat indoor/outdoor terrace with stunning river views.
Steam Restaurant & Bar features a 160-seat restaurant and a 50-seat indoor/outdoor terrace with stunning river views.

6. Sweet N Savory Café

Nestled on the edge of Wilmington’s Landfall Park, Sweet N Savory Café is a vibrant and colorful eatery. It’s a place where art meets cuisine, creating an atmosphere that’s both welcoming and exciting. The café, known for its surprising breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus, is a standout among unique Wilmington NC restaurants.

The café’s interior, adorned with bright artwork and décor, reflects the creativity of its menu. For breakfast, dishes like the Banks Channel with grilled shrimp and the Carnivore’s Creation are culinary adventures. Lunch and dinner are equally thrilling, with salads topped with fresh seafood and veggies, and southern classics like shrimp and grits. Each dish at Sweet N Savory Café is a testament to the café’s commitment to quality and innovation.

But the real star of the show might just be the desserts. Made in-house daily, options like the seasonal cobbler or the indulgent Chocolate Brownie Meltdown are the perfect end to any meal. Sweet N Savory Café lives up to its name, offering a dining experience that’s both filling and delightful.

As one of the unique restaurants in Wilmington NC, Sweet N Savory Café is a destination for those who love to explore new flavors in a setting that’s as vibrant as the food.

Sweet N Savory Café combines art and cuisine, offering surprising menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Sweet N Savory Café combines art and cuisine, offering surprising menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

7. Banter

Tucked away in historic downtown Wilmington, there’s a cozy spot called Banter. This unique establishment is built on the remains of William DeStrac’s bakery, dating back to 1842. The charm of Banter lies in its exposed brick walls and intimate conversation areas.

Banter is themed around Cockney Rhyming Slang, where “rabbit” (short for “rabbit and pork”) means “to talk.” This theme is evident in the rabbit images scattered throughout the venue. The absence of televisions encourages guests to connect and converse. Whether you’re seated in the interior rooms, on the front patio, or in the private courtyard under the stars, Banter offers a unique setting for making memories.

As one of the coolest restaurants in Wilmington NC, Banter is more than just a place to grab a drink. It’s a destination for those who appreciate craft cocktails, mocktails, beer, or wine, all enjoyed in a setting that’s rich in history. The venue’s layout, with various conversation areas, makes it ideal for both intimate gatherings and meeting new people. Banter stands out among unique restaurants in Wilmington NC. It’s a place where the past and present meet, offering a unique experience that goes beyond dining.

Banter is built on an 1842 bakery's remains, boasting intimate, conversation-friendly vibes with exposed brick walls.
Banter is built on an 1842 bakery’s remains, boasting intimate, conversation-friendly vibes with exposed brick walls. | Source: https://www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com/

8. The Copper Penny

Just a short walk from the Cape Fear River, in Historic Downtown Wilmington, sits The Copper Penny. This isn’t your average pub. It’s a place where history meets a lively, family-friendly atmosphere. The Copper Penny stands out for its unique blend of casual charm and historical setting.

What makes The Copper Penny truly unique is its extensive beer selection. They offer a wide range of bottled and draft beers, including rare high-gravity options and local North Carolina brews. This makes it a haven for beer enthusiasts. The welcoming staff, known for their exceptional service, add to the pub’s unique appeal. The restaurant has earned multiple “Best Staff” awards, reflecting their commitment to a great customer experience.

As one of the unique restaurants in Wilmington NC, The Copper Penny offers more than just good food and drinks. It’s a place where families feel at home, where history adds to the dining experience, and where every visit is memorable. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, The Copper Penny provides a unique glimpse into Wilmington’s vibrant pub culture.

The Copper Penny blends history with a lively, family-friendly atmosphere, offering a unique charm in a historical setting.
The Copper Penny blends history with a lively, family-friendly atmosphere, offering a unique charm in a historical setting.

9. aView Rooftop Bistro

aView Rooftop Bistro at Aloft Wilmington is a restaurant that offers a unique dining experience, overlooking the scenic Cape Fear River. It’s a year-round destination, with both cozy indoor seating and seasonal outdoor areas with firepits.

aView’s menu is ever-changing and eclectic. It features savory starters like oysters on the half shell and charcuterie plates. The menu also includes salads, shareable small plates, sliders with fries, and housemade desserts. Each dish is crafted to offer a unique taste experience, making aView stand out among unique places to eat in Wilmington NC.

What sets aView apart is its selection of inventive craft cocktails, craft beers, and carefully curated wines. These drinks complement the dining experience, adding an extra layer of enjoyment. As a unique restaurant in Wilmington NC, aView offers more than just food. It’s a place where dining is an experience, combining great flavors with stunning views.

The aView Rooftop Bistro at Aloft Wilmington offers a unique dining experience overlooking the scenic Cape Fear River.
The aView Rooftop Bistro at Aloft Wilmington offers a unique dining experience overlooking the scenic Cape Fear River.

10. Fork ‘n’ Cork

Downtown Wilmington is home to a cozy gastro pub, Fork ‘n’ Cork. It evolved from a popular food truck, The Patty Wagon. This place, at 122 Market Street, is a blend of casual charm and culinary creativity, and it’s known for its “high-end pub grub” and excellent wine list.

Fork ‘n’ Cork’s menu is an expanded version of the food truck’s favorites. It includes unique dishes like Texas poutine with smoked brisket and Rattlesnake Bites. These are deep-fried jalapenos stuffed with shrimp, sweet corn, bacon, and cheese. The menu also features inventive burgers and sandwiches, and each dish combines classic tastes with innovative twists.

This gastro pub is one of the unique restaurants in Wilmington NC. It offers a warm, inviting atmosphere with exposed brick walls and stained glass art. The beer and wine lists are impressive, featuring unique options like Dragon’s Milk and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout.

Fork 'n' Cork is one of the unique restaurants in Wilmington, NC.
Fork ‘n’ Cork, born from The Patty Wagon food truck, offers a blend of casual charm and culinary creativity at 122 Market Street.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Unique Places To Eat In Wilmington Nc

In this section of our Wilmington NC restaurant guide, we answer your questions about the unique dining experiences the city offers!

What food is Wilmington NC known for?

Wilmington, NC, is famous for its coastal and Southern cuisine. Seafood dishes like shrimp and grits are local favorites, showcasing fresh, local ingredients. Barbecue, especially pulled pork, is also a staple, reflecting the city’s Southern roots. Sweet potato fries, hush puppies, and fresh catch fish are other popular items, offering a taste of Wilmington’s diverse culinary scene.

Are there vegetarian options at unique restaurants in Wilmington NC?

Yes, many unique restaurants in Wilmington NC cater to vegetarians. These eateries often feature creative vegetarian dishes, including fresh salads, plant-based versions of Southern classics, and innovative entrees using local produce. Chefs in Wilmington are known for their skill in making vegetarian food both delicious and satisfying.

Can I find international cuisine in Wilmington NC?

Wilmington boasts a variety of international cuisines. From authentic Italian pasta to spicy Thai curries, the city’s restaurants offer a global dining experience. This diversity reflects Wilmington’s multicultural community and its openness to different culinary traditions.

A rich, creamy Thai curry on a plate from Big Thai.
A rich, creamy Thai curry on a plate from Big Thai.

What’s the best time to visit restaurants in Wilmington NC?

Spring and fall are ideal for visiting restaurants in Wilmington NC, thanks to the mild weather and outdoor dining options. However, summer also offers a vibrant dining scene, particularly at waterfront restaurants, where you can enjoy fresh seafood and beautiful views.

Are there family-friendly restaurants in Wilmington?

Wilmington is home to numerous family-friendly restaurants. These establishments often feature kids’ menus, casual atmospheres, and sometimes play areas. Families can enjoy a range of dining experiences, from laid-back cafes to more upscale restaurants.

Do unique restaurants in Wilmington NC offer local seafood?

Yes, many unique restaurants in Wilmington NC specialize in local seafood. They serve dishes made with fresh, locally caught fish, shrimp, and shellfish, often prepared with a creative twist to highlight the flavors of the region.

Is outdoor dining common in Wilmington NC?

Outdoor dining is popular in Wilmington NC, thanks to its scenic coastal setting. Many restaurants offer patios, decks, or rooftop dining with views of the river or ocean, making it a delightful way to experience the city’s charm.

Reservations are recommended for some of the more popular or unique restaurants in Wilmington NC, especially during peak seasons or weekends. Booking a table in advance can help avoid long waits and ensure a pleasant dining experience.

Final Thoughts On Unique Wilmington NC Restaurants

Wilmington is a treasure trove of culinary delights, perfect for your North Carolina vacation. The city’s unique restaurants offer a blend of Southern charm, coastal flavors, and international influences. From cozy pubs in historic buildings to trendy bistros with rooftop views, each spot has its own story. Whether you’re craving fresh seafood, vegetarian dishes, or something new and exciting, Wilmington has it all.

These unique restaurants in Wilmington NC are not just places to eat; they’re experiences that stay with you. So, next time you’re in Wilmington, dive into its vibrant dining scene and discover the flavors that make this city so special.

The top restaurants in Wilmington for all types of travelers
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