Tucked between Cape Fear River and the Intracoastal Waterway, Wilmington, NC has an interesting vibe. Make that vibes. Historic Downtown Wilmington has that riverboat, wharf, old brick warehouse feel. Head East from downtown toward Wilmington’s “Midtown”, and beyond to the Intracoastal Waterway and bordering, Wrightsville Beach, and a more modern, surf shop – beach town vibe emerges.
The Basics – Located in the Cotton Exchange, facing North Front Street, The Basics is a casual breakfast to dinner eatery that’s popular with locals. They source locally and serve from a frequently changing menu that features an eclectic mix.
Our last day in town, we headed over to The Basics for breakfast, but they were closed due to a “maintenance emergency”. They were so highly recommended by a variety of “those in the know”, they’re top of our “next visit” list.
At The Basics, we try very hard to preserve [Southern] history and to advance the tradition in new ways. The prix fixe menus we do at night combine traditional Southern foods and ingredients with new ways of preparation and combination to update the old standards. But at the same time, we do Back to Basics Wednesdays that feature antique recipes at an antique price ($6). We serve fried eggs in the morning and filet mignon at night, so there’s a little something for everyone, whether you’re out for a romantic dinner or out to experience the finest in Southern cuisine.
Causeway Cafe – Just over the Wrightsville Draw Bridge, Causeway Cafe has been a Wrightsville Beach landmark for over twenty years. It’s THE breakfast spot. Read “Breakfast with Dave at Causeway Cafe” for the full story and more photos.
114 Causeway Dr
Wrightsville Bch, NC 28480
Catch – Co-owner with wife, Angela, award winning Chef Keith Rhodes, serves up fresh, creative seafood in a casual, unassuming Midtown strip mall.
Our favorites were the Catch Firecracker Shrimp ($11) and North Carolina Sweet Potato Salad ($9). The Firecracker Shrimp was made with Sriracha cream sauce, sesame seeds, and served with fresh greens. A nice, mild heat followed each bite.
The Sweet Potato Salad – not seafood and on the opposite end of the taste spectrum – was mild and creamy, made with roasted sweet potato cubes, organic spinach, cranberries, local goat cheese and hemp seeds, dressed with a lovely honey-shallot vinaigrette.
We also split a mild, tasty Lobster Roll special of the day, taking most of it with us to have as a snack later.
Sweet & Savory Bake Shop and Cafe – Sweet & Savory is indeed both a bakery and cafe. Fresh bread and other bakery items are available throughout the day, but get there early if you’re looking for a particular bakery item. As of this writing, they’re open 7am to 9pm seven days a week. Weekends are especially busy, so be prepared to wait.
Sweet & Savory has an extensive menu (see all menus here), from which I chose the Johnny Appleseed Sandwich ($8.99). Talk about delicious! A homemade croissant was stuffed with turkey, Havarti, Granny Smith apples, and served with honey mustard, homemade chips (love ’em), and a pickle spear on the side.
Epicurean Note: Normally, I don’t patronize eateries with a sanitation score below 92. The food was great at Sweet & Savory, served in a fun, energized setting, but at a score of 90.5, I’m hoping they have a plan in place to bring it up.
Yosake – Located upstairs (look for the outside wooden door to the left of the downstairs bar entrance) in the historic Roudabush building downtown, Yosake has a fun urban feel. Black and red decor is accentuated by Japanese Anime character art on the walls.
Yosake’s Ruby Slipper Roll ($12) is as beautiful as it is scrumptious. Take a look at how the shrimp and avocado are wrapped around the roll. Crab, cucumber and sweet potato graced the roll’s center. Sweet chili sauce formed a perfect dipping pool after making after it had been drizzled over top.
We also really enjoyed Yosake’s take on Pad Thai (see gallery).
The meal’s pièce de résistance was a bowl full of goodness called Chocolate Peantut Butter Wontons ($8) (see gallery). Three good-sized scoops of Coconut Gelato, with crunchy, chocolaty bits of coconut throughout, anchored three peanut-butter-filled deep fried wontons. And just for good measure, ripe, sliced strawberries, a little dollop of whipped cream and chocolate sauce were added. It’s not made in-house, but that gelato was amazing!
Springbrook Farms, Inc runs Horse Drawn Carriage and Trolley rides through the historic downtown core. They have a number of routes, so you can go multiple times and see different sights if you’re in town for a few days.
Interesting about this operation is that they use only rescued Percheron Draft Horses. At last count they were at “16 plus, all dapple grey”. And best feature of the tour is the guides in-depth knowledge of local history shared throughout the ride. As of this writing, Adults are $12. Children under 12 are $5.
For more information on the tour, go to www.horsedrawntours.com, email email@example.com, or for the quickest response call 910-251-8889.
Another way to get a good dose of Wilmington history (real and maybe real?) is to take one of the walking tours. We chose the 90 minute Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington.
Our 6pm guide-led (loved her outfit!) walk along the waterfront, through alleys, and up and down side streets, was peppered with eerie stories of ghosts and local lore.
Okay, I confess to adding the ghost to the picture. Couldn’t help myself.
Ghost Walk of Wilmington, the company, also does a Haunted Pub Crawl and a Hollywood Location Walk that explores the real locations used for some of “Wilmywood’s” (Hollywood of the East) biggest movies & TV shows.
For more information on Wilmington walking tours, go to www.HauntedWilmington.com. Tip: not sure if they will still work, but for $1 off the Ghost Walk or the Hollywood Location Walk when purchasing tickets online, use Coupon Code “hout13x”.
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