Places to Eat in Downtown Wilmington, NC
By Stacy Bennett
Since moving to Wilmington, North Carolina in Spring of 2018, I’ve discovered just how many restaurants the city and its surrounding towns have to oﬀer. At work, my coworkers seem to suggest a new restaurant or cafe every day, and I just can’t seem to visit all of them. After living here for over a year, I still feel like a tourist trying to visit all the places I hear about; however, I’ve grown attached to a few of my favorite eating spots and tend to return to them on a weekly basis. In this article, I’m going to share three of my favorite places to eat, speciﬁcally in downtown Wilmington.
1. Beer Barrio
It took me a few months after moving here before I visited Beer Barrio, partly because it was always so busy the ﬁrst times I ventured downtown. After my ﬁrst experience dining at the lively corner restaurant last fall, I understood the attraction. The menu is fantastic, and the food tastes even better. Appetizers include cuisine typical of most Mexican restaurants, such as guacamole and chips, but they also feature more unique choices, like hushpuppies, beer pickled beets, and elote, grilled corn on the cob with grated cotija cheese, mayo, Mexican spices, and fresh lime. Even though all of the appetizers sound yummy, I always have to order the guacamole because of its perfectly blended ﬂavors and smooth texture.
Beer Barrio oﬀers a selection of entrees, but my friends and I can’t resist the restaurant’s popular $5 tacos. These are no ordinary tacos; it only takes two to ﬁll me up. The selection includes al pastor, Carolina pulled pork, tequila grilled chicken, grilled ahi tuna, buﬀalo chicken, beer braised beef, smoky black bean, and local catﬁsh po’boy tacos. I always go for the al pastor and the beer braised beef tacos, but I’ve heard from others that the tequila grilled chicken and Carolina pulled pork are delicious as well. Pair these tasty food items with a cold drink and watch the sun go down on the water.
Yosake has long been a favorite sushi spot of mine. The restaurant seems like a bit of a hidden gem, as some ﬁnd it diﬃcult to ﬁnd its tucked away location on the second ﬂoor of a downtown building. After you ﬁnd it the ﬁrst time, it’s pretty simple. Just look for the Yosake sign with a ﬁsh on it, walk up the wooden staircase (or take the elevator around back), and you’re there.
Despite its unique location, Yosake is usually bustling at dinner time. From my experience, it’s best to arrive at the restaurant between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. During this time frame, you’ll most likely beat some of the crowd and have the option of ordering oﬀ the daily happy hour menu that lasts from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. every day and 10 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. This happy hour menu features a wonderful variety of appetizers, sushi, and shashimi featured at lower prices. If you enjoy sushi, I recommend the Alaskan Roll and the Data’s Dragon Roll.
Yosake not only serves sushi and sashimi, but also several other traditional Asian dishes. If you are interested in a noodle dish, I suggest the chicken lo mein. This noodle dish does not taste like your traditional fast food lo mein, but sweeter and fresher with colorful veggies and juicy chicken. Thursdays are actually noodle nights, and customers can enjoy noodle dishes for only $10.
3. Circa 1922
Last, but certainly not least, I want to mention Circa 1922. This restaurant is more upscale than most restaurants downtown. The velvet booths, white table clothes, and beautiful antique ﬁxtures make you feel like you really are back in the 1920s. I save this restaurant for special occasions and enjoy choosing from their unique, neatly prepared food items.
The last time I dined at Circa 1922 was actually during Encore Magazine’s 2019 Restaurant Week that lasted between January 23 and February 3. If you ever ﬁnd yourself in the Wilmington area during Restaurant Week, make sure to check out the outstanding deals local restaurants are oﬀering. Circa 1922 oﬀered great deals on many of their menu items.
My main entree consisted of duck, Brussel sprouts, and sweet potatoes. This meal was a healthy balance of meat and vegetables, and the ﬂavors complemented one another extremely well. My sister and I concluded our meals with sweet mini key lime pies. It was one special get together neither of us will forget. The service was impeccable and we left feeling full and impressed.
These are just a few of my favorite places to eat downtown. Whether you’re in the mood for tacos, sushi, or fresh duck, downtown Wilmington has a great selection of restaurants to choose from. The port city knows food.