Calling all foodies! The food scene in Wilmington and Island Beaches, N.C., bursts with fresh flavors and unique eats ranging from classic coastal cuisine and reimagined American favorites to international fare and more. Taste your way across this coastal city and find some of the area’s most popular and delicious bites loved by locals and visitors alike.
Read on to discover some of the trendiest food finds Wilmington and the island beaches have to offer:
Start the Day with Craft Coffee & More
Get your food tour of the coastal destination off on the right foot with a caffeine boost accompanied by specialty pastries, donuts, smoothies and other goodies from area coffee shops. Try new takes on handcrafted lattes topped with Insta-worthy latte art, or a popular cold brew variation. Whether you’re looking for a health-focused smoothie bowl to recover after a workout or are seeking to indulge in something sweeter, kickstart your day with whatever you’re craving.
Visit Spill Coffee Co., Wilmington’s first mobile coffee cart run out of a refurbished vintage truck. Enjoy small batch coffees with house made syrup flavors like lavender and rose, or sip on a “special spill” latte like The Royal, featuring turmeric and cinnamon, or The Bomb Shell, made with an extra dose of collagen.
In Wrightsville Beach, browse unique handmade fossil jewelry while enjoying gourmet espresso and French fare at The Workshop. Try a Bullet Proof coffee or creative concoctions like a cold brew with coconut water alongside an almond croissant. Fuel your body with healthy options at Surfberry, serving acai and pitaya bowls, delicious superfood smoothies, organic cold press juice and other items.
Stroll along the Carolina Beach Boardwalk to Crush & Grind for a Nitro cold brew, or try a handcrafted cold brew made from a top-secret recipe. This cafe and bottle shop is also home to the newest installment of the Carolina Beach Mural Project, “Carolina Dreamin,’” the perfect place to soak in beach vibes and snap a photo. While at Carolina Beach, be sure to stop by Wake N Bake Donuts for imaginative takes on the breakfast classic, with flavors like Wake N Bacon, Purple Rain or Twisted Turtle. Or, venture to nearby Kure Beach for specialty coffee options like the Mermaid Magic cold brew or Beach Bum latte at Happy Hippies Java Hut.
Fuel Your Afternoon
For lunch, dine in at a variety of local spots or opt to take your meal to-go for a lovely afternoon picnic. You’ll find vegan-friendly options at an up-and-coming food hall in downtown Wilmington or venture to one of the area beaches for reimagined scratch-made Southern favorites, and savor the many delicious bites you’ll enjoy along the way.
Visit the Mess Hall at The Outpost in the emerging Cargo District, the perfect place to relax with friends and enjoying good food. The food hall is housed in refurbished shipping containers and serves unique options like the Vegan Smashburger and tater tot bowls. Find reimagined vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options made from locally sourced ingredients at Sealevel City Vegan Diner. Try the Kimchi Tempeh Reuben or opt for signature dishes like the famous Lentil Burger.
Enjoy hit throwback music from the ’90s while savoring elevated grilled cheese sandwiches, Belgian-style fries and craft cocktails at Crust Kitchen and Cocktails. Just want a snack? Try Crofton’s Pretzels, Wilmington’s first and only artisan soft pretzel bakery. Choose from daily flavors like spinach artichoke parmesan, buffalo and pimento bacon.
Back in Carolina Beach, dig into a variety of flavors from popular Southern dishes to made-to-order burritos. Discover the best of the South at The Southerly Biscuit & Pie, offering takeout on Saturday and Sunday mornings for scratch-made favorites like biscuit sandwiches and grit bowls, including the Gritty Hippy and Guile ‘N Grit bowls. Dig into fresh burritos and tacos at Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn, with specialties like the Fried Avocado Burrito and the Bacon Double Cheese Burgerito. For a lighter meal, opt for the healthy, sustainable options at Malama Café. Try the Malama Smash toast with avocado and edamame or the Hawaiian Wrap featuring a delicious pineapple slaw.
Noteworthy Noshes & Unique Libations
Wind down in the evening with a delicious meal paired with a specialty craft cocktail or an original local brew at one of Wilmington’s most happening spots. From farm-to-table to fresh island cuisine, Southern favorites and Latin-inspired flavors, there’s a bevy of options from which to choose.
Opening this spring for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Seabird is a new restaurant concept from James Beard semi-finalist Chef Dean Neff. The menu will highlight coastal cuisine with locally sourced, in-season seafood and creative vegetable dishes made from the freshest local produce. It will be located in the heart of historic downtown and will offer a unique dining experience defined by community and sustainability.
Tacos and tequila are a classic combination, and Tacobaby in Historic Downtown Wilmington takes this pairing to the next level. Here you’ll find contemporary options including eclectic proteins like duck confit, grouper, short rib and more, alongside a bar offering 36 tequilas and eight small batch mezcals. Or, sample Latin American-inspired innovative cuisine at Savorez, serving flavorful flare from tapas to nightly specials like Big Cahoona Tuna and Scallapagos Islands.
Tantalize your taste buds at Rumcow, offering inventive Southern cuisine with Asian flair. Enjoy signature dishes like Cajun-Fried Gator Bites, Pulled Pork Sushi Rolls and Shrimp and Grits Tacos alongside an ever-changing specialty cocktail menu and on-tap kombucha. Experience a memorable evening at The Second Glass, serving fresh culinary creations paired perfectly with a variety of wine selections. Dine on Sweet Potato Gnocchi while sipping on a zinfandel or try the beef tartare with a malbec.
Explore nearby island beaches for the best of local seafood. Taste four types of ceviche with the El Quatro sampler at Ceviche’s, or opt for signature dishes straight from Panama like arroz con pollo or ropas Viejas. Find modern calabash seafood at Coast served in an intimate beach-chic atmosphere, with favorites like lobster rolls, shrimp n’ grits and “coastslaw.”
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a one-of-a-kind treat from one of the area’s most popular ice cream or gelato shops. Indulge in funky flavors, including spiked options for adults, or try other specialty confections like gelato milkshakes, sundaes and more.
Step off the scenic Wilmington Riverwalk for a scoop of award-winning Italian gelato at GelaRto. Choose from 24 flavors or try other treats like gelato sandwiches and shakes. Imported from Turin, Italy, each gelato batch is made from scratch using high-quality, fresh ingredients including whole fruit and milk from the shop’s own herd of dairy cows. Experience a new twist to the cupcake concept at The Peppered Cupcake. This shop offers creative, exciting flavors like the Shock O’ Lata and Devil’s Vanilla, with special flavors rotating each day.
Sample a variety of sweet treats at Carolina Beach. Using an extra-velvety Irish ice cream recipe, Celtic Creamery creates unique confections like the Knickerbocker Glory and Beachside Brownie sundaes. Delight in saltwater taffy and penny candy at Scoopin’ Yummies, an ice cream and sweet shop offering signature creations like dessert-topped milkshakes and a cotton candy bar with 13 flavors. Or, try one of the rotating daily flavors of handmade gelato at Latella Gelato like Peach Candy and Snickerdoodle, and wine-infused flavors for adults like Mango Chardonnay and Strawberry Rosé.
Live like a local with unique and trendy foodie finds across Wilmington and its island beaches, where you’re sure to find delicious eats around every corner.
Hungry for more foodie road trips? Read on!