After a day on your boat, what could be better than a meal by the water? Wilmington is known for its vibrant waterfront filled with quaint shops and creative ways to while away an afternoon. Whether you spend time on the beach or the Riverwalk or simply taking in the port city’s other attractions, you are bound to build up an appetite. And since Wilmington was voted by USA Today readers as the #1 Best Al Fresco Dining Neighborhood, you know there will be a plethora of tasty options.
Here are five restaurants we love that combine great water views and even more amazing food.
Located on the Cape Fear River in Wilmington’s historic downtown, Elijah’s Restaurant has been enticing diners with a range of seafood options, including oysters and a raw bar, and its great waterfront views since 1984. The property was owned by Colonel F.W. Kerchner in the 1800s, who operated warehouses and docks on the site dealing in products used in the building of wooden ships. After Kerchner’s death, the site changed hands, eventually becoming a maritime museum. Today the restaurant still displays many rare paintings, ship models and nautical artifacts from when it was a museum.
2 Ann St.
Smoke on the Water
If the range of seafood choices don’t wow you sufficiently, the views of the Cape Fear River are sure to. Smoke on the Water offers a range of Southern-inspired menu items from a Texas brisket sandwich to smoked chicken wings. But if you want some seafood to go with those water views, check out the steamer pot or blackened shrimp and avocado nachos. Located in the RiverLights community, the restaurant will feature the option to dock and dine once construction on the Marina Village dock is complete.
3704 Watercraft Ferry Drive
The Fish House Grill
Whether you come to watch the boat traffic that comes through the nearby Wrightsville Beach Drawbridge or to enjoy the bright and lively décor, it’s the delicious Caribbean inspired menu items that will draw you back again and again. The Fish House Grill’s menu ranges from Thai popcorn shrimp with a sweet chili glaze and Asian slaw to sandwiches like the Hawaiian Tuna Wrap. There are also burgers and seafood platters, as well as a range of tacos, so it’s doubtful that anyone will go home hungry. Dine on the outdoor deck and take in all the comings and goings of the Intracoastal Waterway for a true taste of Wilmington!
1410 Airlie Road
The Pilot House
Looking for some “down home” cooking? The Pilot House is the place you want to be. Fusing traditional Southern dishes and techniques with Cajun and other influences, this dining establishment has been wowing downtown Wilmington since 1978. Originally a house constructed by William Craig on Wooster Street in 1870, the building that houses the restaurant was moved to its present location in 1977. The main dining room is affectionately known as the “porch” by locals, while the riverfront deck dates back to 1993. The menu includes such fresh, regional specialties as chargrilled oysters, shrimp and grits, or crunchy catfish, while non-seafood lovers can partake of the herb crusted rack of lamb or vegetable ravioli.
2 Ann St.
The George on the Riverwalk
When it first opened in 2004, The George was known for its Caribbean-influenced cuisine and décor. Over time, the restaurant has evolved and become known for more Southern regional dishes, highlighting all that Wilmington’s coast has to offer, including specialties such as “George’s” Shrimp and Grits, Bacon Encrusted Scallops or Bangkok Tuna. But as impressive as the menu is, it’s the 150-seat outdoor dining area that may take your breath away. It provides impressive views of the eastern bank of the Cape Fear River and is an ideal spot for taking in Wilmington’s glorious sunsets, as well as providing the option to dock and dine.
128 South Water Street