Whether you want upscale, lowkey, or anything in-between, you’re guaranteed to find something to suit your tastes and budget among Wilmington’s superb range of seafood eateries.
The city’s vibrant restaurant scene is doing a roaring trade in oysters, lobster, crab, mussels, and anything else that can be harvested from the sea, cooked to perfection, and served up to hoards of hungry diners. If you want to treat yourself to some sublime seafood, you’ll not go wrong with our pick of the 10 very best seafood restaurants in Wilmington, NC.
10. Pilot House
Where: 2 Ann St Ste 3, Wilmington, NC 28401-4587
Perfectly cooked seafood, a warm welcome, attentive service, and locally brewed craft beer- if any or all of these sound your kind of thing, you won’t be disappointed with Pilot House.
Its menu veers all the way from comforting “down-home cooking” to Cajun classics, with a smattering of contemporary southern dishes thrown in for good measure. Located in an excellent setting in historic Chandler's Wharf, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a relaxed, leisurely lunch with friends over a few drinks and some truly outstanding seafood.
Where: 7210 Wrightsville Ave, Wilmington, NC 28403-7223
For seafood served with a Latin twist, head to the delightful Ceviche’s. Owner Hunter Tiblier has drawn on his upbringing in Panama to create a menu that sparkles with the tastes of Central America.
The Ropa Vieja – braised and shredded beef in a spicy pepper broth served with coconut rice and mixed vegetables- is bursting with flavor, while the fresh-as-can-be range of seafood dishes are nothing short of masterpieces.
The drinks menu is as delightful as the food – don’t miss trying the Seco Herrerano, a gorgeous, rum-like liquor made from sugar cane that’s considered the national beverage of Panama.
8. Dock Street Oyster Bar (Now Closed)
Where: 12 Dock St, Wilmington, NC 28401-4431
Like oysters? Then you’re going to love Dock Street Oyster Bar. Since opening in 1999, the hole-in the -wall eatery has established itself as the place to go for the kind of simple, fresh seafood that’s guaranteed to take the edge of even the biggest appetite.
All dishes are either grilled or steamed, letting the delicacy and flavor of the fish shine through. Throw in exemplary service and a warm atmosphere, and it’s clear to see what makes it such a firm local favorite.
*Unfortunately Dock Stree is now closed.
7. Boca Bay
Where: 2025 Eastwood Rd, Wilmington, NC 28403-7216
It may not be the cheapest restaurant in Wilmington, but you can’t dispute Boca Bay’s superb credentials. Its extensive menu has enough to keep everyone happy, while its Sunday Brunch has won the title of best in town. If your budget can’t quite stretch to the full menu, try the bar menu’s simple collection of flawlessly fresh, reasonably priced dishes.
6. Fish Bites Seafood Restaurant
Where: 6132 Carolina Beach Rd Ste 11, Wilmington, NC 28412-2788
The quaint little Fish Bites Seafood Restaurant may look underwhelming from the outside, but step inside its doors and you’ll be met with a warm welcome, a cozy atmosphere, and some of the freshest fish Wilmington has to offer. The Local Soft-Shell Crab Sandwich is an all-round crowd-pleaser, while their signature Lobster Bisque is heavenly rich, deep and comforting.
5. Cape Fear Seafood Company
Where: 5226 S College Rd Ste 5, Wilmington, NC 28412-2236
For seafood so fresh it’s practically still flapping, head to Cape Fear Seafood Company. Its superb menu of NC caught seafood is guaranteed to please, while its first-rate service and warm, intimate ambiance is a delight.
While you can’t really go wrong with whatever you order from its excellent menu, the Saltimbocca (chef's choice white fish wrapped in prosciutto & served over a bed of sautéed spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms & goat cheese then draped with demi-glace & lemon beurre blanc) comes especially recommended.
4. Steam Restaurant - Embassy Suites
Where: 9 Estelle Lee Pl Wilmington, NC 28401
With its stunning panorama over the Cape Fear River, the divine setting of Steam is hard to beat. If you do manage to tear your eyes from the views, you’ll find a first-rate menu, a warm, cozy environment, attentive service, and an exemplary cocktail and wine list.
Where: 114 Market St Wilmington, NC 28401-4442
Pinpoint may be a relative newcomer to the Wilmington restaurant scene, but its delightful menu, ample portions, vibrant ambiance, and superb service have already turned it into one the city’s most beloved eateries. Its seasonal menu offers a great range of classic seafood treats, while its exceptional wine and cocktail list is worth the visit alone.
2. Hieronymus Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar
Where: 5035 Market St Wilmington, NC 28405-3429
Hieronymus Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar has been in operation since 1980, serving up a solid menu of locally caught seafood, freshly picked vegetables, and North Carolina brewed craft beer.
Its classic surf ‘n’ turf menu is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, with standouts including the “Fried Captain's Platter” (a combo of NC fresh fish, shrimp, oysters, scallops, and clam strips, served with hand-cut fries and coleslaw) and “Shrimp & Grits” (a $20 medley of southern-style grits topped with sautéed shrimp, onions, tomatoes and house-made lobster cream sauce). With reasonable prices and flawless service, it’s easy to see why Hieronymus has become such a popular local institution.
Where: 6623 Market Street, Wilmington, North Carolina, 28405
Established in 2006 by James Beard award nominee Keith Rhodes, Catch has it all: a sublime location, charming, nautically-inspired décor, and divine, locally caught seafood served with a contemporary twist.
Highlights from the menu include a faultless “Pan Roasted Wild Caught Grouper Filet” served with sweet potato puree, bacon wilted "red beard farms" kale, jumbo crab vinaigrette & butter pecans, and an equally delicious “Cast Iron Blackened Swordfish” accompanied by smoked white cheddar stoneground grits, truffled eggs, and country ham-lump crab gravy. It’s not cheap, but with food this good, you’re unlikely to complain.
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Written by Liz Flynn
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