Hello, I asked a few questions on the boards before going out to coastal North Carolina. Here is my report, take it or leave it, of course it's based on my bias' and what I like to eat.
I had places to eat as suggested on these boards Yelp and my guidebook, but I started off not making good choices and not enjoying my meals. After some nights of expensive restaurant after another, I made a few switchups, and learned a bit along the way.
Wilmington, NC - I got a couple of recommendations from people who worked at the hotel which I proceeded to ignore. They said to eat at the Blue Water Grill in Wrightsville and Sweet and Savory Cafe in Wilmington. I thought I had my list and knew better. The first night I ate at Cape Fear Seafood Co., a nice place aways from downtown. I ordered the local fish, Grouper, which I could choose how it was cooked, I chose blackened, but then it was suggested to add the sauce. I wasn't thinking and said yes and with some butter sauce on the fish I could hardly taste the fish. Disappointing. Then the spinach had so much salt on them I could hardly get through it. I would go back to this place, but I'd watch a bit more what I ordered.
Next night in Wilmington, my hotel owner gave me the rundown on the restaurants on the riverfront. I again thought I knew better. I ended up at Elijahs on the riverfront. I ate inside (which my contact said after I should have eaten outside, different menu). I had a red chowder soup that was very good, and then the shrimp and grits I was dreaming of - - it must have been a regional type I didn't know about but it had kind of a gravy on it that I didn't know if I was eating turkey or shrimp. Again, I was disappointed.
Third night in Wilmington, - this time I realized I better listen to the locals. My hotel owner's recommendation for downtown was Circa 1922. I was told there was a $20.00 three course special. Of course, I didn't opt for that but had the best meal so far at Circa 1922. I had Wreckfish in a very light cream sauce where I could still taste the excellent fish, organic veggies, and the best key lime pie. A really good meal.
Then on to Beaufort, North Carolina. I had lunch on the riverfront at the Dockhouse Restaurant. Had fried shrimp that I peeled the breading off and the shrimp was the freshest and best tasting. I know it wasn't local but was very good, although it was pricey.
Then dinner I got the recommendation from the hotel person for barbeque, Roland's Barbeque which had moved aways from the river area. Excellent. Although this was my first North Carolina barbeque so what do I know but I had barbequed chicken, sweet potatoes, collard greens and banana bread pudding for a fraction of what I'd been paying at the fancy restaurants.
Then the next night in Beaufort I went to Aqua. At this point, me and fancy restaurants I probably wasn't going to be pleased no matter what they served. I went to Aqua because they had pecan pie and I thought it would be a bit better than the corn syrup typical pecan pie. It was very good. But the small plates I ordered, I had crab cakes which were very good and a shrimp remoulade that was just fair, for the price, it maybe wasn't the best meal I'd had.
On Harkers Island I went to the Fishhook Grill as recommended by the ferry boat driver. I even had the food he suggested, scallops. They were good, not great. But it's a nice fun place. I love the Southern additions of choice of veggies, even if they are smothered in butter or other fat, we don't get those options so much in California. I had cole slaw and green beans, both very good.
Then dinner was at Mrs. Culpeppers Crab Cafe in Moorhead City. As of two weeks ago it was still open even with the big For Sale sign on the place that almost made me not stop. The soft shelled crab I had there was to die for, the kind that I can remember what it tasted like even now. I also had crab cakes, fried shrimp, and pad Thai. Really good and please go there.
Next day was New Bern. I had lunch at the Chelsea Restaurant. Had excellent shrimp and grits that I was hoping for. Dinner was at Sting Ray Cafe on E. Front St. near the Tryon Palace which I found on my own. I had soft shelled crab that did not compare to Mrs. Culpeppers but it was good. I also had cole slaw, okra, and the more traditional pecan pie. Also hush puppies.
Anyway, thanks for reading. I absolutely love the food in the South. I learned to ask locals what they like and heed their advice instead of having preconceived ideas of where to go, or at least do a bit of both.
8 N. Front St., Wilmington, NC 28401
Blue Water Grill
126 E State Ave, High Point, NC 27262