Restaurant Guide to Wilmington, NC

About five or so years ago, I lived in Wilmington, NC just 10 minutes shy of Wrightsville beach. I enjoyed the short amount of time I lived there but my favorite thing wasn’t exactly the beach. It was the food. Anyone who knows me knows that I love food. Why else would I start a blog called The Juicy Pepper? And if you know me you’d also know that I love to support small, local businesses. In my opinion, this is what America is made of. So in today’s post, I’m sharing with you some of my all time favorite restaurants in Wilmington, NC.

  1. Islands Fresh Mex Grill
    Something about this place makes me SO HAPPY that the last time I visited, I ate there three days in a row (don’t even judge me. In the words of Tabatha Brown “that’s my business”). I sort of feel like Islands is one of those places better known to the locals but even still it absolutely should be tried by every tourist making their way through Wilmy. They have five locations: Downtown Wilmington, Racine Drive, Market Street in Ogden, Monkey Junction, and Leland. Their produce is all locally sourced, they have specials everyday (hello $1 tacos after 5PM), and I swear they put love in every taco, burrito, and plate of nachos they create. There’s a reason I made this place number one. Check them out on your next trip!
Islands Fresh Mex Grill located on Racine Dr. *I do not own copyrights to this image*

2. A Taste of Italy
This little “hole-in the-wall” deli is sure to deliver quality, delicioius, made-with-love food straight from your favorite fun uncle. It’s so good that it feels like eating dinner with your family on a Sunday evening. Located right off of S College Road, this restaurant serves authentic Italian food made with ingredients imported straight from Italy. While you’re there, you can also purchase some of the same products they cook with as they also have a small grocery store inside of their space. Be sure to try the eggplant parmesan sandwhich. It’s to die for!

A Taste of Italy located off of S College Rd. *I do not own the copyrights to this image*

3. The Copper Penny
The Copper Penny is so good that it was featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” back in 2018. So that has to tell you something. They are located in Wilmington’s historic downtown near the riverfront. This is a great place to go for date night or just to catch up with friends. It has a laid back, chill vibe. My favorite thing to eat here is the buffalo shrimp but they’re famous for their roast pork sandwhich and onion rings. Definitely check them out!

The Copper Penny located in downtown Wilmington at 109 Chestnut St. *I do not own the copyrights to this image*

4. Flaming Amy’s Bowl
Did someone say all you can eat? And it’s customizeable? YES! Sign me up! Flaming Amy’s Bowl is no doubt one of the coolest restaurants Wilmington has to offer. It’s sister location is Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn, another local and tourist fav. You walk in and up to the counter where there is a buffet of options to choose from that you can put in your bowl. You can stack it as high or as low as you want. Then you add your sauces, they cook it and wah-lah! Deliciousness. You can take it to go and enjoy your bowl on the beach or you can enjoy your bowl in the colorful restaurant- you choose. But definitely make sure to try this place (or Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn… or BOTH).

Staff photo by Cole Dittmer With the opening of franchise opportunities for Flaming Amy’s Bowl, Flaming Amy’s is one of a few homegrown Wilmington businesses expanding their reach in 2015. *I do not own the copyrights to this image. Courtesy of Lumina News.*

5. Elijah’s
So you want to go out on a really romantic date to a nice restaurant, do you? This is your place right here. It sits beautifully on Wilmington’s riverfront with a view of Battleship North Carolina. You can dine inside or sit on the riverfront outside while you enjoy some of the freshest, and most delicious seafood the city has to offer. Drink a cocktail or glass of wine, watch the sun go down, eat your meal, and then when dinner is done, enjoy the edison lights along the restaurants border. Then take a stroll along the riverwalk to the beautiful historical courthouse just a few blocks away. This place really is something special. Don’t sell your trip short by not visiting this place.

Located at 2 Ann Street in historic Downtown Wilmington. *I do not own the copyrights to this image.*

6. Jimbo’s Breakfast and Lunch
I believe most people value that restaurant vibe that makes you feel like you’re eating at home surrounded by family. Jimbo’s certainly does this. A classic diner with some of the greatest American favorites, this place is perfect for breakfast before a fun filled day at the beach or exploring Wilmington. When I lived in Wilmington, each time I’d visit, Jimbo himself used to sit at the register and welcome people as they came in or wish you a happy day as you left. If that doesn’t scream family then what does? Be prepared to wait though. This place stays packed because it is just that good.

Jimbo’s is located at 1529 S College Road. Look for this infamous sign. *I do not own the copyrights to this image.*

7. Epic Food Co.
Are you a health nut and don’t want to eat all the junk food the entire time you’re on vacay? Definitely check out Epic Food Co. This place serves healthy food that tastes completely sinful. Maybe you want something vegan? They have plenty of options for you. Burger? Chicken sandwhich? Wraps? THEY GOT IT ALL! This isn’t your typical fresh food place, though all of their ingredients are just that- fresh af. You just have to try it to believe it.

Located at 1113 Military Cutoff Road. *I do not own the copyrights to this image.*

8. Port City Java
Who doesn’t love the smell of freshly brewed coffee in the morning? This place specializes in the most delicious coffee. Not only that but they have some really great breakfast options too! Whatever kind of coffee you try, you can also buy at this local coffee shop. They have several locations in both North and South Carolina. In Wilmington they are located in Downtown, Barclay Commons, Carolina Beach Raod, Market Street, Oleander Drive, Porters Neck, South 17 Street, UNCW Randall Library, CFCC Union Station, Racine Drive and Masonboro. Plenty of locations to choose from, each with their own style but serving the same great tasting coffee.

Port City Java in Wilmington, NC on Racine Dr. *I do not own the copyrights to this image.*

I hope this list curated from my own personal favorites helps you decide where you’ll eat when visiting Wilmington. With COVID-19 still in full swing, some of the hours for each restaurant might vary and may also affect what they are serving. Please also keep in mind that these are small businesses who need all of the support they can get during this unprecedented time. If you are traveling, stay safe, social distance, and support any and all local businesses that you can.

Lastly, let me know what other places in Wilmington you’ve tried that you don’t see on my list but should be. I am always down to try new things and eat at new places. If you go to one of these restaurants, let me kow what your thoughts are. Leave a comment or email me through the “Let’s Talk, Foodie” tab. I sincerely appreciate your support.

Until next time. Sending you peace, love and light.


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