I have been waiting on this place to open and today I found the lights on and food was ready!

First, the reclaimed and remodeled structure is beautiful; hardwood floors, brick walls, well appointed, and a large gorgeous bar. Owner Jeff greeted us and let us choose a window seat, got our drink order, and told us a bit about the place.

The chef is a specialist in low country cuisine and there is a baker/pastry chef as well. Bread is prepared daily and yes, you can tell the difference!

I chose the smoked catfish. Awesome! Brined, smoked, lightly breaded in cornmeal, and resting on a savory bed of grits and porcini mushrooms. Atop the fish was a delicious green tomato and citrus glazed slaw.

This meal was so good it was actually fun to eat! My guest had a NC shrimp sandwich on a just out of the oven brioche. Yum!

I will be back. It’s just that simple.

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Posted by on June 1, 2015 in Uncategorized


Fat Tony’s

Lunch at fat Tony’s. Had to be downtown on a Monday and having my grown sons with me I could think of no better place to get some good quality pizza at a great price than Tony’s.

I really need to come some evening and try the pastas and sandwiches, but this was a pizza day. We love the atmosphere, the good service, and the great food. As soon as we walked in we were greeted by the bartender and offered a seat. Our server arrived quickly with menus, suggestions, and a smile. We finally settled on the Deluxe (everything) pizza.

We talked, watched some ESPN and some CNN and had a great time catching up. When the pizza came it was perfect. The crust is flexible but toothsome–not wet or floppy–with a dusting of (I think) cornmeal on the bottom. The toppings were so fresh you could smell the ingredients! Oh yes, green peppers, black olives, various meats, and a great sauce.

A great pizza doesn’t call for much more than the chef’s attention and fresh ingredients and you get both at Fat Tony’s. You’ve been to places where it seems like the pizza was just “assembled” or thrown together, not “prepared” for the restaurant’s guests? Not here. Everything here looks good, smells good, tastes good, and is served well by a competent staff in unique surroundings.

I love this place!

The good: fresh, hot, tasty, clean, fun.

The could be better: nothing!

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Posted by on February 20, 2013 in Italian


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Sweet and Savory

I thought I would never find this place. It is on a side street off of Wrightsville Ave at 1611 Pavilion Place. This place is going to have to be visited more than once. First of all, I didn’t really “get it.” Later, I realized it’s not simply a cafe, but a bakery as well. That doesn’t quite tell it all either, though. It also has that “local gather here” feel. The decor is a bit eclectic, almost a “small-place-on-a-deserted-highway” look. Think of the boys on an episode of Route 66 stopping for a fish dinner and you’re about there.

Once again, I had a steak, a really good one, with a smear of red peppercorn/white truffle butter on top. It was juicy, well plated and served efficiently. The salad was a Caesar, I don’t know if the dressing was homemade (like the soups are!!) or not but I could taste the garlic and anchovies in it–really tasty. The slices of toasted baguette were authentic and spot-on.

I have to go back to this place, and here’s why. The restaurant offers nightly specials and each one of them (and I mean ALL of them) are worth a return trip to try out. If you don’t quite get it all, don’t worry, I think after a few trips you’ll be hooked like me.

Finally–Go to their website. It is awesome. All the great nightly deals are there, along with a downloadable menu, wine list, prices,– this place deserves your business if for nothing else but being creative and clever with their website.


The Good: service, salad, Caesar dressing!, steak, good veggies, all around good american fare.

The Could be Better: Don’t know yet–must go back!

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Posted by on September 27, 2012 in American, Seafood, Steak


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Rucker Johns

I love this place. When you tire of the gimmicky flash-in-the-pan kind of place, Rucker Johns is the place to go. It is always well staffed, clean-looking, delicious smelling, with a relaxed yet civilized atmosphere.

This place offers clearly American fare, with great menu items ranging from fish to fowl, steaks to chops, and veggies both steamed and raw (salads), the latter always arriving on a wonderfully COLD plate. (I hate room-temperature salads, and Rucker Johns are always cold and crispy.)

My favorite dish is their slow-roasted prime rib. The thickness is just right, cooked just right, but best of all, a quality cut of beef. No cheap grainy, chewy, second-rate cuts here. The cut is always firm, slightly marbled, and always juicy. The au jus adds just the right finish.

One of my quick favorites (if I don’t have time so sit and savor) is the Bucky’s Bites–a small skewer or two of steak bites with a side of veggies when the prime rib or the Jack Daniel’s marinated steak is a bit too much. I also like the wraps (shrimp, chicken salad, etc.)

I have eaten at two of the locations, Emerald Isle and Wilmington, and they both are staffed by courteous wait staff and attentive chefs, as well as managers cruising the floor making sure all is well with your experience.


The Good: prime rib, cold salads, service, ambiance.

The Could Be Better: Hmmm…not much!

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Posted by on September 27, 2012 in American, Fine Dining, Steak


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Remarkable…simply remarkable. I’ll get to the food shortly, but the Indochine restaurant itself is just amazing. As you enter, the bar is directly in front of you. The main dining area is to your left. This place is busy, both physically and visually. The walls are decorated with unusual bits of Asian art, statues, reliefs, framed art of ancient misty mountains and twisted trees, as well as–food. Yes, there are actually large showcase frames of mushrooms, peppers,– lots of food as art.

The dining room looks as if it were at some time a church or synagogue which has been reclaimed as a business.The ceiling is sort of–rippled? Many smaller arches allowing daylight to enter the dining room add so much to the atmosphere. BUT-the OUTSIDE dining area is amazing. Tiny table sized huts, if you will, made to look like Pacific Rim structures, are arranged along the path of an outdoor garden, splendidly landscaped, with just the right balance of “well-kept” and “wild.” A “tiki” type bar centers the area and is worth a visit if for nothing more than to sip a drink and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

The food, likewise, is wonderful. Most entrees are large and meant for two. The menu is extensive and can fill the tummy of those looking for delights from familiar Asian style dishes to more exotic Thai and Vietnamese fare. Service is quick, efficient, and so reasonably priced it will surprise you!

This is one of Wilmington’s busiest places, so come early, or call ahead. You won’t be disappointed.

The Good: Decor, ambiance, service, great food, great value.

The Could be Better: Hmmm…can’t think of anything.

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Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Asain


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Fat Tony’s

I don’t know Tony. I don’t know if he’s really fat. But the pub which bears his name is serving up some of the best bar-pub-good-times food I’ve had.

Tony’s is in another of Wilmington’s reclaimed warehouse-type buildings on Front Street. The approach is friendly and inviting and is filled with tables and chairs for outdoor dining. Folks are usually out here talking, laughing, eating, sipping, and generally enjoying the balmy summer evenings. Inside is a cavernous room with a high arched ceiling, lots of old wood, and even what I assume are the original structural steel roof supports. Beyond this is another room with several dining tables and chairs, lit with small globe lights strung from side to side for an almost outdoor feel. The music was just at background level so conversation was easy.

Since this was a spur-of-the-moment trip, we settled on The Special, (Pizza with everything) but became keenly aware of the terrific looking burgers being carried out of the kitchen. Burgers, fries, rings, soups, — everything looked and smelled great.

Our server was fast but friendly–no needless small talk. Drinks were brought, none went dry, and when the pizza came it was awesome. Great ingredients on a perfect crust made this thing a pleasure to eat. It was hot, aromatic, and full of flavor–just what we wanted after walking around downtown Wilmington.

And value? Four of us ate for LESS than $30.00–drinks and all. And I mean value–not cheap or cheap looking! Tony’s is top-notch, clean, well run, well staffed, and one of the most impressive bars I’ve seen, with lots top shelf spirits.

I will be returning to try out the great looking salads, soups, breads, sandwiches and sides. Try it yourself and let me know how you liked it!

In Summary:

The Good: great service, real value, de-licious food, ambiance/decor

The Could be Better: This trip was perfect.

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Posted by on June 12, 2012 in Italian


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Hieronymus Seafood

To begin with, the review might be a bit confusing as parts of it might seem negative and some positive. Most of my ambivalence stems from the fact that I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this restaurant–is it old-school fishcamp fried fare, or gourmet seafood in a fishcamp atmosphere?

Hieronymus Seafood restaurant was voted Best Seafood in Wilmington by the readers of Encore magazine. It also received high marks in Trip Advisor. So armed with high expectations we went out for a nice seafood dinner. We were seated quickly and our server arrived in seconds to take our order. Our server was quite robotic–no smile, no warm welcome–just a Jack Webb type of “What to drink?”

While we were waiting, we were served a biscuit. Not a basket of bread or breads to nibble on, but a biscuit. Each. I ordered an appetizer of clam strips and looked around. There seemed to be too much furniture. Our server apologized a time or two for having to step around or over other guests to get to us, but it did not impede the service-absence of smile notwithstanding. Even though there was an attempt to feature something like a “catch of the day” that many fine dining establishments offer, the atmosphere and decor was still that of a fish house.

Then the appetizer arrived. The clam strips might just be the best I have ever eaten. This is normally my wife’s pervue, but this time I was the one raving about the sea-critters. Light breading, just done-not crunchy, just a bit of salt, and TENDER clam strips. I didn’t even dip them in the sauce they were so perfect.

My guess was that they could do “fried” really well, and I should have followed my instincts, but instead, I ordered the nut-crusted snapper. The pecan and other nut crust was flavorful and toothsome–fun to eat. The lobster cream sauce was a bit rich and perhaps a bit cool even. But the fish itself was rubbery! I know snapper is thick and meaty, but there was no flake at all–just thick meat requiring effort to pull apart some edible pieces with which I could enjoy the sauce and crust. Now here is where I sound slightly hypocritical: I say it was a bit tough, but I ate it anyway and it was not all that bad. I mostly got the feeling that I had stumbled into a place that had a rich history of local fried favorites that was trying to branch out into gourmet offerings and didn’t quite have the knack of it.

The steamed vegetables were not that good. It was a combination of broccoli, onions, and mushrooms. The mushrooms and onions were not a good compliment to the broccoli, rather they hid the flavor of the broccoli and gave the whole mixture a musty taste. The veggies did not compliment the entrée at all. I tried several times to somehow make the onion mushroom mix fit with the sweet lobster sauce, but I could not–the veggie mix is just not a good idea. My wife’s vegetable did not even arrive until we were almost finished eating.

All in all, it was not a disaster, the clams were a delight, the entrée disappointing, and the service just adequate. I suppose I was looking for terrific but just got OK.

In summary:

The Good: awesome fried clams

The Could be Better: More personality in servers, need a better veggie mix, don’t put so many choices out as gourmet–just pick a few hits and stick with them.

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Posted by on May 15, 2012 in American, Fine Dining, Seafood


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