If Maxx Jackson could sum up newly opened eatery Johnny Lukes in one word, it’d be, simply, “cool.”
A chic, big-city atmosphere, sophisticated modern fare, craft brews and an eclectic wine and cocktail list define the restaurant – tailored to the professional crowd – in the Promenade, 5500 Market St. Suite 130.
And a rooftop patio never hurts.
Jackson is the marketing director for Johnny Lukes, which opened last week and is set to host a grand opening Thursday. He’s also the son of John Jackson, one half of the business’ namesake and an longtime restaurateur hailing from Philadelphia. Luke is John’s former employer turned restaurant owner Luke Burke, and the pair have a third partner, John’s brother, Nick Parrous, who owns the legendary Luigi’s in Fayetteville.
“We just wanted to create a cool place for young professionals and adults to come hang out,” Jackson said. “You can come have nice meal downstairs and then head up upstairs after to have some drinks…You feel like you’re in a city, almost. We’ve had people say they feel like they’re eating in Raleigh or some other big city. And we’re from Philadelphia, so that’s what we were going for.”
The second floor lounge, JL’s Loft, features a custom-made tap system featuring a rotating selection of 19 craft brews, many of which hail from the Tarheel state. Jackson said he hopes to soon tap into Wilmington’s growing brewery scene with some locally made varieties, as well.
“I’m definitely going to chase a bunch of Wilmington beers,” he said.
From the bar, patrons can head out onto the adjoining covered patio, where Jackson said there will soon be a lineup of live acts several nights a week.
Work began in August to renovate the former space that housed Nino’s Pizza and Pasta. Jackson said a dividing wall was torn down to unite the upstairs bar with the downstairs restaurant, which was once a hair salon.
Johnny Lukes seats about 150 patrons, serving up shareable plates, flatbreads, entrees and unique sides, including Luigi’s sought-after meat sauce. The dinner menu ranges from classic Italian dishes like Chicken Marsala and Shrimp and Crab Diablo to contemporary versions of chicken pot pie and pork chops. Luigi’s meat sauce makes an appearance on a lunchtime meatball sub, one of many pub-style creations like burgers and fish and roast beef sandwiches.
The dining area is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Sunday. JL’s Loft will remain open until 2 a.m. daily.
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.