Sunday, October 1, 2023

Port City BBQ bringing Eastern N.C. style cooking to Lumina Commons

It’s not quite ready to open yet, but Port City BBQ is well underway and if things go according to plan, will be open by mid-April. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

WILMINGTON — With plans to open ahead of the beach season, Port City BBQ is looking to be Wilmington’s (and Wrightsville Beach’s) new favorite barbecue spot. Located in Lumina Commons, between David’s Deli and the marine aquarium store Coastal Reef, brown paper covers the windows and view of the interior, but behind the scenes, the owner of Port City BBQ, James Romero is hard at work getting the store ready for its opening.

Romero has been in the food industry for about 18 years, he said, and last served as a general manager of another restaurant, but this is his first venture into owning his own restaurant.

“I’ve done all types of cuisine, Italian food, American food, barbecue — so I am looking to bring a really good quality barbecue, Eastern N.C. style, to this area,” he said.

Of course, since we are in Eastern North Carolina so Romano plans on sticking with the traditional style of barbecue our part of the country is known for, where sometimes less is more.

So what exactly is Eastern N.C. barbecue?

“It’s going to be your vinegar-based barbecue, a little bit of crushed red pepper — very simple — we’re not going to drown it in sauce. We want the pork flavor to shine,” Romano said.

While Eastern N.C. barbecue is known for its pulled pork, Romano said he would be offering other barbecue classics as well like ribs and brisket.

Although not originally from the region, Romano has lived here for about 10 years and his kitchen manager is, in fact, a southerner who will play a large role in the restaurant’s menu.

Port City BBQ is going to have classic staples, but don’t be surprised to see new things on the menu and others leave it throughout the year.

“We’re going to have a lot of seasonal sides, we’re going to rotate proteins in and out so it is going to be a little bit of a twist on barbecue, we’ll still have the classics but we want to keep things fresh and keep our guests coming back trying new things,” he said.

When it came to locations, Romano said he has been searching for a year or so for the right spot and had narrowed his choices down to the Wrightsville Beach area or the Ogden/Portersneck area — ultimately choosing the former.

And, since it’s usually argued that it’s not ‘real’ barbecue without smoke, Romano has a custom made smoker coming from Missouri.

“Everything will be smoked in-house, we have an Ole Hickory CTO smoker coming from Missouri custom built just for us … so everything will be smoked daily and all the sides will be made in-house,” he said.

As anyone who has worked to open a business knows, opening dates are often hard to get exact, but he is hoping to open by mid-April. Until then you can check the restaurant’s Facebook page for more information.

Send comments and tips to

Related Articles