Sunday, July 21, 2024

Over 35 restaurants have opened — or are slated to — in the Wilmington area in 2021

Las Margaritas opened in the spring of 2021 on New Centre Drive after spending a full pandemic year renovating the space beside of Bonefish Grill. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — Despite ongoing staffing shortages and supply-chain disruptions, not to mention increased wholesale prices caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, plenty of restaurateurs are not letting this tough market deter them from flipping on the open sign in the greater Cape Fear region.

READ MORE: Catch up on other Brews & Bites coverage

In fact, over 35 brick-and-mortar restaurants have opened — or have announced they will by the end of the year — in 2021. From Hampstead to Leland, Wilmington to Carolina Beach, according to New Hanover County spokesperson Jessica Loeper, the health department has issued permits for:

  • 51 restaurants
  • 7 food stands
  • 3 mobile food units
  • 3 push carts
  • 11 concession stands
  • 1 institutional kitchen
  • 6 lodging
  • 1 school building
  • 1 adult day center

To be clear, not all permits indicate new restaurants, per se. Some may come from a restaurant already in existence that went through an ownership change or rebrand.

The county doesn’t have economic data on how restaurants impact New Hanover’s bottom line; Loeper suggested PCD reach out to the Wilmington Chamber, which suggested reaching out to national food purveyor U.S. Foods. When and if the company representative responds, PCD will update this article.

The National Restaurant Association has reported 2021 is shaking out to impact the industry by $789 billion. Its mid-year State of the Industry report shows sales are up overall 19.7% from last year, though still 8% less than in 2019. The industry lost more than $200 billion in 2020 from the pandemic.

“Faced with one of the most devastating and disruptive events of our lifetime, the restaurant industry has taken significant strides toward rebuilding over the first half of 2021,” Tom Bené, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, said in a press release. 

Many restaurants have closed over the last year locally (read up on the 2021 closed list and look back at 2020 openings and closings here), but by Port City Daily’s calculations, seemingly more have opened. Below is a list of only brick-and-mortars — no carts or mobile eateries — we have tracked so far. Port City Daily will continue to add to the list throughout the year’s end as well.

Have one to add to the list? Email

3315 Cut and Pour
3315 Masonboro Loop Rd. •

The sister restaurant to Lumina Stations’ Grand Cru Food & Wine, 3315 Cut and Pour is a steakhouse and wine bar, located in Masonboro Commons in the former Siena Trattoria spot. The menu includes starters, such as mussels and lamb pops, as well as soups, salads, signature chef’s entrées, plus burgers and pizza.

Angus Grill
1001 N 4th St. •

The Brooklyn Arts District has its own burger spot located two doors down from Palate. Angus Grill, which got its start in Greenville, N.C., serves over 40 combinations of America’s favorite handheld. Diners can choose a single, double or triple patty — beef, turkey or veggie — topped myriad ways: bacon, fried egg, and maple mayo; mac-n-cheese bites and chili; fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese. The styles are endless. 

Check out Port City Daily’s coverage here.

ARtisano Pizza and Gelato
7205 Wrightsville Ave. •

From the folks who own and operate downtown’s GelaRto comes ARtisano Pizza and Gelato at Wrightsville Beach. The restaurant features a selection of thin and crispy pies, as well as salads and pasta, and a full wine, beer and cocktail menu. 

It serves gelato and sorbet from Turin, Italy, with takeout also available by the pint and liter.

Blue Surf Arboretum West
404 Arboretum Dr. Ste. 130 •

The famed Racine Drive café opened a higher end version of itself a few miles away on Military Cutoff Road. The coastal-casual eater has plenty of open-air patio seating in Arboretum West, with garage doors that open from the inside bar, bringing the outside salt air in. 

Chef Jon Webb carried over a few favorites from the flagship café but also expanded with more fresh farm-to-table offerings.

Check out Port City Daily’s coverage here.

Bridgewater Wines + Dine
178 Porters Neck Rd. •

While known for their large selection of vino, the wine shop and café also churns out tasty eats. Flatbreads, charcuterie and cheese, salads, and even a kids menu are offered. Bridgewater’s flagship store is in Leland, but it expanded to Porters Neck earlier this year. 

Butt’s n Such (coming soon)
800 S Lake Park Blvd. •

When A&G Barbecue and Chicken announced it was closing on Carolina Beach after more than three decades, diners flocked to get the final taste of its famed fried chicken and tasty barbecue. Now, in its place, Butt’s Such will be opening soon. 

The restaurant recently revealed its menu on Facebook. It will serve plates of BBQ, fried chicken, fried shrimp, fried flounder, pork chops, plus many sandwiches, including burgers, grilled cheese, fried flounder or shrimp. Veggie sides, a kids menu, plus family meals and bulk items will be up for grabs.

Vietnamese crepes are served at Cafe Chinois, located in Fulton Station on 17th St. Ext. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

Café Chinois
3710 S College Rd Unit #123 •

From the Indochine restaurant group, Café Chinois opened in Fulton Station on the corner of South College and 17th St. Ext. in the spring. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and features a plethora of Asian cuisines, from Thai to Chinese, Korean to Japanese.

Within only three months of opening, the restaurant expanded into a second space, adding more seating and viewing for Thompson’s vast and impressive Asian-art collection. The space feels part museum, part eatery.

Read Port City Daily’s coverage about the launch here and expansion here; see photos here.

Carolina Fish Fry (coming soon)
7144 Market St. •

Carolina Fish Fry is a North Carolina franchise that focuses on fried seafood, served as baskets and platters or on sandwiches, as well as homemade sides. Its flagship location is at 4023 Market St. and a second location will open in Ogden Market Place soon.

Port City Daily talked to the owner, Tyler Morgan, in June about his expansion.

Castle Street Kitchen (coming soon)
509 Castle St. •

Located in the former Rolled & Baked spot along Castle St., a new kitchen is coming to town by late fall. Owners Lauren and Heather Rhodes have made the move from Raleigh to launch their first eatery, which will focus on Southern cuisine with a twist for lunch, dinner and weekend brunches.

Check out Port City Daily’s past coverage here.

Catawba Brewing
4712 New Centre Dr. •

In March, Catawba Brewing took over Skytown on New Centre Drive and brought with it a portfolio of beers and seltzers and launched its first-ever kitchen. The menu is farm-to-table, serving up quick bites like pretzels and pimento cheese, burgers and grain bowls, salads and more.

Learn about the Pyatt brothers’ first brewery on the N.C. coast here.

CAVA (coming soon)
6835 Conservation Way and 3500 Oleander Dr. •

Not one, but two of the Mediterranean restaurants are landing in Wilmington: at Independence Mall and in Mayfaire. CAVA is planning to build in the Belk parking lot at the mall, but in Mayfaire will be slated to take over the former Zoës Kitchen (CAVA bought out the chain last year). CAVA offers diners a build-their-own meal — pitas, and bowls — from a variety of Mediterranean proteins, grains and vegetables.

Cheesesmith’s gooey grilled cheese can be enjoy in The Cargo District now, off 17th Street. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

624 S 17th St. •

The popular food truck parked its wheels in late spring to begin renovating its space in The Cargo District, at the corner of 17th and Queen streets. Now open, the gourmet grilled cheeses, loaded fries and desserts are served for lunch — early dinner hours are Wednesday through Sunday only (closed Monday and Tuesday).

Port City Daily interviewed one of its owners, Molly Curnyn, about the move in April, which you can catch up on here. Check out photos of Cheesesmith’s official opening here.

6841 Conservation Way •

Having opened at the beginning of 2021 in Mayfaire, Cinnaholic is a sweet treat for all to enjoy. Its pastries are 100% vegan: dairy and lactose-free, egg-free and cholesterol-free. The bakery specializes in gourmet cinnamon rolls — with 40 different frostings and toppings — as well as cookie dough, brownies and cookies.

Coast Craft Cocktails & Calabash
604 N Lake Park Blvd. •

Once run as Surf House, Craig Love made a switch on Jan. 1, 2021 to rebrand his Carolina Beach restaurant into Coast Craft Cocktails & Calabash. His menu puts the focus on Calabash-style seafood, as well as offers items like lobster rolls and harvest bowls. The menu changes seasonally. 

The Coffee Stop
94 S Lumina Ave. •

A block away from Wrightsville Beach, The Trolly Stop transformed its walk-up hot-dog stand to a coffee and breakfast spot during the mornings, starting at 6:30 a.m. Hot and cold-brew coffees, as well as specialty drinks and a few sandwiches, are served. 

Read all about it here.

Coquina Fish Bar
890 Town Center Dr. •

Situated beside the cinema at Mayfaire, Coquina specializes in fresh seafood for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. It has raw bar offerings, poke, po’ boys and tacos, pasta, fried and grilled seafood to cover many palates — and even includes land fare, like steaks and chicken.

Fabe’s (coming soon)
1201 S. College Rd. •

A new Peruvian restaurant will be opening soon at the corner of Wrightsville Avenue and South College Road in the former Denny’s. Fabe’s serves roasted chicken by the quarter, half and whole bird, served with a plethora of sides, as well as flautas, burritos, salads and bowls. This will be the second restaurant in the franchise, with the first located an hour-and-a-half west in Fayetteville.  

Floriana Italian Bistro
2 Market St. •

At the foot of Market Street, intersecting Water Street downtown, Floriana’s individual dining balconies make for some of the best views overlooking the Cape Fear River. Aside from the sunsets, the restaurant’s homemade entrees, like osso bucco and burrata ravioli, or branzino and veal, also draw much fanfare.

Catch up on previous Port City Daily coverage here.

Flying Machine at Wrightsville Beach
530 Causeway Dr. T-1 •

Wilmington’s Racine Drive brewery branched out this summer into its first kitchen and taproom at Wrightsville Beach, located in the former Banks Channel space in The Landing. Entrees include shrimp and smoked-cheddar grits or tuna donburi, as well as sandwiches, salads, and of course plenty of Flying Machine’s beers on tap.

Read all about it here from Port City Daily.

Girls with Dough Pizzeria & Pub
530 Causeway Dr. T-1 •

Opening in the Riverlights community, Girls with Dough Pizzeria and Pub is slated to have its grand opening Friday, Oct. 8. The restaurant — opened by the Magnolia Cafe team, also located in Riverlights — will serve pastas and pizzas, caprese salad and antipastos, and other Italian delights.

Mushroom stroganoff is on the dinner menu at The Green House — Wilmington’s vegan fine-dining restaurant. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

The Green House
1427 Military Cutoff Rd. •

The Green House is Wilmington’s first upscale vegan restaurant, serving lunch and dinner. It focuses on wholesome, plant-based ingredients. It offers wine, beer, specialty craft cocktails, and even has a zero-proof bar program. These cocktails are made from restorative spirits which contain no alcohol, some even boast healing properties.

Read Port City Daily’s interview with one of the owners here and see photos of the restaurant’s opening here.

Healthy James
5424 Oleander Dr., Ste. 1 •

A health food restaurant, Healthy James opened earlier in the year to serve diners macro-based meals, protein smoothies, acai and grain bowls, and more. Folks can pre-order meals online or stop in the store to grab heat-n-eat or meals to go. 

The Kitchen Sink
622 N 4th St. •

Located on Fourth Street where Foxes Boxes used to be, The Kitchen Sink will focus on lunch and dinner, featuring artisanal bread the owner makes from scratch to serve with gourmet sandwiches and homemade soups, as well as salads. It’s restaurateur Alicia Mitchell’s first go in the food industry, and she plans to launch a work program through Vigilante Hope and Voyage.

Read Port City Daily’s interview with Mitchell here.

Las Margaritas Bar y Grill
4719 New Centre Dr. •

Owned and operated by Ben Avalos (whose father once ran El Vaquero in the ‘90s and early 2000s), Las Margaritas focuses on fresh Hispanic cuisine, with recipes culled from Avalos’ grandmother’s kitchen. More than 20 flavors of margaritas are up for grabs — they even sell 64-ounce jugs to go — and the restaurant recently started doing 20-deep taco boxes. 

Port City Daily covered its opening here.

Local 910 Bar and Lounge (coming soon)
265 N. Front St. •

To be located in the basement that once housed Firebelly’s Lounge and most recently Dead Crow Comedy Room, Local 910 promises to offer a chill environment, complete with an outdoor patio. It will host live music, plus will serve barbecue, ribs and other snacks, while also serving up beer, wine and cocktails. 

Mariposa’s chorizo sausage and grilled octopus with Romesco sauce and potatoes. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

1502 S. 3rd St. •

Wilmington’s first authentic Spanish tapas bar is serving fresh Sangria and small bites in the South Front District. Owned and operated by hef Bobby Zimmerman of True Blue fame, the restaurant has patio and courtyard seating, plus indoor tables in its cozy renovated craftsman-style home.

Read about its opening here and scroll through pictures from Port City Daily here.

Oval & Ale
47 N Hampstead Village Dr. •

Technically, it’s in Pender County, but Oval & Ale’s artisan-style pizzas, salads, 12 rotating craft beers, bottled beer and wine, are bringing in crowds across county lines.

Point Break 
7134 Market St. Unit 7&8 •

What started as a mobile eatery in 2020 amid Covid-19 has settled its roots in Ogden in the former Stella’s Pizza spot. Point Break’s owner Ryan Trotter told Port City Daily his café will focus on healthful eating, featuring grilled wings and homemade sauces, wraps, fresh sides and even breakfast. However, he also will still offer his catering packages and deliveries. 

Check out all the offerings in Port City Daily’s coverage here.

224 S Water St Ste. 1-G •

Heading to the Riverwalk for a November opening, Sauc’d will be located where Le Catalan once was located for almost two decades. Raleigh hospitality veterans Jeremiah Ramos and Courtney Osgood will be opening the lounge, which will put a focus on the almighty craft cocktail — and fries served with homemade sauces.

Seabird’s slow-smoked yellowfin tuna over shaved cabbage and radish, mango, toasted peanuts, soy vinaigrette, and local herbs. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

Seabird Restaurant
1 S. Front St. •

Seabird showcases quality, seasonal seafood, caught by local fishermen and prepared by chef Dean Neff. Also serving oysters, wine, beer and craft cocktails for lunch and dinner; coffee and counter-service breakfast offered as well.

Read Port City Daily’s full writeup here; scroll through photos here.

Salt + Charm
702 S. 17th St. •

Offering meal prep and delivery, catering services, as well as grab-and-go breakfast and lunch options, Salt + Charm opened in The Cargo District in the spring. Folks can stop in Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., to grab a bite; the website offers the full rundown of personal chef services from Abbye McGee.

Shug’s Sweet Shoppe (closed)
609-B Piner Rd. • Closed

The Monkey Junction bakery opened in April and found fanfare in its sweet croissants of many flavors, as well as cookies, brownies, cakes and pasties. However, it closed shop in mid-September; the owners haven’t responded to Port City Daily’s inquiries as to why.

Soif de Vin (closed)
5226 S. College Rd. Unit 9-B •

The wine and bottle shop expanded as a café in Monkey Junction eight months ago. However, due to a lease disagreement, owners Amy Siler and Shawn Underwood have reverted the space back into a wine and bottle shop only as of two weeks ago. The owners are finishing out their 18 month lease at the spot while they look for another restaurant to move to in the future.

Soundside Seafood and Raw Bar
2025 Eastwood Rd. •

Urban Food Group took over Boca Bay a few years ago and decided to transform and revamp the space after the pandemic shuttered it. It still offers its famed Sunday brunch, and has a raw seafood bar, as well as serves sandwiches and has modern takes on locally caught seafood. 

Read Port City Daily’s coverage here.

Surf’s Up Pizza
2101 Market St., Ste. 1 •

Located behind Port City Java at 21st and Market streets, Surf’s Up keeps it simple: pizza (cauliflower crust offered), boneless wings and nachos. Plus, it’s open until 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday; otherwise closes at 11 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and 9 p.m. on Sundays.

Three10 (coming soon)
1022 N. 4th St. •

Jennifer Concklin and Matt Walker’s seafood restaurant in the Brooklyn Arts District is scheduled to open this fall —  before the end of the month, per current plans. The couple saved a mid-20th century home from demolition in 2019 and have been renovating it into a historic structure to house their farm-to-table restaurant since. 

Port City Daily interviewed the restaurateurs in September about the project; read it here.

True Blue Butcher and Barrel (coming soon)
10 Greenfield St., Suite 114 •

From chef Bobby Zimmerman of True Blue Butcher and Table comes another True Blue brand, Butcher and Barrel. The American steak house is slated to open this fall in the South Front District, sandwiched between New Anthem Beer Project and Satellite Bar and Lounge.

Originally slated to open this fall, it’s been pushed back a bit but will still open by the end of the year. It will have an onsite butcher shop, much like its Forum predecessor. Its menu will center on burgers and steaks, served “in a more playful style,” the chef revealed last spring — read about it here

Walk-On’s fried shrimp platter with waffle fries, hushpuppies and slaw. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux
3710 Oleander Dr. •

Having opened in June in front of Independence Mall, Walk-On’s — backed by former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees — has become the hot ticket for catching all the games in town. The sports bar serves up a N’awlins-flavored menu, lots of drink specials, onsite games, like corn hole and basketball hoops, and of course over 70 TVs.

Port City Daily coverage can be read here, with photos during its soft opening accessed here.

Wheelhouse Pizza (closed)
1215 N 4th St. • Closed

Mark Milner opened Wheelhouse Pizza in the Brooklyn Arts District in May, which focused on specialty gourmet pies. However, Milner had to announce the restaurant’s closure in August due to health reasons. 

Read Port City Daily coverage ahead of its opening here and about its closing here.

Wheelz Pizza Wrightsville Beach (coming soon)
7037 Wrightsville Ave. •

Available for delivery with its fleet of food trucks, Wheelz Pizza has had its headquarters primarily in a small space on 17th Street since launching in 2019. But their popularity and growth — fans hail their organic ingredients and three-day, cold-fermented sourdough crust — has led to opening a second location near Wrightsville Beach. The former Peño Mediterranean location will be Wheelz’s first dine-in establishment and will open in coming months.

Vinny’s Seafood Express
1010 S Lake Park Blvd. •

Vinny Doria moved to Carolina Beach over a decade ago and brought his famed pizza, Uncle Vinny’s, to the island, which has gained a solid following. Over the spring, he decided to open an express seafood restaurant next door, which serves fresh fried and grilled seafood in platter and sandwich form. Clams, shrimp, scallops, flounder, plus lobster rolls are offered.

Port City Daily’s interview with Doria can be read here.

Vientiane Kitchen
701 Castle St. •

To be located in the former Hungry Sparrow location at 7th and Castle streets, Vientiane Kitchen was registered in August 2021. The restaurant’s focus will be on traditional Lao cuisine. Three staple items of the cuisine include sticky rice, larb and tam mak hoong (spicy green papaya salad) — all on the menu, alongside variations of fried rice and noodle dishes, curries, and chef specialties, like whole fish.

The kitchen is open and now accepting to-go orders online, according to a recent Facebook post.

Reach out to Port City Daily at to let the team know if a new restaurant was inadvertently omitted from this list. 

Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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