Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Part 1: Almost 100 bars and restaurants opened and closed in 2022

A look back at restaurants in the Cape Fear region

Beef tartare from Origins, the fine dining restaurant that opened in Autumn Hall in May. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — The number is staggering and there’s no guarantee this list is all-inclusive of every food and beverage business in the tri-county region that launched or officially turned off the lights over the course of the year. 

But, as another year closes and 2023 arrives, a look back on the local dining scene indicates at least 60 eateries opened in the greater Wilmington area, with almost two dozen closing. 

READ MORE: Local restaurateur takes on new project in quest to transform N. Front ‘cocktail district’

In addition, around 30 drinkeries — bars, coffee shops, bottle shops — opened and closed.

Port City Daily looked back at reporting throughout the course of 2022 to run down an extensive catalog for diners to refer to for ideas on where to drink and dine in the area and also support local businesses.

The piece is broken up into two parts, with the first featuring restaurants below. Part two will run Sunday, Jan. 1.

Aye! Toro has officially opened in front of independence Mall, featuring a calavera-painted face mural by Bucky Johnson. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

Aye! Toro

Located in front of Independence Mall, Aye! Toro is the new brand from the San Felipe Mexican Restaurant group that owns Mexican eateries across the state. When the mall began renovations two years ago, San Felipe closed and one of its owners, Antonio Colin, told PCD they decided to open with something new. The cuisine is inspired by areas like Madrigal, Puebla, Mexico City, and Yucatan, focused on fresh ingredients prepared with authenticity. Read previous coverage here

Blueberry’s Grill

With its first restaurant launched in Myrtle Beach, Blueberry’s Grill opened in Lumina Station in late summer in the former Halligan’s Pub location. Its “modern farmhouse” vibe makes it a cozy spot, with plenty of fresh offerings, from grilled blueberry muffins and pancakes and waffle blasts to eggs Benedicts and omelets.  Read PCD coverage here.

Boardwalk Pizza

Known for its New Jersey-like pies, Boardwalk Pizza closed in fall 2021 and reopened in 2022 under the new ownership of Dan and Melanie Dunn. However, by summer the pie shop had closed and reopened after Labor Day as Coastal Bagels.

Boundless Boards

Sara Lester started a charcuterie board business in the middle of Covid-19 which turned into a full-fledged operation by summer 2022. She and her husband, Drew, opened Boundless Boards’ first retail location in Anderson Square after moving from Virginia to Wilmington. Read more from PCD here.

Brooklyn Pizza

The popular Ogden pizzeria branched out in 2022, opening a second location on Oleander Drive in the former Great Harvest Bread space. Brooklyn is revered for its hand-tossed pies and Jack Daniels-glazed wings, as well as garlic knots and other Italian specialties.


Wings, burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and more are served at Brunswick Beer & Cider. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

Brunswick Beer and Cider

Leland got its first brewery and cidery in 2022 with Wrightsville Beach Brewery’s latest offspring, Brunswick Beer and Cider. Jud Watkins opened the location in the fall and the beer crew has plans to have its 48 taps filled in the coming year with fresh brews and ciders. It offers plenty of handmade pizzas, sandwiches, burgers and wings as well. Catch up on PCD coverage here

Burgaw Alimente

Two popular businesses married under one roof over the spring and opened in a small town in Pender County. Burgaw Alimente combines sweet baked goods and provisions from wellness brand Elderberry Tribe, owned by Holly Liao, and Mexican cuisine from Tacos El Jefe owner Jonathan Martinez Gomez. Check out the PCD reporting here.

Burney’s Sweets and More

The sweet croissants, stuffed, dusted or glazed, are a staple of eastern North Carolina thanks to Burney’s Sweets and More, which got its start in Elizabethtown. Burney’s opened another location closer to the coast in Brunswick County when it launched its Leland bakery in the spring. Read more about it here.

The Butcher’s Market

A specialty butcher shop that cut its teeth in Raleigh expanded into Wilmington over the spring. The Butcher’s Market was the sixth operation to open statewide when its doors unlocked on Oleander Drive. Its specialties  include prime aged beef, as well as spices and side items. 

Castle Street Kitchen

In the summer of 2021, Lauren and Heather Rhodes purchased a business on Castle Street and uprooted their lives in Raleigh to move to Wilmington and become restaurateurs. The couple opened Castle Street Kitchen in March. More about the restaurant can be found here

Coastal Bagels

Phil Santomassi has been well-known for his bagels for years and has operated Beach Bagels, Donut Inn and Mr. Bagel Meister in town. After Labor Day, he took over the former Boardwalk Pizza location on Gordon Road to open Coastal Bagels. It serves homemade rounds with cream cheese, butter or other toppings, as well as breakfast and lunch sandwiches, from 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily.

CraftGrown Farms has opened a gourmet market in its storefront on Castle Street. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

CraftGrown Market

A gourmet market opened on Castle Street in the fall, in front of the CraftGrown Farms microgreen space. The market offers locally sourced meats, like chicken from Changin’ Ways, as well as nonperishable goodies, like breads made from Hampstead Treasure Bakery, tea from Queen Esther Herbal Teas, and honey from Wilmington’s Sweet Life Honeybee Farm. Cheeses, private label sauces and dips, and more is offered. Read more about the shop here.

Crofton’s Pretzels

Crofton Pretzels announced it was moving from its small Oleander Drive store at the beginning of 2022 and by late summer had relocated to Market and 17th streets. With a larger space, owner Aidan Crofton and partner Brian Granger are able to churn out more traditional Bavarian twist rounds or Philly-style versions. The pretzels are offered stuffed or plain, with options of sauces, both savory and sweet. Beers and more than 150 sodas are also sold on site. Check out the preview of the shop ahead of its September opening here.  

Cugino Forno

The soda pop district saw the addition of a pizza place in the spring of 2022. Cugino Forno focuses on Neapolitan pies, made with imported ingredients from Italy. The 3,500-square-foot eatery is one of multiple locations operated across the state by Joseph Ozbey, Yilmaz Guver and Adam Adksoy. Look back at our coverage before it opened here.

Dave’s Hot Chicken

A hot chicken chain opened in front of Independence Mall in the spring, as part of an expansion onto the East Coast from its West Coast foundation. The fast, casual eatery specializes in fried chicken tenders served across seven levels of spiciness, from a very mild “No Spice” to a flaming hot “Reaper.” Check out PCD’s early coverage of its opening here.

Dram Tree Tavern

Sunset Park got an addition to the neighborhood when Dram Tree Tavern opened after eight years of planning. Walt Cartier and his son, William, had been building the business, with the goal to welcome neighbors for live music, cold beer and good food at 1806 Washington St. The 3,600-square-foot facility — located close by to Greenfield Lake Amphitheater as well — is outfitted with an expansive porch and large yard with picnic tables and rocking chairs. Read more here.

Dram Yard opened in February after being shuttered for two years. (Courtesy Dram Yard)

Dram Yard

Located in ARRIVE hotel at 101 S. 2nd St., Dram Yard welcomed a new chef as the restaurant opened after being shuttered due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Chef Joe Wolfson updated its menu, combining Southern specialties with Asian and worldly flair. Wolfson told PCD in the winter, his goal is for the menu to be “super seasonal, constantly evolving, including a lot of global influences, making everything from scratch, and remaining vegetable forward.” Read about it here.

Drift Cafe

When Gulfstream Restaurant closed on Wrightsville Beach at the beginning of the year, two brothers, Ben and Michael Powell, behind the popular Drift Coffee brand decided to take over and launch their first full-scale restaurant. The cafe is an elevated version of the coffee shop, offering tableside service for breakfast and lunch, both indoors and outdoors. PCD’s coverage of its opening can be found here.

Drift Coffee

Around the same time the Powells were planning their cafe’s opening, they also had procured a downtown spot for an additional Drift Coffee. They opened their fifth shop on North Front Street by summer. A mural, which oversees Bijou Park, is planned on the side of the building, owned by Clark Hipp. PCD’s coverage of its opening can be found here.

Eat at Eastside Food Truck

Laura and Jamie Johnson moved to Wilmington from Colorado four years ago and wanted to launch their own sandwich shop. 2022 welcomed the opportunity, with the couple rolling out Eat at Eastside, serving toasted sandwiches with homemade spreads and sauces. The truck sets up across town weekly; its schedule can be accessed here. PCD’s coverage is here.

Eggs Up Grill

At the beginning of the month, another breakfast franchise opened in Southport, with restaurateurs Jennifer and Brandon Padilla eyeing Wilmington for their next operation (another Eggs Up is on Carolina Beach Road, though owned by different entrepreneurs). It boasts a menu full of egg selections, omelets, Benedicts, and breakfast sandwiches, as well as pancakes, waffles and a selection of mimosas. Read the story here.

El Mariscal

The family from the El Cerro group opened a Mexican seafood restaurant in Landfall Shopping Center this summer, honing in on briny flavors of the sea, brightened by citrus and punched up with chili. The 30-plus menu items comprise cuisine out of Nayarit, Mexico, bordering the Pacific ocean. Read about it here.

Epicurean Bistro

A new French eatery from the proprietor of Sweet n Savory opened in the fall in Lumina Commons near Wrightsville Beach. Robert Shapiro devised a menu complete with flavors from the French countryside, including escargot and pate, coq au vin and beef bourguignon. The baked goods, including baguettes, are created daily at the SnS bakery.  The menu changes often and reservations are recommended.

First Watch

A breakfast and brunch spot opened in front of Independence Mall in 2022, adding to the row of eateries offering new options to local diners. A California-based chain, First Watch already had a location in Mayfaire and garnered a following for its homemade baked goods, fresh-squeezed juices and plenty of breakfast sandwiches, superfood bowls, and other entrees. It’s open daily from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Franchy’s has been serving homemade empanadas as pop-ups in The Cargo District for a year. It will become a food truck by March, according to the owners, Franchesca and Luis Rodriguez. (Photo by Billy Logan Creative)

Franchy’s Food Truck

An empanada food truck hit the streets earlier this year, bringing the flavors of Argentina to locals. Franchesca and Luis Rodriguez cook the stuffed pastries and sauces from scratch in six flavors — feta and spinach, mozzarella cheese, pork, steak and chicken. They’re priced $4.99 each. Franchy’s schedule can be found here and PCD coverage here

Forks n Motion Food Truck

A Leland fire fighter opened a side operation in the summer focused on downhome cooking with fresh ingredients. Forks n Motion’s menu changes with seasons and mostly consists of six items priced $4 to $18. She offers mac and cheese that she modifies and updates, such as a Buffalo version, as well as “Fork It Fries” — hand-cut potatoes smothered with a variety of toppings. Read about her venture here and follow the truck’s schedule here.

The Getaway Café and Provisions

Annalee Johnston and Craig Love — best known for their ventures Southerly Biscuit and  Coast: Craft Cocktails & Calabash in Carolina Beach, both of which they sold during the last year or so — opened a restaurant in Riverlight at the beginning of 2022 in the former Magnolia Social Cafe spot. The menu includes sandwiches, biscuits, spreads, and dips, as well as pastries and coffees. It also offers event space rentals and catering. 

The Half

When Detour Deli closed in the Brooklyn Arts District in 2021, a void was left in the local sandwich game. The Half picked up the spot and reinvigorated the space on Red Cross Street, with owners Dean Moore, Carl Cross and Andrew Dennison relaunching the cafe. It offers handcrafted sandwiches, both for meat eaters and vegans, created with freshly prepared meats, vegetables, breads and handmade sauces and spreads. The shop also offers a large selection of beer and wine, and diners can eat inside or outside on the back patio. Read PCD’s coverage here and here

Indochine Express

One of Wilmington’s most beloved Thai restaurants continued expanding its footprint in 2022. Indochine Express took over Thai Peppers in Southport during the summer and announced its entry into Leland. It also launched an operation on Oleander Drive, serving its dozens of soups, salads and appetizers, as well as a truncated selection of chef specialties, including curries, Pad Thai, fried rice, plus a handful of sweets. Prices range from $4.99 to $17.99 with lunch specials starting at $9.95.  Previous PCD reporting can be found here and here.


When the largest Harris Teeter in the area opened at the Crossroads at Independence in the fall, a bevy of local offerings also launched, including K-38. The Wilmington brand Tex-Mex restaurant serves tacos, enchiladas, burritos and bowls, along with its famed ‘ritas and chips and salsa. It’s grand opening is slated for Jan. 23, but it’s not the only new eatery to launch; its former operation K-Bueno in the Forum also changed into a K-38. PCD reported on the Carolina Beach Road operation last December; read up on it here

Kind Cultures

At the beginning of 2021, Ashley John, founder of vegan alternative cheese brand Kind Cultures, told Port City Daily her business was growing and with it, eventually, would be a storefront. That goal came to fruition just more than a year later as she opened her first location at 1616 Shipyard Blvd. in Cornerstone Center. For now, it’s used to meet increased production of her various spreads, cashew-based “cheese” and “sour cream,” sold to stores and restaurants. The goal is to eventually have a retail space as well.

King Neptune

A Wrightsville Beach tradition that started in the mid 1940s lives on as Jimmy and Keaton Gilleece took over King Neptune. The restaurant and bar opened in early fall at 11 N. Lumina Ave. after undergoing updates and renovations, as well as a modernized menu, including seafood, Southern classics like chicken and waffles, and beef entrees. It serves dinner and brunch on weekends; reservations can be made by calling 910-239-3055. Read PCD coverage here


Aegean Breeze fizzes with delight, topped with Cava (Spanish bubbles), and blended with Hendricks gin, violette liqueur, yellow chartreuse, lemon, and cucumber. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

Kipos Hellenic Cuisine

Early last spring, a restaurateur from the Triangle, Giorgios Bakatsias, announced he would be taking over the former 1900 Restaurant and Lounge in Lumina Commons. By summer, it had been transformed into a Greek getaway, enlivened by airy light blues, white and teal color palette, peppered with one-of-a-kind art, handmade metal and rattan fixtures. The food is crafted by Chef George Delidimos from Thessaloniki, Greece, featuring a bevy of seafood, fresh vegetables, lemon and herbs, many recipes hailing from his family. The drink menu offers unique spirited cocktails with a lengthy Greek wine list to match (coverage can be read here). It won’t be the last imprint Bakatsias leaves on the Port City; he announced last month he will be operating Wrightsville Beach’s floating restaurant, to open in the next year or so. 

Little Loaf Bakery and Schoolhouse

Julia Castellano opened Wilmington’s European Old-World bakery in the fall, just in time for the holidays — a passion project a few years in the making. She and her family renovated a 1,200-square-foot cottage on Wrightsville Avenue, now selling baguettes and boules, sourdough and German rye, and plenty of sweets. There also will be classes held for those interested in learning about the art of baking. Catch up on PCD’s interview with Castellano here.

Lonerider Brewery

The southeastern North Carolina craft beer market found a fan in Sumit Vohra, CEO and founder of Lonerider Brewing Co, who opened Lonerider in Oak Island in late spring. The 80-seat restaurant is located on the water, with an outdoor area that hosts live music and a menu heavy on seafood and elevated pub grub. Of course, it also serves plenty of its award-winning beers. The coverage was PCD’s seventh most read story of 2022, which can be accessed here.

Maine Lobster Roll Company

Bill Irwin opened his first lobster roll restaurant just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2019. Three years later, he’s expanding with a second location operational as of this month. The menu is the same as the flagship restaurant, though will also feature more daily specials, like soups and sandwiches, he told PCD in December. The second restaurant is part of his five-year plan to have five restaurants operating before selling the businesses and retiring. Maine Lobster Roll Company is located on Carolina Beach and Eastwood roads.

Maine Lobstah Shack

Surf City also got a punch of sweet, buttery lobster with a lobst”ah” shack opened on the island in May. The owners serve the fresh Maine lobters a multitude of ways: on a roll, in mac and cheese or atop a grilled cheese. It also sells New England clam chowder and the famed whoopie pies from up north.


A Greenville pizzeria expanded into Wilmington earlier in the year, opening in the old KFC on Market Street in February. Marabella’s recipes come from the family of its founders, Salvatore and Pietro Passalacqua and Massimo Mannino. It serves classic Italian pies and pasta dishes, as well as paninis, calzones, salads and desserts. It’s open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, but closed on Sundays.

Morgan’s Seafood

Tyler Morgan took over the Carolina Fish Fry at 4023 Market Street in 2020 and in 2021 announced an expansion with a second location coming to Ogden Market Place. By the end of 2021, he had rebranded to Morgan’s Seafood and in June 2022 opened his larger Ogden restaurant. The next month Morgan announced he was closing the flagship store to concentrate efforts on the new eatery, which include a new menu featuring items like whole fried flounder and shrimp tacos. The restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week and until 8 p.m. on Sunday.

Ocean View Restaurant

The Kure Beach diner made its Valentine’s Day debut near the Kure Beach Pier and Freddie’s Restaurant. It’s owned and operated by Josh Herring and Charlie McHone and features a menu heavy on breakfast items, like Benedicts and green eggs and ham (eggs with poblano peppers), lemon-blueberry buttercream pancakes. Read PCD’s previous reporting here. It opens at 7:30 a.m. Thursday through Sunday.

On Thyme Restaurant’s mural was done by Art by Nugget and Manix. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

On Thyme Restaurant

Corey and Phillan Scott officially unlocked the doors to their first brick-and-mortar restaurant Thanksgiving weekend, an endeavor that was more than a year in the making. The two launched On Thyme as a food truck during Covid-19 and found a location on Castle Street in the former Booty’s Soul Food restaurant, which closed in March 2020. The menu is heavy on seafood, but also offers burgers, chicken sandwiches and Corey’s famed Philly cheesesteak egg rolls. PCD covered the opening last month, here


Restaurateur and serial concept developer Ash Aziz unveiled his latest fine-dining venture in Autumn Hall in May. Origins focuses on carefully curated light fare, designed by executive chef Mark Piscitello in concert with Aziz. Piscitello blends his favorite flavor profiles — Asian, French, Mediterranean and Southern — on a menu divided into appetizers, salads, raw bar, pastas, butcher block, and seafood. The restaurant opened for lunch hours in the fall, just as Aziz announced he was closing his Barclay Pointe eatery Il Forno. Read PCD’s coverage on Origins here.

The Oyster Barn

Hamstead’s N. Sea Oyster Company announced a new venture in April, opening an event space and venue to host culinary happenings. It also will act as a production facility for the company’s growing business. However, it also will allow the public to buy a bushel on site, shuck and eat them at picnic tables. The goal is to grow the barn into a culinary destination, co-owner Conor McNair told PCD earlier in the year. McNair runs the operation with his wife, Alyssa, and brother, James. They hope to eventually have ABC permits for the space and will continue to host specialized events, even welcoming area chefs to join the fun.

Paul’s OKI

Showing all the games on a dozen or so TVs, Paul’s OKI is Oak Island’s latest addition to casual dining, cold beer and fast service. The menu boasts smash burgers, fish and chips, salads and soups, as well as entrees like bone-in ribeye and aged heirloom chops. And the fun is turned up a notch with a Skee-Ball league.

Peach Cobbler Factory

Entrepreneur Greg George opened a new Carolina Beach desserterie with partners Vinny Doria and Corey Carter on Valentine’s Day, specializing in cobbler — 12 varieties. However, it also offers three varieties of cinnamon rolls (stuffed with cobbler), five kinds of banana pudding and specialty teas. The brand expanded its offerings in the last few months to also include a dozen flavors of cookies, as well as cobbler-stuffed varieties, plus puddin’ milkshakes. Catch up on PCD coverage here.

Pie’s On

When Pizzetta’s closed in the spring in Anderson Square, a new pizzeria stepped in, honing on Italian classics, one particularly popular among New Yorkers from the Utica and Rome area. Chicken riggies — made with grilled chicken, rigatoni and hot or sweet peppers, served in a spicy cream and tomato sauce — was one of the family’s recipes from its original flagship restaurant in Pennsylvania. Pie’s On is a family-operated establishment that Heaton and his father, Ken, started in 2005. Another offering that found a lot of interest: the Upside Down pie, a square pizza, with cheese topped first, then sauce, the Parmesan. Read about Pie’s On from PCD here

Pipeline Poke

Lee Grossman, the restaurant owner behind the popular sushi eatery Bento Box in the Forum, brought his latest venture, with partners Adrian Kugatow and Paul Pinto, to Autumn Hall at the end of the summer. The menu consists of bowls, topped with tuna and salmon, as well as vegetarian options. Diners can build their own from a variety of toppings like habanero masago, cucumber and avocado, plus almost a dozen sauces. Items can also be made into a sushi roll. The full menu can be accessed here.

Plan B

From Mary Long, owner of the Basics in the Cotton Exchange, another casual eatery opened in the former Scoop location in the CE courtyard. Plan B focuses on quick, healthy bites, including paninis, quiches, salads, soups and more. Prices are $4 to $14.

Garbage plates, a Rochester, NY, staple, are now in Wilmington via Port City Plates. (Courtesy photo)

Port City Plates Food Truck

Another northern classic found its way South in 2022, when Rob and Shelly Marketell debuted their food truck Port City Plates in the fall. The couple, originally from western New York, missed the flavors of home and upon meeting other transplants to the area, realized a business concept that would do well. The menu offers ?? trash plates — a monstrous plate of food traditionally consisting of macaroni salad, home fries, baked beans, two cheeseburgers or hotdogs — sans the bun — smothered in a meat-based hot sauce, and topped with mustard and chopped onions.  It parks across town weekly, its schedule posted here. PCD previous reporting can be found here

Riverview Restaurant

Located in the Air Force Recreation Area of Fort Fisher, this waterfront restaurant offers panoramic views of the Cape Fear River where it opens into the Atlantic Ocean. Its restaurant boasts a menu of seafood galore — including fried baskets and po’boys and grilled tacos. There is also an event space available for rentals. Riverview is closed for the season and will reopen in the spring.

Shaka Taco at Ironclad Golf

Ironclad Gold in Hampstead has been renovating for years to bring back its 18-hole course and during 2022 added to its campus. It built a beer garden, as well as rented out space to a popular Surf City restaurant, Shaka Taco. The taco shack, owned and operated by Cody Leutgens and Steve Christian, became operational in late fall. For New Year’s Eve, the beer garden will be open and hosting its first band with Into the Fog from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Shaka Taco will be open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 31. Read more about the restaurant here.

Shawarma Express Food Truck

Owners Ashad Abdel and Abdelhadi Sarameh launched a Middle Eastern food truck on the campus of Seafood and Halal Meat Market on Carolina Beach Road — which they also own — in the spring. The food truck, which also parks downtown on weekends, has a variety of sandwiches and plates, consisting of homemade falafel, shish kabobs, shish tawook, and kufta. The operation is open at 2069 Carolina Beach Rd. from noon to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Read more about it here.

Smash-n-Dash Food Truck

After Kory Sanderlin’s Leland restaurant, M*K’s Kitchen, closed last year, the chef shifted his business into a food truck operation, Smash-n-Dash, under his Bare Necessities nonprofit. The menu focuses on smash burgers, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and nachos. Read about the business’ give-back model here and the food truck can be followed here

Solstice Oceanfront Kitchen + Cocktails

The newly renovated Holiday Inn Resort, known as Lumina on Wrightsville Beach, rebranded in June. With it came a new restaurant on the premises, Solstice Oceanfront Kitchen + Cocktails. The seasonal menu includes options like a quinoa-egg veggie bowl, turkey club, shrimp tacos, and a variety of seafood — crab cakes, mussels, shrimp and grits. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, both indoors and out on the oceanview terrace. Read more here.


When Tavern on 17th closed at the Point at Barclay at 1611 Dusty Miller Lane, the owners of Brunches took over the space to transform it into a sports bar; Spindles Filling Station in June. Its menu consists of Captain Crunch-breaded chicken tender, wagyu meatloaf and lobster mac and cheese, with more traditional wings, burgers and sandwiches offered. It’s open Monday through Friday, 3:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Tacos El Jefe Food Truck

Owner Jonathan Martinez Gomez — who also operates  out of Burgaw’s Alimente — continues to operate his taco truck which launched in early 2022. He operates the food trailer with his aunt and brother, Elias, featuring burritos, quesadillas and tacos, including their own take on the quesabirria. Read about the truck here and follow its schedule here.   

Tacos El Torito Food Truck

Another taqueria truck rolled out of the Port City in 2022, owned and operated by R. Perez who also works for the City of Wilmington. Hailing from a family of restaurant business workers — El Clasico Mexican Grill in Burgaw and his sister runs Pepe’s Tacos — Perez launched his truck in May with build-your-own tacos, nachos, quesadillas, and burritos. It parks at area venues — the schedule is here. PCD’s former coverage is here.

Topsail Pie Company

A family operation, Topsail Pie Company opened in May in Surf City. There are at least a dozen offerings of 8-inch pies — priced $18 and up — from apple to blueberry, strawberry to coconut custard, cherry to banana pudding. Slices are also available for $6. The bakery, however, also serves cookies, cinnamon rolls, bundt cakes, and fresh quiches and breads. Catch up on the backstory of the bakery’s foundation here.

Chef Bobby Zimmerman opened his second restaurant in the South Front District earlier in the spring by offering free smash burgers on opening day. (Courtesy photo)

True Blue Bakery and True Blue Butcher and Barrel

Restaurateur Bobby Zimmerman has had two big years in a row, with Mariposa tapas bar launching in 2021 and in 2022 True Blue expanding its flagship brand beyond the Forum location. Its South Front District’s True Blue Butcher and Barrel opened earlier in the year, focused on steak and chops, as well as burgers, sandwiches and handhelds. Its whiskey and bourbon selection is also vast.  By summer, True Blue Bakery in Hampstead also launched. The shop makes the baked goods for all True Blue eateries, which Zimmerman said in November churns out 2,500 burger buns a week, 400 miscellaneous loaves, 200 sourdough focaccias, not including specialty orders they take on in pies, breads and other sweets. Read about the bakery here. Zimmerman doesn’t seem to be slowing down either; he announced in November he would be taking over the former Mess Hall space in the Cargo District, transforming it into a street food hub, Beat Street.

The Xtra Mile

After Rude Bwoys exited the Seven Mile Post in June to operate only a food truck, it didn’t take long before another restaurateur jumped on the opportunity to take over the standalone food stand inside the bar at 7219 Market St. John Runkle, who used to work with Rude Bwoys owner Tito Ortiz at K-38. It is Runkle’s first independent business venture, with a menu consisting of hand-breaded chicken tenders, burgers, wings, loaded fries, salads, even a vegetable plate. Prices are $9.95 and up. Read PCD’s interview with him here

Vicious Biscuit

A Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, biscuit joint made its foray into Wilmington in 2022, as part of an expansion plan that had been in the works prior to the pandemic. PCD first announced Vicious Biscuit’s arrival back in January, though the eatery didn’t open until July. Its fresh biscuits, with crispy exteriors — basted with butter while cooking — and fluffy crumb, come topped a variety of ways. It also has a homemade jam and butter bar and squeezes juices fresh daily. The franchise launched a store in Charlotte, in 2022, with plans to go to Boone next and Jacksonville, Florida. Read all about it here.

Za Pie

One of the first foodie news stories of 2022 came with Za Pie’s launch on Carolina Beach Road, in a famed standalone building that once housed French’s Classic Burgers. Owned and operated by John Moyer of Michaelangelo’s, the pizza spot specializes in skillet pizzas (deeper crusts, made in cast iron pans), paninis and dessert pies. New York-style pizza is also offered and cauliflower crusts. Read more here

Restaurants that closed

(Click below to read more)

Bar Local
Blue Asia
Boardwalk Pizza
Flaming Amy Bowl
Il Forno
Gulfstream Wrightsville Beach
Joe Loves Lobster Rolls
Local 910 Bar and Lounge
The Lunchbox
Morgan’s Seafood
Panda Chinese Restaurant
Port City Chophouse
Sofra Modern Mediterranean
Soundside Seafood and Raw Bar
Tavern on 17th
Thai Peppers
Vientiane Kitchen

Have comments, tips or want to add to the list? Email

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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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