Monday, April 15, 2024

In Photos: 7 more days of Port City Taste

Fried chicken from Rx Chicken and Oysters is one of many offerings during Port City Taste, in effect through Sunday, March 3. (Couresy Rx)

Port City Taste is southeastern North Carolina’s premier restaurant week, hosted by news source Port City Daily, in collaboration with its media partners and sister companies, Penguin 98.3 and The Dude 93.7.

PCT is the area’s premier restaurant week and takes place over 10 days every winter. This year it kicked off Friday, Feb. 23 and lasts through Sunday, March 3, 2024.

A celebration of the best specials and prix-fixe menus from local eateries and drinkeries, the annual event features upward of 20 participants. Diners will find everything from casual lunches to fine-dining dinners, with prices ranging from $14 specials to $45 for prix-fixe dinners.

Below are a few tastes to enjoy at a reasonable price through this Sunday. Fried chicken? Check. Oysters? No problem. Steak, burgers, pasta, chops? It’s all here.

Here’s a look at what to expect, with links to every participant’s menu, in no particular order:

Lucy Bea’s from Rx.

Rx Chicken and Oysters

3-course dinner, $36: Access menu here.

Highlights: The restaurant recently reopened, with a reinvigorated menu and concept, keeping with its Southern fare theme — including their beloved fried chicken — and also elevating sustainable, local seafood. Owners James and Sarah Doss now spearfish the invasive lionfish, which appears on its menu, and have launched their own oyster farm, bringing forth its Lucy Bea’s. The oysters are revered for their green gills a rarity only found in a couple places worldwide, including France and North Carolina. The green hue indicate diners are experiencing a delicacy. Read former PCD coverage here.

Prost

2-course lunch, $18 / 3-course dinner, $30: Access menu here.

Highlights: Downtown’s German biergarten just celebrated its one-year anniversary and 2024 marks its first participation in restaurant week. Prost celebrates traditional German fare — think beef stroganoff, brats and schnitzel — but also does elevated takes on other local fare, including seafood. The trout dip and flounder sandwich are both not to be missed, also included options during Port City Taste. Read PCD’s coverage of the eatery’s opening last year here.

Bratwurst with homemade chips

Rosalie’s Trattoria

4 courses, $34.95: Access menu here.

Highlights: Known for its Italian-family recipes, Rosalie’s on Market Street will sate palates this restaurant week with authentic cuisine. Each dish is made-to-order, with fresh authentic ingredients. Port City Taste’s menu comes with a salad and soup pre-course meal, followed by choice of pasta, such as a rustic sausage and fettuccine dish; vegetarians will delight in the primavara. It’s capped of by a sweet finish from one of three options, including the restaurant’s famed tartufo — creamy chocolate, pistachio and strawberry gelato covered in a velvety chocolate shell. Check out PCD’s coverage from when the restaurant opened in 2018 here.

Sausage and fettuccine.

Smoke on the Water

Specials, $12-$18: Access menu here.

Highlights: Opened in 2016 by former restaurateur James Smith, Smoke on the Water continues serving diners in the Riverlights area a fusion of tradition and innovation, featuring classics like fried oyster po’boys and seafood steamer pots. Port City Taste highlights a few of its popular items, like the Brisket Burnt Ends appetizer. It consist of 6 ounces of smoked brisket burnt ends, tossed in a house made sweet-smoky bbq sauce and tossed with dill pickles. Read former coverage from PCD here.

Brisket burnt ends.

Henry’s

Lunch specials, $14-$16 / 3-course dinner, $35: Access menu here.

Highlights: Having served Wilmington for more than two decades, Henry’s is still going strong in Barclay Center on Shipyard Boulevard. The restaurant was purchased in 2022 by Fares and Zeina Hanna of Three Seasons Catering in Durham. Its local appeal has come with creating one-of-a-kind entrees with local ingredients. Restaurant week highlights two lunch dishes, including a beef tenderloin pot pie ($14), as well as a three-course dinner for $35. Henry’s take on fish and chips or a ribeye are offered, as well as a salad or lobster bisque starter and pumpkin pie-chocolate chip bread pudding for dessert.

Fish and chips.

Platypus and Gnome

$15 small plates / 3 for $38: Access menu here.

Highlights: Once located in the heart of downtown Wilmington, Platypus and Gnome moved locations last year, now located closer to the coast near Wrightsville Beach. Along with continuing its tradition of offering game meats in unique ways, it’s also serving pizzas. The small bites menu is priced favorably to allow diners a taste of everything, from alligator gumbo to Greek lamb pizza, a trio of sliders featuring venison, camel and wild boar, and more. Catch up on P&G’s move to its location in the bottom floor of Grand Luxury View Apartments at the foot of the Wrightsville Beach drawbridge here.

Cheese fondue

The Little Dipper

3-course dinner, $29: Access menu here

Highlights: Fondue lovers can flock to downtown’s The Little Dipper for a taste of dips and sips during Port City Taste at a fraction of the price. It’s offering three courses for only $29, including choice of a cheese starter, followed by salad or soup for each diner or charcuterie to share. It’s topped off by choice of chocolate fondue, with all assorted accouterments to enjoy — fruit, cream puffs and the like. The restaurant has been in operation for two decades in Wilmington, and was purchased in 2022 by Rachel and Jason McGhinnis; read up PCD’s former coverage here.

Bridgwater Wines and Dines

Both Leland and Porters Neck locations

3-course meal, $45: Access Leland menu here and Porters Neck here.

Highlights: With two restaurants now open serving area diners, both Bridgewater Wines and Dines in Porters Neck and Leland are participants in the 2024 restaurant week. The menus are similar with only slightly different options for the main entree. For instance, diners will enjoy a starter of soup or salad at both, with course two varying between Maryland-style crab cakes and prime rib served in Leland, along with bucatini and vegetable stir fry options. In Porters Neck, the latter two are also offered, but there are also choices of sauteed flounder or beef tenderloin frites. Choice of cookie and ice cream, creme brulee and cheesecake finish off the meal at both places. Read previous coverage about the eatery from PCD here.

Sauteed flounder.

Poe’s Tavern

Specials, $15-$19: Access menu here.

Highlights: It’s all about burgers at Poe’s Tavern. A consummate Port City Taste participant, the Wrightsville Beach restaurant is approaching its decade anniversary serving area foodies. What started on Sullivan’s Island in 2003, Poe’s homes in on craft beers and handcrafted burgers, in a space that boasts the literary impact of Edgar Allan Poe (he was stationed during his Army tenure on Sullivan’s Island in the 1800s). For restaurant week, the local franchise has two burgers on special — a patty melt and candied pork-belly burger — and its fish and chips.

Patty melt

YoSake

4-course dinner, $30: Access menu here.

Highlights: A sushi and Asian-fusion restaurant is offering four courses during restaurant week at less than $10 a course. Located in the historic Roudabush building in downtown Wilmington since 2006, YoSake’s menu includes many local favorites, starting off with soup or salad, followed by an appetizer course, including its beloved firecracker shrimp. Following are options including lo mein, sesame chicken or one of a few of its sushi rolls. A ginger-apple tart is the sweet ending.

Firecracker shrimp.

Shuckin Shack Downtown

3-course dinner, $30: Access menu here.

Highlights: This downtown restaurant may be well-known for its oysters but it’s also featuring plenty of other seafood on its menu for restaurant week. Cold crab dip, a shrimp skillet trio — served as Scampi, N’awlins BBQ, and Jerk seasoning — and fried catfish and grilled swordfish are on the menu. For Low Country Boil lovers, a taste of shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes will hit the spot. Of course, oysters are also served, both regional and local flavors. Though there are multiple Shuckin Shacks locally — well-known for hosting a concert series and for its charitable giveback — restaurant week can be enjoyed in the heart of downtown Wilmington at the Front Street location.

Shrimp skillets

Elijah’s

Carbonara pasta is offered at Elijah’s during restaurant week.

2-course lunch, $20 / 3-course dinner, $28: Access menu here.

Highlights: A staple on the Wilmington Riverfront, Elijah’s has sprawing views of the Cape Fear River and the Memorial Bridge. It’s also revered for its lunch and dinner service, both offered during restaurant week. Diners can enjoy lunch for $18, including soup or salad and choice of entree, including items such as steak tacos or the chicken melt sandwich. For dinner, three courses are a reasonably $28, including salmon or carbonara, soup or salad starter and a sweet ending of apply tart of brownie.

Pilot House

2-course lunch, $25 / 3-course dinner, $45: Access menu here.

Highlights: Next door to Elijah’s, the Pilot House opened in 1978 and for more than four decades has become quintessential to the Southern dining scene in Wilmington. It focuses on down-home cuisine, including local seafood and produce, elevated and served with traditional twists. The restaurant week menu features lunch ($25), including fried okra and hot honey chicken sandwiches, and dinner ($45), with items such as a 12-ounce ribeye or honey-garlic salmon.

Honey garlic salmon

Mess Hall

Lunch or dinner for two, $45: Access menu here.

Highlights: Date night is sweeter at Cargo District’s Mess Hall, which opened in its new location in spring 2023. The burger joint is revered in town for its smothered tots, stacked-high burgers and shakes. All are offered in a meal for two, available at lunch or dinner. It comes with Scott’s tots to share — cheddar, chopped patty or fried chicken, bacon, pickled onions, chipotle mayo, green onions — two burgers of the diners’ choice (vegetarian included) and two shakes. On special through February is a strawberry concoction, served with chocolate-covered strawberry.

Burgers from Mess Hall

Steam

3-course dinner, $38: Access menu here.

Highlights: Located in the Embassy Suites downtown, overlooking the Cape Fear River, Steam is offering a dinner deal including seafood, pasta and more. A starter of “Oysters Wilmington” features a fun take on the bivalves — fried, topped with country ham, creamed leeks, and bearnaise sauce. Options of entrees include fresh prepared pappardelle with oyster mushrooms, artichokes, asparagus, brown butter, and hazelnuts, or pan-seared coastal catch. The menu will end with French toast bread pudding, gooey with cinnamon and rum cream.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

2-course lunch, $45: Access menu here.

Highlights: For restaurant week, Cajun flavors and more are coming alive at downtown’s fine-dining steak house located in Riverplace. Ruth’s Chris is offering a two-course meal for $45, with choice of starter, including Louisiana gumbo, stuffed with seafood and Andouille. The second course comes with choice of a petit filet or Thai-spiced salmon or premium pork loin. More options abound and there are upgrades available to the meal as well for a surcharge.

Petit filet

Have food news? Email shea@localdailymedia.com

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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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