The 6 Wilmington restaurants featured on ‘Diners, Drive-Ins And Dives’

The 6 Wilmington restaurants featured on ‘Diners, Drive-Ins And Dives’

By Dorothy Scott

June 21, 2024

With their Southern comfort food and catch-of-the-day seafood, these six Wilmington restaurants’ dishes have delighted everyone from seasoned locals to Guy Fieri of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” fame.

Guy Fieri’s been taste-testing his way across the U.S. — and beyond — since the late aughts, and his escapades have, on occasion, brought him to our neck of the woods. That’s right: If you haven’t tuned into Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives” since its earlier seasons — the season count is in the 40s now — you might have missed the highly acclaimed chef and restaurateur lifting up North Carolinian eateries. 

More specifically, Fieri visited six restaurants in our very own Wilmington in 2018, hitting up spots that deliver an array of cuisines, ranging from Latin fare to classic Carolina barbecue. These six restaurants appeared in six sequential episodes, and while Fieri hasn’t been back to Wilmington yet — he has been back to the Tar Heel State on the show as recently as 2022 — there’s nothing stopping you from supporting local businesses and giving these Fieri-approved restaurants a try.

1. Ceviche’s

Address: 7210 Wrightsville Ave, Wilmington, NC 28403

Episode: “Lights-Out Latin” (Season 28, Episode 7; 2018)

Description: Open every day except Sunday, Ceviche’s is Wilmington’s hottest Panamanian restaurant. Here, chef-owner Hunter Tiblier cooks up Latin food that builds on his heritage and past, including time spent “fishing with [his] dad” as a kid in Panama, according to the Ceviche’s website. This makes extra sense when one considers that ceviche is a traditional Latin dish composed of raw seafood that’s diced small and then left to marinate in citrus and seasonings, with the citrus’ acid essentially “cooking” the fish and shellfish. 

Naturally, the Ceviche’s menu reflects Tiblier’s childhood. You can find land-dwelling meat options on the menu, such as chicken and steak empanadas, but there’s undoubtedly a heavy seafood focus here. You can indulge in Coconut Shrimp, Caribbean Fried Oysters, or the Tuna Poke Bowl for an appetizer, and then there are seven different types of ceviche to choose from. The Langoustine de Coco and Mango Mahi, in particular, catch our eyes, but they all sound delicious.

But what do the locals order? Well, reviewers on Tripadvisor mention enjoying the ceviche sampler, which allows you to taste-test a variety of ceviches instead of getting a full order of just one type. Meanwhile, Yelp reviewers adore the Ropa Vieja, Corvina a La Plancha, and Jerk Shrimp Skewers, among others. “It was delish, our server was very attentive and price was just right. We will be back!” one Yelp reviewer wrote of their order.” Tripadvisor reviewers agree, with one calling the fare at Ceviche’s “[e]xcellent Panamanian food.”

 

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2. Copper Penny

Address: 109 Chestnut St, Wilmington, NC 28401

Episode: “Pizza, Pork and Peru” (Season 28, Episode 8; 2018)

Description: Copper Penny is a downtown Wilmington fixture, with its down-home bar vibes perfectly matching the historic neighborhood’s charm. Here, folks imbibe in myriad drinks from the restaurant’s full bar before — and after — noshing on Copper Penny’s delicious eats. In fact, the restaurant’s Penny Slaw is supposedly so good that many people have tried to make their own version at home, or at least that’s what Copper Penny wrote on Facebook in early June.

What did Guy Fieri eat here? According to the restaurant’s website, the “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives” host experienced Copper Penny’s Hot Roast Pork Sandwich and 109 Chestnut Chicken.

The 109 Chestnut Chicken is a sandwich that features chicken breast, mushrooms, onions, provolone, and chipotle aioli — yum! — while the Hot Roast Pork Sandwich is stacked with pork tenderloin, spinach, provolone, fried onions, and garlic aioli and served with a luscious au jus (like a French dip). Of course, this isn’t all the restaurant has to offer. Here, you can also get a beautiful Greek Chicken Pita, Pimento Burger, Hot Honey Chicken Sandwich, Buffalo Shrimp, Award-Winning Chicken Wings, and oh-so-much more.

Now, we know what Fieri enjoyed at Copper Penny, but what do everyday folks think? According to Yelp, common orders include Fish and Chips, the 109 Chestnut Chicken sandwich, French Onion Soup, the Southwest Burger, and more. Oh, and if you see a line to get in, don’t worry — the wait is worth it. “Copper Penny is always packed, so I usually avoided it, but yesterday I found out why they’re always packed,” one Yelp reviewer wrote. “This place is AMAZING! Great, friendly and fast service.” There you have it!

3. Something Fishy Seafood 

Address: 3436 College Rd, Wilmington, NC 28412

Episode: “Seafood and Savory” (Season 28, Episode 9; 2018)

Description: Need good, old-fashioned fried fish in Wilmington? Look no further than Something Fishy Seafood, which serves up everything from flounder and clam strips to deviled crab and shrimp. Don’t eat fish? No problem. Something Fishy cooks up tasty-looking pork chops, chicken tenders, and burgers for those who prefer to keep their grub on the landlocked side of things. And don’t worry, fish lovers — you can get shrimp, flounder, or trout between buns, too. Burger fans aren’t the only ones who get to have fun here!

It’s no secret that appearing on a show like “Diners, Drive-Ins & Drives” can completely change a restaurant’s trajectory and that the restaurant’s owner typically feels grateful for the exposure and love. Such is definitely the case here, as Something Fishy occasionally posts rerun days and times on its Facebook page, including as recently as May this year. “Just watched! I can’t wait to pay you guys a visit. It has been too long!” one user responded to the post.

While the menu seems delightful and the Facebook fans are very positive, the restaurant’s Yelp and Tripadvisor reviewers aren’t quite as unanimous. Yelp reviews range from “never disappoints” to “a huge waste of money,” with the establishment only having an overall 3.7 stars. Its Tripadvisor score is a little higher, sitting at an even 4 stars. Still, folks are divided. “It is consistently good and the service friendly and accommodating,” one reviewer wrote, while another claimed that “Guy steered us wrong on this one!”

Ultimately, this might be a place that’s best to try for yourself; after all, seafood is a divisive type of food!

4. The Fork ‘n’ Cork

Address: 122 Market St, Wilmington, NC 28401

Episode: “Grab and Grub” (Season 28, Episode 10; 2018)

Description: The Fork ‘n’ Cork correctly appeared on the “Grab and Grub” episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.” Take one look at the restaurant’s menu, and you’ll understand that this place serves seriously good eats (not to be confused with Alton Brown’s TV show). The menu is chock full of elevated bar food that brings unique dynamics to what one might normally think of as beer accompaniments. Duck wings, anyone?

According to the restaurant’s website, Guy Fieri called the food “outstanding,” saying that “delicious is an understatement.” This isn’t completely surprising given that The Fork ‘n’ Cork is consistently innovating in its kitchen, delivering new dishes — and therefore new experiences — to its customers all the time. It keeps people coming back, and it keeps mouths salivating.

Well, the dishes do that themselves. For example, you can order Rattlesnake Bites, which are roasted jalapenos filled with goodies like shrimp, corn, bacon, and cream cheese, or you can get Texas Poutine, a twist on a Canadian classic featuring French fries piled high with brisket, cheddar cheese, and barbecue sauce. And that’s just a taste of the appetizer menu! There are also plenty of burgers, sandwiches, craft cocktails, and more to choose from.

Reviewers of The Fork ‘n’ Cork appreciate the restaurant’s commitment to powerful flavors and accommodations for different lifestyles and dietary needs. While there’s a lot of meat on the menu, reviewers note being able to order a vegetarian patty for a burger. As for the best menu items, Yelp reviewers thoroughly enjoy the Patty Melt, the Reuben, the Blacked Chicken, and more.

This reviews says it all: “My goodness can I give this food 6 stars!? I don’t know how I haven’t been here before. Brussel sprouts were excellent. Mac and cheese was amazing. Blackened chicken sandwich was perfect. Burger was incredible. I plan to make this a regular stop moving forward.” Can we join?

 

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5. Cast Iron Kitchen

Address: 8024 Market St #6, Wilmington, NC 28411

Episode: “BBQ Bites and Southern Flavor” (Season 28, Episode 11; 2018)

Description: You get two clues as to this restaurant’s theme: the “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives” episode title and the establishment’s name. If you guessed classic but deliciously dolled-up Southern food, you’d be correct. This flair comes from chef-owner Josh Petty and his wife, Drea Petty, who strive to continuously build a space that nourishes the body and soul alike. Just make sure to come during the right hours, as Cast Iron Kitchen is only open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. 

At Cast Iron Kitchen, Josh’s childhood spent cooking and loving food shines. His menu features his takes on classics like biscuits and gravy and French toast, and then there’s the section called “Cast Iron Favorites & ‘Guy’s Favorites’.” Here, you’ll find items like Shrimp and Grits, Sweet potato Hash, Chicken & Pancake (bye, waffle!), and the Dirty South Biscuit. The latter was taste-tested by Guy Fieri on “Triple D” and features fried chicken, bacon, potatoes, two types of cheese, a runny egg, and sausage gravy, all nestled between two halves of a fresh, buttery biscuit.

Moreover, Josh’s love for food shows in his rotating menu, with Cast Iron Kitchen featuring seasonal items to offer its customers only the best bites. Just don’t forget to check out this brunch hot spot’s bar, too, as Facebook commenters are quick to note that Cast Iron’s bartender is “the best bartender ever.” 

Cast Iron Kitchen can be summarized in one small nutshell: “Their mission to reinvent and re-inspire Southern dishes with fresh local ingredients is spot on.” At least that’s what one Tripadvisor reviewer thinks, but they’re certainly not alone. “Passing through the area and looked for a good place to eat and boy did we find it! … Wish we lived closer!” another wrote.

Yelpers agree, with one writing, “Definitely worth a visit. Have been here twice and both times the food was delicious.” Some reviewers mention wait times, but for quicker seating, simply ask to be seated on the patio — it’s “a MUCH shorter wait, if any,” according to a Cast Iron Kitchen Facebook post.

6. Sweet n Savory Cafe

Address: 1611 Pavilion Pl, Wilmington, NC 28403

Episode: “East Coast, West Coast” (Season 28, Episode 12; 2018)

Description: Sweet n Savory Cafe is rightly named. Close to the beach, this restaurant and bakery serves simmering savory dishes while simultaneously crafting all of its pastries and other sweets on site. You can stop by for lunch or dinner, or you can simply grab a sweet treat to go — either way, you’re bound to delight your taste buds. And that’s been the case for years, with Sweet n Savory Cafe serving Wilmington since 1994, making this year the establishment’s 30th anniversary. 

The menu at Sweet n Savory Cafe is vast, and it seems like you can’t really go awry when ordering. You could try one of the cafe’s specialties — the Pancake Hushpuppies — or go the Plain Jane (avocado toast) route. Better yet, you could go with friends or family, order one item from each category (omelets, eggs benedict, breakfast sandwiches, breakfast bowls, etc.), and split them for optimal taste-testing. Just don’t forget a perfectly fruity and bubbly mimosa with your order! 

But that’s just the breakfast menu. The dinner menu will take you on a journey of tantalizing pasta, salads, steaks, seafood, and more (we’re eyeing the Chicken Fried Chicken), while eating earlier in the day will open up options like myriad types of sandwiches and wraps on the lunch menu that will fuel you without weighing you down. 

With so many options to choose from, one naturally has to turn to reviews to pick the best options. You are spending your hard-earned money, after all. At Sweet n Savory Cafe, Yelp reviewers flock to the French Toast, Sweet and Savory Benedict, Salmon Eggs Benedict, Huevos Rancheros, and Prime Rib. “What a sweet little breakfast spot with the kindest staff. Definitely something for any mood you’re in,” one reviewer wrote, with another writing, “It doesn’t look like a big deal from the outside but it WAS.”

If you can’t decide on one item, follow this Tripadvisor reviewer’s path before hitting the beach: “I have recently tried….pancake hush puppies, gyro and chicken salad melt on croissant and mini key lime pie! All delicious!”

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.The 6 Wilmington restaurants featured on ‘Diners, Drive-Ins And Dives’The 6 Wilmington restaurants featured on ‘Diners, Drive-Ins And Dives’

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CATEGORIES: FOOD AND DRINK
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