Where To Eat & Stay In Wilmington guide image

WILGuide

Where To Eat & Stay In Wilmington

Our 14 favorite spots for Guyanese takeout, old-school Italian, and bowling-meets-frozen cocktails in Wilmington.

Some people might tell you that Wilmington, Delaware is in the middle of a restaurant renaissance. Others will say that there have long been great dining options in the city, if only you know where to look. Still, others will ask what is in Wilmington, aside from a very busy stretch of I-95. To all of these people we say: yes.

In addition to a walk along the riverfront, you can spend a weekend in Wilmington bowling and drinking frozen cocktails, eating excellent French food, and securing some of the best fried chicken you can find anywhere. From long-standing classics to the hot new restaurants, these are the city’s best dining options—along with some hotels in case you want to stay a while.

WORTH MAKING A RESERVATION


photo credit: Jason Varney

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Le Cavalier

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42 W 11th St, Wilmington
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The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive at Le Cavalier is the truly incredible dining room—the building’s historic character is on full display with high, painted ceilings and velvet banquettes. But you’ll quickly be distracted from all of that by the exceptional French dishes, like poached lobster tails in a creamy, bright sauce and  French onion soup that comes topped with a lid of not one but three cheeses. If you need somewhere that will fit the bill for that one nice dinner while you’re in town, make it Le Cavalier.


Bardea manages to be a lot of things all at once, and does all of them well. It shines the most as a date night or special occasion meal, though, so reserve a table, order a fancy cocktail or something off their Italian-forward wine list, and get into creative dishes with lots of tableside presentations—we particularly like the grilled avocado with tomatillo broth or a burrata-filled pop tart. For something more laid-back, grab a seat in the bar area and share a couple of pizzas, an order of wings, and a round of the off-menu french fries. They also run a steakhouse next door with great dirty martinis and Kogi-fermented steaks of all kinds, if you’re looking to drop some cash for an equally special occasion.


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Everyone in Wilmington loves La Fia—ask a local for their recommendation and they’ll almost certainly point you toward this cozy bistro. On Wednesdays, they offer a $40 prix-fixe menu which gets you a choice of an appetizer, like a seasonal salad or their signature pork belly dish, followed by an entree of handmade pasta or a nicely cooked steak, plus dessert. Weekend nights are busy, perfect for an unpretentious date night or a fun group dinner.


Sure, you could enjoy Mrs. Robino’s Restaurant as a family-friendly neighborhood joint with red-sauce classics like ricotta ravioli, chicken parm, and affordable wines by the glass. But if you look a little closer, this is actually a party restaurant. Why else would they serve sangria made with six—yes, six—types of vodka, 1.5-liter carafes of wine for under $20, and platters of pasta big enough to go with it all? If you want a restaurant for a group where you won’t have to worry about breaking the bank, this is it. Just make sure you order the antipasto salad (chopped, please) and skip the build-your-own pasta option in favor of the stuffed pastas and parmigianas.


TAKEOUT


Stop by Christa-Bells for excellent Guyanese takeout, specifically the delicious jerk chicken and salmon, macaroni and cheese, plantains, and curry goat. They usually have a special of the day, like oxtails, but everybody can find something here they like: there’s fried whiting and curry shrimp and vegetarian options like platters served with beans and rice and your choice of pumpkin, collards, or eggplant. Go before 11am, as they sometimes sell out.


Riverfront Market is where downtown office workers go for lunch to trade their over-air-conditioned offices for a waterside table. Join them by grabbing food to go from one of the vendors and post up by a bench overlooking the water. We particularly like the Peruvian food from Pachamama Peruvian Rotisserie—try the empanadas or half-chicken platter with sweet plantains and arroz verde. Other options include sushi, Thai, and tacos.


Walt’s is one of the rare fried chicken spots where the juicy meat is the highlight and not the crispy breading—although the exterior is plenty crackly. Get a two-piece dark meat meal with tangy-tender collards, red beans and rice, and a sweet potato pie that will make you wish it were Thanksgiving. This is an essential stop for an excellent casual meal, whether you’re road-tripping or spending the weekend in town. They’ve been open since 2002 and now have two locations, one on Lincoln Street, and another just off 95 near the Pennsylvania border. 


De.Co is Wilmington’s newest food hall, and though you can get ice cream, sushi, cocktails, pizza, and more treats later in the day, you should come here for breakfast. Grab coffee, croissants, and muffins at Spark*d, chicken and waffles at Connie’s, smoothies and juices at Eat Clean, or chicken cutlet sandwiches at Stu & Sammy’s. We also love coming here to relax and have a drink before dinner, especially since the space is full of chairs and couches.


PARTY SPOTS


There are a handful of spots where you can drink and eat along the waterfront in Wilmington, but Docklands is our favorite. That’s because it’s the only option where you might find yourself eating shrimp tacos one minute and dancing to an early-2000s cover band the next. The menu is broad and crowd-pleasing, but the real appeal here is the live music and outdoor dancing setup that stays busy until last call. Inside is more of a lounge atmosphere, with comfy couches and tables.


It might seem like an unlikely combo at first, but there’s something about drinking a frozen rum cocktail while playing ten-pin bowling and snacking on chicken tenders and po’boys that just works. That’s exactly what you can do at Wilma’s, and all of it makes for one of the best group activities or places to take your kids in Wilmington. This mix of sunny bar and lounge, with four lanes that can be reserved ahead for ten-pin bowling, involves fewer, smaller pins than regular bowling, plus a shorter lane that’s a little easier (especially once the drinks start flowing). If you need a break from rolling gutter balls, they also have a sit-down restaurant.


You can do almost anything at Constitutions Yards. Sure, you can order a beer and a burger, but you can also see live music, go axe throwing, play with your dog, compete at bocce ball, or catch a football game. It’s a truly sprawling outdoor space next to the water that is glorious when the weather is good. The food menu is basic bar food like curly fries, mozzarella sticks, and chicken tenders, but you can actually spend the entire day (and most of the night) at Constitution Yards and never get bored.


Go for the burgers, stay for over 400 types of whiskey, served neat or stirred and shaken into a broad selection of cocktails. You could easily walk into Farmer & The Cow at 2pm for a late lunch and find yourself still there many hours later, elbows deep in boozy shakes, truffle tots, and many pours of brown liquor. The atmosphere is pretty casual and a little divey, exactly the type of place where you might make friends with the group at the other end of the bar.


THE HOTELS


The extremely cute Quoin Hotel is the best place to stay if you’re making a weekend out of your visit to Wilmington. Located inside an old bank, this new spot has retained lots of historic character, but with modern amenities like huge beds, sunny windows, and cozy robes. The dining options are also great, with a café, speakeasy, restaurant, and rooftop bar.


The Hotel Du Pont originally opened in 1913, but was renovated in 2018 to refresh the building and create luxury accommodations. The biggest draw of the hotel is Le Cavalier, the restaurant downstairs that offers some of the best French food in the region, but the hotel itself is pretty perfect for romantic getaways.


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