WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – With the Fourth of July weekend upon us, visitors from far and wide will be along the coast to soak up the sun and the sea.
I’ve already heard from friends in the area looking for a special place to eat, a restaurant to treat themselves to over the holiday break.
There is no shortage of great restaurants depending on what you are looking for, from BBQ to pasta – even full vegetarian options abound – but for a truly unique and wonderful experience, there is one place that I can’t speak of highly enough.
When I first moved to Wilmington, I had read about Chef Dean Neff and his masterclass in the kitchen. And although I didn’t get the opportunity to try the James Beard Award semifinalist’s cuisine at Pinpoint, his new venture at Seabird is well worth your attention.
Sitting on the corner of Front and Market Streets, the newly renovated building immediately catches your eye with its blue neon sign and gorgeous renovation.
Stepping inside, the restaurant is expertly designed, with a beautiful square bar sitting in the front area, and inviting tables and booths in the main dining area.
It looks like a setting on Netflix’s Chef’s Table, which makes sense because it has a chef’s table as well.
The space gives you those warm fuzzies and the feeling that “this place is nice.”
That thought is confirmed once the food and drinks come out… and Seabird really takes flight.
I opted for a bourbon-based drink and it immediately put me on a path to an exceptional dining experience… like finding a secret walkway through the dunes to an unknown shoreline hideaway.
Seabird boasts a nice selection of beer and wine, and tasty craft cocktails… nearly every item will satisfy (the menu even has pairing notes for certain dishes).
However, the focus here is on seasonal seafood, with a particular emphasis on freshness that you don’t always find along the coast.
Starting with a selection of oysters, hailing from well-known oyster beds along the East Coast, you will immediately know why you ventured here.
The accoutrements with the oysters help the shelled delicacies shine, and one drop of the pomelo mignonette will send your tastebuds to the sky.
They’re the best oysters I’ve ever had, and that’s saying something for this old oysterhead (band reference anyone?).
Next we tried some small plates, including the “Changin’ Ways Crisp Wings” and the “Smoked Catfish and Oyster Pie.”
The uniquely sauced wings are boneless, served in lettuce wraps with creamy remoulade for dipping instead of your usual ranch or blue cheese. You may not think to order wings at a great seafood restaurant…and I won’t blame you if you don’t…but I can guarantee you will never think of chicken wings the same way again.
The pie is a nod to the classic fish pies from the British Isles. An almost soupy blend of fresh ingredients and flavors sit beneath a baked layer of mashed potatoes, and each bite is worth savoring. The serving can be shared among two people but you’ll want to keep this one all to yourself.
Once you’ve polished off your oysters and your small plates, you may be wondering if there is any room left for an entree, never mind dessert.
But this is where the excellence of Chef Neff and his team take center stage. Each plate is an experience for both your eyes and your mouth.
On this trip we reeled in the Crispy Fried Flounder, served on a bed of grits and sides of fennel slaw and spinach piston, which help add to the overall flavor of the meal instead of detracting from it.
We also landed the Mahi Schnitzel, a serving with obvious German culinary undertones, but a different undertaking than your typical fried pork cutlet. It’s served with the prerequisite spaetzle, but instead of lemon wedges, a dollop of lemon jam is served on top – a lovely sweetness to offset the saltiness of the fish.
Put it all together, and there is a reason that so many people are talking about this new hip spot downtown. It’s simply fantastic, and a must-try for anyone visiting the Port City or longtime neighbor.
Chef Neff has made waves in the past, but it’s clear he is setting a course for an even better future. And like a seabird, you should eye this restaurant carefully, like a fish swimming just below the surface, and strike for nourishment when you can.
Chances are you’ll come away with a delightful catch.
- Get a reservation! The popularity of Seabird cannot be overstated. If you’re looking for a more traditional dinner timeframe, you’ll likely need to set a date for a week or so in the future, if not longer.
- Swing by for breakfast. Seabird offers a range of coffees, espressos and teas…along with sweet pastries and savory biscuits. Even if you can’t lockdown a dinner reservation, an early morning trip before a jaunt downtown will do just fine.
- Seabird is seasonal. Meaning items on the menu today, may not be there in a few weeks. It highlights the effort to offer our area’s finest catches and tastes while also shaking up the offerings. So have fun trying something new, even if that entree you’ve been eyeing for a month isn’t there when you sit down.
IF YOU GO:
Seabird is located on the corner of Front and Market Streets in downtown Wilmington.
1 South Front Street, Wilmington, NC 28401
Do you recommend a restaurant? Or know of a best kept secret that you want the rest of the Cape Fear to know about? Shoot me an email at email@example.com and I would love to feature your selection. Cheers!
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