Visiting Wilmington for eats, drinks & more!
David and I recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend in Wilmington, DE, exploring some of the city’s culinary scene and cultural attractions. Wilmington has been on my radar to visit for a long time. Many new restaurants have opened in recent years, making it an intriguing dining destination. I was thrilled when we were able to schedule a visit this year. It took less than an hour to drive there, even with some congested traffic due to an accident on I-95.
The city has received a lot of attention from the mainstream media due to redevelopment and the restaurant renaissance. Regan Stephens wrote that Wilmington’s Restaurant Scene Deserves Your Attention for Food & Wine Magazine two years ago. Last year, Sarah Maiellano wrote that Wilmington is Coming for Philly’s Food Scene for Eater. Most recently, Maiellano wrote a follow-up article of What to Do, Eat, and See in Wilmington for the Inquirer. After our whirlwind weekend visit and some quick additional research, yours truly rounded up places to stay, eat, and drink during a Food and Drink Lovers Weekend in Wilmington for NewsBreak.
820 Justison Street
Our accommodations were at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Hotel located on the Wilmington Riverfront. Our King Studio Suite was quite comfortable and included a fully-equipped kitchenette. An excellent hotel for business folks or working travelers. Located within 10 minutes of downtown Wilmington, it’s a smart choice for tourists and visitors who may be doing business at one of the Fortune 500 companies close to this area. The hotel offers a generous complimentary breakfast buffet every morning, but we had other morning meal plans, so we did not partake.
Old Swedes Historic Site
606 North Church Street
Before checking in to the hotel, we visited the Old Swedes Historic Site downtown. Led by a guide, we toured Hendrickson House, a preserved Swedish homestead that dates back to 1722, and the Holy Trinity (Old Swedes) Church constructed in 1698-1699. Its history dates back to 1638 when Swedish and Finnish settlers arrived in Wilmington, and the area grew to become known as New Sweden before it became an English Colony. We enjoyed our visit as my in-laws are Swedish, and I’m a big history buff. I love to visit historic sites and that often factors into where we like to travel. I definitely learned something new about the history of our region upon this visit! We also bought several adorable Swedish souvenirs in the modest gift shop.
815 Justison Street
The Wilmington Riverfront area has been redeveloped in recent years to become a destination for dining, entertainment, and shopping. Upon our visit, we stopped by the Riverfront Market, a food hall located inside a beautifully restored 19th-century warehouse. Seating is abundant upstairs and downstairs, flooded with natural light, making it a good option for lunch or dinner. Several food concession stalls represent diverse cuisines such as Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Peruvian, American soul food, and a produce vendor that sells fresh fruits and vegetables. There is plenty of free parking, and it is within walking distance of Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Railroad Station, too.
Banks Seafood Kitchen & Raw Bar
101 S. Market Street
The Riverfront area is also home to the legendary Banks Seafood Kitchen & Raw Bar, where we had dinner and drinks on our first evening in the city. We started with an outstanding clams casino appetizer which I enjoyed with the Dogfish Head Sonic Archaeology cocktail (whiskey, rum, brandy, honey, lemon & pomegranate). He had an Amstel Light. The pan-seared New Jersey sea scallops with pistachio barley, butternut squash puree, and cherry chutney were scrumptious as my main course and paired with a glass of sparkling rose. He had the cornmeal-crusted Rainbow Trout stuffed with bacon, brie, and tomato in a paprika-saffron sauce with a frisee & parsley salad garnish. We concluded our evening with the delectable chocolate truffle cupcake with creme Anglaise and raspberry sauce. Fish and seafood lovers will enjoy the offerings and warm service at Banks.
Ciro Forty Acres
1836 Lovering Ave
The following day, upon recommendation, we enjoyed brunch at Ciro Forty Acres in the Trolley Square neighborhood. What a wonderfully charming eatery that I’m glad we checked out! We arrived precisely at the right time as we were seated immediately. While it is a smaller restaurant, there is suitable seating inside. It’s the menu that makes this place truly spectacular. Brunch is my favorite meal, and I wanted to eat everything! After studying the creative menu for several minutes, I selected the sweet potato hash bowl with a Samoa latte (including Samoa cookie!), and he opted for a pancetta frittata with a La Colombe Coffee Americano. The food and coffee drinks were so satisfying and the service was friendly and attentive. Highly recommend visiting this comfort food gem in Wilmington.
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
After brunch, we visited the Delaware Art Museum. The museum has an expansive collection of American art, British Pre-Raphaelite art, and American illustration. It’s an excellent attraction that compensates for social distancing during these pandemic times! The museum COVID protocols allowed us to stroll through and study the extraordinary works of art, and we felt completely comfortable. Inside the museum, there is also an impressive gift shop and casual cafe that serves coffee and light bites. I highly recommend visiting this world-class museum if you are an art lover.
3801 Kennett Pike
We love exploring food markets and grocery stores when in a new area. A friend recommended that we fit in a quick visit to Janssen’s, a gourmet market just outside the city in the suburb of Greenville. We didn’t spend a lot of time in there, but we browsed and picked up a few things to help the local economy.
1901 West 11th Street
We also stopped by a famous and fantastic record store named Squeezebox Records. The owner was tickled that we had traveled to Wilmington and put aside some time to give his not-so-humble record shop a visit. It is packed with vinyl records, CDs, music equipment, and there’s even space at the back of the store where they host live entertianment. A very cool spot. If you like to shop for music, you’ll have to check this place out. Naturally, we walked away with more vinyl to add to our collection at bargain prices.
2216 Pennsylvania Avenue
After squeezing in a quick nap back at the hotel, we enjoyed a romantic, fireside dinner at the landmark Columbus Inn. This contemporary American restaurant has been in operation for over 60 years and is a Wilmington institution. The cocktails were on point. I chose the Tropical rum punch, and he enjoyed their agave margarita. I savored the Chicken Fattoush dish, which featured a spice-rubbed roasted chicken breast, crispy chicken leg confit, roasted vegetables, and pita bread cubes with lemon-tahini and tzatziki sauces. A glass of Kung Fu Girl Riesling was paired perfectly with this dish. He loved his Filet Mignon sandwich with caramelized onions and sharp provolone with a salad on the side. The Columbus Inn is our favorite type of dining experience; nothing too fussy, just great food and drinks with peppy service in a comfortable environment and fine-casual ambiance.
Le Cavalier at The Green Room
42 West 11th Street
Later that evening, I was able to squeeze in a nightcap visit to the stunning bar at French brasserie Le Cavalier, located inside the opulent Hotel Du Pont. Formerly known as The Green Room, and previously owned by the prominent Du Pont family for decades, it is the most magnificent dining room you will find in Delaware. When I arrived, the atmosphere was bustling with chatty patrons on a cold Saturday evening. Words and photos do not do this breathtaking restaurant justice. I only had time for one cocktail at the bar. I chose their glorious Chamomile old-fashioned, which I sipped slowly while drinking in the splendor of the elegant venue.
After the second night of splendid slumber at Homewood Suites, we grabbed some complimentary coffee downstairs and slowly got ourselves ready for check out, which was as simple as dropping the room keys in a bucket at the reception desk.
Brew Ha Ha (Trolley Square)
1400 N Dupont Street
We made time for a quick breakfast before hitting the road back to Jersey. The Brew Ha Ha Cafe in Trolley Square was the perfect spot. A Florentine croissant sandwich and a latte for me, and he chose a chorizo sausage, egg, and cheese croissant and a regular coffee. Cute place!
The time spent in Wilmington had gone by so quickly because we kept ourselves busy from when we arrived until we left, and I know that we only scratched the surface of what Wilmington, Delaware, has to offer. We’re already planning a return!
Consider Wilmington as a local tourist getaway that isn’t far away!
Special thanks to Visit Wilmington for helping organize this visit.
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