Breakfast of Champions

BY Pam Miller

In a growing city like ours where new chain restaurants pop up seemingly every week it can be hard for small independently owned establishments to compete in the breakfast market. Because they’re local and one-of-a-kind they don’t often have the deep-pocketed advertising campaigns of the big boys backing them up. They have to work 10 times harder than their competition to stay even. But as you’re about to see (and probably already know) sometimes the work pays off and the local joints pull ahead of the corporate chains. In the case of these five local favorites they’ve pulled way ahead. So wake up to something wonderful; smell the coffee grab your Lumina News and find your favorite table breakfast is on the griddle.

Saltworks II

Want to eat breakfast at home without cooking it? Or at least feel that way? Nestled into the woods on Wrightsville Avenue near Page Avenue Saltworks II offers the atmosphere of a country kitchen combined with the friendly familiarity of your home away from home. This neighborhood-style restaurant has been family-owned for 18 years by Bernie and Dominic Secondo and though they take serious pride in their outstanding service their food is every bit as first-rate. You won’t find EggBeaters in this kitchen. Saltworks II uses fresh vegetables delivered daily prepares made-to-order oatmeal and homemade biscuits and lists a wide variety of other country cookin’ breakfast specialties on its menu. Omelets are a favorite among the customers and breakfast here is so good some of the regulars show up in the morning then come back for lunch and dinner. In fact most of Bernie and Dominic’s customers are regulars which if you’ve eaten at Saltworks II isn’t all that hard to believe. If you go once you’re a fan for life. You really are family here and the staff never lets you forget it. Bernie says that dining in her restaurant is “like going into your own kitchen at home.”


White Front Breakfast House

If you’re not a regular it’s that place you’ve passed a million times barely noticed and never stopped to try. It’s time to change all that. Next time you’re on Market Street heading downtown around breakfast time make a left at 16th Street and then a quick right into the parking lot of the nondescript little cinderblock building on the corner. Fortunate you you’re at the White Front. Gus Dukas has owned this popular eatery since 1971. In 1994 his son-in-law took over but you’ll still find Gus behind the counter greeting customers at the cash register every day. Walking into White Front is like walking into a time machine an open griddle is behind the counter the menu is on the wall above the griddle and booths are situated against the opposite wall. This makes it easy to order and watch the cooks make breakfast magic at the same time. “It’s more like an old diner ” says Dukas. “People watch the operation in front of them. They enjoy the performance.” Though admittedly it can be hard to watch on an empty stomach as your breakfast is being made — the delicious aroma of fresh biscuits bacon eggs and hash browns filling the room. White Front’s menu contains all the popular breakfast items and some unique specialties as well. Red-eye gravy on grits for instance is a favorite of many longtime White Front regulars. And the White Front has plenty of longtime regulars. It’s not just the food that keeps them coming back again and again a big part of the White Front’s success has been and still is its professional staff. Let’s put it this way: Your coffee never runs low at the White Front.


Dixie Grill

Shrimp omelets sweet potato pancakes Louisiana hash … you’re bound in fact you practically have no choice but to find something you’ll love at the Dixie Grill historic downtown Wilmington’s premier breakfast destination for more than 50 years. Brian Mayberry has owned it for the last six years and as everyone knows (if you don’t know it’s time to find out) the Dixie keeps getting better and better. Mayberry has transformed his historic restaurant (located on Market Street between Front and Second) into an upscale country kitchen. “It’s not just another greasy spoon ” he says. Since it was renovated a few months ago the Dixie has been reborn as a full-scale restaurant serving lunch and dinner as well as its cornerstone meal: Breakfast. The Dixie offers new pancake and omelet specials daily and these specials are available throughout the day. Everyone you talk to will tell you the food is excellent and they should know because pretty much everyone you talk to is a Dixie regular. In fact a group of men has come in every day for lunch to play cards for 12 years and counting! Some old-time Wilmingtonians remember when the Dixie’s Market Street 100-year-old location housed a pool hall those many years ago but one and all as they dig into another Dixie delicious breakfast will say they wouldn’t go back to those days for anything.


Talk about a taste of history! Whitey’s Restaurant still proudly perched at the corner of Market Street and Kerr Avenue is one of the best breakfast joints in town and definitely one of the originals. Opening its doors in 1954 Whitey’s has been thriving in Wilmington for more than half a century. Owner Whitey Prevatte started as a cook in the Army and then worked on trains as a dining car chef. He’s been stuck in the kitchen ever since logging more than 60 years in the food industry. Whitey’s started off as a small coffeehouse only taking up the front room of the building. It wasn’t until the late ’60s and early ’70s that Prevatte extended his restaurant to fill up the entire space. After all 40 years ago Wilmington was a still a pretty small town; the city limit stopped at 17th Street. Whitey’s was surrounded by woods in those days and there was an old saw mill across the street but that didn’t stop the locals from flooding in even back then. Today locals and tourists from all over the state enjoy the wonderful breakfasts that Whitey’s offers. Some regulars have been meeting at Whitey’s since it opened and some diehards come every day. Wherever the customers come from they all enjoy the Belgian waffles pancakes country ham grits staples and specials. Prevatte says that Whitey’s is the cream of the crop because of the “good food good service and reasonable prices.” Some of the waitresses have been working at Whitey’s for more than 30 years so get ready for some old-time Southern hospitality. You can’t beat that for dedication. Any way you look at it Whitey’s has been satisfying the morning masses in Wilmington for decades and happily it looks like there’s no end in sight.


Causeway Café

We all know there are now plenty of breakfast spots in New Hanover County but fortunately we also know there’s one on Wrightsville Beach that you simply can’t miss: The Causeway Café. David and Katy Monaghan opened their restaurant in February 1987 and people have been flocking in ever since. Some regulars have been eating at the Causeway for the entire 20 years it’s been open. The Monaghans in fact are now seeing second generation customers at the Causeway. It’s no mystery why. “We treat employees and customers like family ” says David. In fact many of the employees including the Monaghans’ son Casey don’t leave because they’ve formed such strong relationships with the regular customers. What’s unique about the Causeway is that the regulars don’t consist of locals only. Over the years many vacationers have also discovered this great spot and come back to enjoy the great breakfasts year after year. Next time you’re by the beach at breakfast try the Causeway’s giant malted Belgian waffles — with a variety of available toppings — or one of a dozen delicious omelets or the Eggs Neptune (poached eggs on an English muffin with local blue crab fresh tomato and homemade hollandaise). Even kids get special treatment: Mickey Mouse pancakes. The Causeway is on the east side of the drawbridge right past Redix and you really should eat a good breakfast before a hard day playing in the sand at the beach right? Right.