Savor: 25 Great Eats for $25

BY Patricia Brown

Times are tough for everyone but your taste buds shouldn’t have to suffer. We visited 25 of the best restaurants on the Azalea Coast — some fab new finds as well as some beloved local favorites — and put together this delicious directory of great eats for $25 (not including drinks tax plate sharing charges where applicable and tip).

22 North
22 N Lumina Avenue. 910-509-0177

1. 22 North is a blackboard-style eatery where the menu always changes but the quality of food does not. Executive Chef Brent Poteat describes the menu as “kicked-up Southern comfort food ” jam-packed with local ingredients. Share the Fried Green Tomato Napoleon (5.95) stacked with herbed goat cheese topped by a Grey Goose vodka pink sauce. Then order the Barbecue Shrimp and Grits (7.95) with Carolina White Shrimp in 22’s own barbecue sauce and the Flounder Po Boy (market price) a boneless seven-ounce filet — baked or fried on a toasted hoagie roll with homemade rémoulade coleslaw lettuce tomato onion pickle and seasoned curly fries.

Rafaella Restaurant
6722 Wrightsville Avenue 910-256-0702

2. Rafaella Restaurant provides a wonderful and unique atmosphere. Designed as a Charleston-style home this beautiful establishment has a light airy feel and cuisine as elegant as the setting. Order the Mussels Paulette (9.95) featuring Prince Edward Island mussels in light white wine marinara broth served with a salad and your choice of dressing and the Tortellini Allapanna (14.95) made with tortellini ham and peas in a light cream sauce. Enjoy your dishes inside or take in the WB air on the screened porch.

Osteria Cicchetti
1125-K Military Cutoff Road 910-256-7476

3. Osteria Cicchetti offers an open and airy old-world Italian feel and the fine food to match. Try the Parma Pizza (11.00) made with fresh mozzarella roasted tomatoes prosciutto and arugula and the Linguini Calabrese (11.00) with chicken broccoli rabe and sundried tomatoes in a white wine sauce. Buon Appetito!

King Neptune
11 N. Lumina Avenue 910-256-2525

4. Since 1946 King Neptune has been the place on WB for fresh fabulous seafood and more. Sit under one of the beach umbrellas in the dining room or hide away in one of the bar’s cozy alcoves and order the Stuffed Flounder (12.95) fresh flounder boned stuffed with crabmeat and topped with shrimp and the Jamaican Jerk Chicken (10.95) tender chicken strips grilled with jerk seasonings. Both dishes come with your choice of two side items hushpuppies and cornbread.

Brasserie du Soleil
1908 Eastwood Road 910-256-2226

5. Brasserie du Soleil offers a hip and happening Euro-beach atmosphere and fabulous food for its loyal local following. Start your lunch with a bowl of Onion Soup Gratinée (6.00) and local Crab Bisque (8.00). Next share the amazing Mussels (9.50) either Marinière served with white wine and shallot; Saffron with light saffron cream; or Diable with spicy tomato broth. With an atmosphere like this and food like that it’s no wonder that Brasserie has become an instant institution.

Boca Bay
2025 Eastwood Road 910-256-1887

6. Thinking “open-air dinner for two?” So are we. Eat alfresco on the patio at Boca Bay where a serene waterfall adds to the cool island atmosphere. Order the Lamb Shank (13.00) braised over mushroom risotto and Lobster Ravioli (12.00) in lobster bisque. Our opinion: the perfect way to enjoy any Wrightsville evening.

Jerry’s Food Wine & Spirits
7220 Wrightsville Avenue 910-256-8847

7. Jerry’s Food Wine & Spirits is a quaint classy restaurant specializing in fine food and service. Sit at the bar and chat over shared appetizers. Try the Sesame Fried Calamari (10.95) fresh calamari sprinkled with sesame seeds and flour then fried and served with a pineapple soy sauce and the Honey-Almond Crusted Grilled Scallops (13.95) served over baby greens with marinated strawberries fried brie croutons and a strawberry balsamic reduction. Here’s what all the locals know: Jerry’s turns any hot Wrightsville day into a cool cozy night.

Bluewater — An American Grill
4 Marina Street 910-256-8500

8. Looking for a different Wrightsville view? Take a seat on the newly expanded patio deck at Bluewater — An American Grill. Share their often-copied-but-never-duplicated Hot Crab Dip for Two (9.99) then move on to their classic Fried Green Tomato Club Sandwich (7.99) with roasted peppers red onion and lettuce served with your choice of hand-cut fries or pasta salad and a platter of their deservedly famous Popcorn Shrimp (7.99) with homemade cocktail sauce.

Circa 1922
8 N. Front Street 910-762-1922

9. Time on your hands this Tuesday? Head down to Circa 1922 for their five-dollar sushi night. Start with some tapas like BBQ Pork Sate and Wild Mushroom & Boursin Bruschetta (5.00 each). Next indulge in three sushi rolls like the Tempura-Fried Vegetable Roll Spicy Tuna Roll and Negamaki seared rare filet mignon with soy dipping sauce (5.00 each). With all this fantastic fare on the table you’ll have fun swapping sharing and choosing your favorites.

The Oceanic
703 S. Lumina Avenue 910-256-5551

10. The Oceanic is a Wrightsville Beach icon for two reasons: awesome oceanfront view awesome seafood baskets. For your next visit start with bowls of She Crab Soup and Seafood Gumbo (3.99 each) both made from scratch. Follow those with Fish and Chips (7.99) fresh-battered local fish and a Fresh Shrimp Basket (8.99) both served with hand-cut fries and apple coleslaw.

Buoy 32
224 Causeway Drive 910-256-5124

11. Looking for a light lunch at a new local legend? We thought so. Share two appetizers at Buoy 32 a casual gourmet restaurant with a serious passion for food. Try the Crab and Shrimp (14.00) made with jumbo lump crab cake and tempura-battered coconut shrimp in a roasted garlic and tomato butter sauce pair it with the Marinated Beef Nagamaki (9.00) soy ginger garlic and scallion marinated filet mignon grilled rare skewered and served with homemade Thai peanut sauce and you and that special someone will be Buoy 32-ers after your first bite.

Dockside Restaurant and Marina
1308 Airlie Road 910-256-2752

12. Dockside Restaurant and Marina has been known for friendly service fantastic views and fine fresh local cuisine for generations. Try this great summer-themed menu for two: the Crab Cake Sandwich (9.99) with cucumbers and tomatoes and the House-Made Shrimp Salad Wrap with Slaw (9.99). Call it the perfect lunch for any summer afternoon and you’ll be in great company.

Fish House Grill
1410 Airlie Road 910-256-3693

13. A favorite for locals and visitors alike the newly renovated Fish House Grill features indoor and outdoor seating with a magnificent view of the Intracoastal Waterway. Order a Blackened Mahi Mahi Sandwich (8.99) filet of mahi mahi blackened and served on a Kaiser roll with lettuce tomato and a side of tartar and the Shrimp and Oyster Basket (14.99). Both dishes are served with lemon-pepper curly fries and homemade coleslaw.

Atlanta Bread Company
Mayfaire Town Center 910-509-2844

14. For a fresh casual meal visit Atlanta Bread Company. This bakery-café serves up soup salad sandwiches and other goodies for breakfast lunch and dinner. Share the Balsamic Blue Salad (6.89) field greens tossed in balsamic vinaigrette with blue cheese crumbles tomatoes Granny Smith apples and more then order two of their signature sandwiches such as the Chargrilled Chicken Pesto Panini (6.49) with grilled chicken havarti cheese and tomatoes. Feel free to splurge on dessert. A Chocolate Cupcake (1.50) and slice of Oreo Cheesecake (2.99) will still land you under budget.

The Bridge Tender
1414 Airlie Road 910-256-4519

15. With 23 years of great service gourmet cuisine and a panoramic view of the Intracoastal it’s no wonder The Bridge Tender is one of our favorite restaurants. Sit in the chic dining room or on the open outer deck and satisfy your appetite with a Spicy Tuna Spinach Wrap (8.98) seared tuna red onion baby spinach and wonton chips drizzled with soy ginger vinaigrette and sriracha aioli in a tomato basil wrap and a Gorgonzola Walnut Salad (7.49) with gorgonzola crumbles Granny Smith apples cherry tomatoes and candied walnuts atop mixed greens with wild-berry vinaigrette. Jazz up that salad with some fresh favorite add-ons like jumbo shrimp salmon or oysters (for an additional 4.99) and you’re still within your budget.

Cape Fear Seafood Company
5226 S. College Road 910-799-7077

16. Cape Fear Seafood Company is known far and wide as a relaxed restaurant with a great beachside feel. For lunch dive into some fresh traditional seafood like their Fish and Chips (7.99) made with beer-battered cod and Crab Cake Sandwich (11.99) with lump crab pan-seared and served with bistro sauce. Both classics come with a side of French fries. Finish your meal by sharing a slice of perfectly gooey Pecan Pie (4.99).

Banks Channel Pub and Grille
530 Causeway Drive 910-256-2269

17. Banks Channel Pub and Grille is the new hot spot in Wrightsville Beach. Our advice: Relax on the front patio while sharing some of their signature dishes. Start with the Fried Calamari (9.00) served with a Citrus Thai Chili Sauce. Next split Blackbeard’s Revenge Burger (9.00) a half-pound masterpiece with prosciutto pineapple wasabi mustard lime aioli and homemade mozzarella. Finish it all off by taking two forks to their New York-Style Cheesecake (6.00) served with strawberry coulis fresh berries and commodore’s cream.

Port City Chop House
1981 Eastwood Road 910-256-4955

18. Looking for a truly exceptional dining experience? Of course you are. Allow us to suggest a visit to Port City Chop House a WB favorite known for its gourmet cuisine and classy atmosphere. Tantalize your taste buds with the Blackened Chicken Alfredo (10.00) a six-ounce Cajun-seasoned chicken breast served over creamy Fettuccine Alfredo with tomato green onions and parmesan cheese with your choice of a side item and the Santa Fe Chicken Salad (10.00) mixed greens with tomato cucumber Kalamata olives pepperoncini sour cream crispy tortilla and a fresh jalapeno. Save room for something sweet because you don’t want to miss the 1/2 Seventh Heaven Dessert (4.50) a warm biscuit topped with vanilla ice cream and raspberry or blueberry sauce.

South Beach Grill
100 S. Lumina Avenue 910-256-4646

19. Whether you’re looking for a great lunch or a delicious dinner with a view South Beach Grill is the place to go. Overlooking the anchorage on Banks Channel this WB fixture features creative regional cuisine and a friendly local atmosphere. Share the Crab and Seafood Nachos for Two (8.95) and the Shrimp and Grits (8.95). You won’t want to leave so split a slice of the homemade Key Lime Pie (6.25).

Terrazzo Trattoria
1319 Military Cutoff Road 910-509-9400

20. Terrazzo Trattoria serves authentic — and awesome — Italian food … and more. Start with a shared appetizer like the Scallops (7.99) wrapped in bacon with a teriyaki glaze and horseradish dipping sauce. Then split the Sausage Crostada Pizza (16.99) topped with a three-cheese blend tomato filets garlic basil and grilled Italian sausage or for all you vegetarians substitute veggies or mushrooms. That’s amore y’all.

The Basics
319 N. Front Street 910-343-1050

21. Remember when a bottle of pop was only a nickel? Those times are long gone but The Basics is revisiting the good ole days with their “Back to Basics Wednesdays ” where the lunch menu features historical regional specialties: old-time favorites for old-time prices. Choose from classics like Chicken and Dumplings Charlestonian Shrimp Salad or Country Captain (6.00 each) and let these culinary traditions take you back to a simpler sweeter South.

Tower 7 Baja Mexican Grill
1 Stone Street 910-256-8585

22. Spice up your next meal at Tower 7 Baja Mexican Grill. Their low-key surf-scene atmosphere features a new menu with an array of dishes from carne asada to seafood. Try a vegetarian selection like the Vegeta-Bowl (8.95) a fried flour tortilla filled with leaf lettuce black beans and veggies topped with cilantro wine vinaigrette. Also order a Jerk Shrimp Wrap (10.95) — Carolina-spiced shrimp with leaf lettuce Monterey Jack cheese pineapple salsa fresca avocado and green onions served with your choice of rice beans or tobacco onions. All in all it’s the perfect way to kick it up while you chill out at the beach.

Sweet & Savory Bake Shop & Café
1611 Pavillion Pl. 910-256-0115

23. Sweet & Savory Bake Shop & Café serves super breakfasts lunches and dinners to loyal locals every day of the week. Start early with coffee and pastry from their famous bakery stop by for lunch or try one of their weeknight dinner specials. On Thursday enjoy the Prime Rib (13.99) a 12-ounce slow-roasted prime rib served with au jus and a creamy horseradish sauce and Veggie Lasagna (10.99) served with garlic bread.

The Melting Pot
Mayfaire Town Center 910-256-1187

24. For a romantic dessert date visit The Melting Pot a warm and inviting fondue restaurant. Dip into one of their indulgent desserts like the Chocolate Smores Fondue (15.00). Like all their desserts it comes with the dipper plate filled with strawberries bananas poundcake cheesecake brownies Oreo graham crackers marshmallows and rice crispy treats. All this and a tableside flambé dessert and a show!

Causeway Café
114 Causeway Drive 910-256-3730

25. Customers have been crowding the tables at Causeway Café for 23 years and counting. Start your breakfast by sharing the Fried Green Tomatoes (3.49) served with ranch dressing for dipping. Next order a couple of their famous three-egg omelets: the Seafood Omelet (8.99) stuffed with fresh scallops shrimp crabmeat grouper and mozzarella and the Shrimp and Cheese Omelet (7.99) made with mozzarella and fresh local shrimp. Both dishes come topped with Causeway’s own Hollandaise sauce and your choice of grits or hash browns and toast or biscuits. Insider info: It’s no accident that the Causeway has been cranking for 23 years.