Wilmington’s dining scene is hopping with many restaurants on the cutting edge of culinary style, refined Dixie dining rooms, earnest bakeries, socially conscious coffee houses, and creative cuisiniers doing their own things. Then there’s the Dixie Grill.
This downtown diner is a hash house the likes of which nearly every urban center used to have, but which has now become an endangered species. Square meals at a reasonable price, quick service by a no-BS waitstaff, and a crowd of customers from every walk of life are some of its defining qualities. Perhaps more than any other restaurant, it’s part of the cultural fabric of the city.
I’m not saying that the food is knock-your-socks-off great (although the creamy biscuits, country ham, and sweet potato pancakes are not to be dissed). But I am saying that if you are a food person visiting Wilmington, the Dixie Grill belongs at the top of your itinerary.
Many of the best things to eat have a distinct southern accent. Market Street Benedict, for instance, is one of the fine house-made biscuits topped with scrambled eggs, fried green tomatoes, and sweet Vidalia onion gravy. Other than its architecture, it really isn’t Benedictine at all … but it sure is a winning combination of ingredients.
Alongside breakfast you want grits, for these are Adluh-brand grits: rugged, deep-flavored, nothing like the watery white grits found in second-rate eateries. Cheese is available to doctor them up, but they’re so good on their own that cheese really is more of a distraction.
Country ham is tough and salty — the real thing; Alma’s sausage gravy is the best possible blanket for biscuits; I haven’t tried the shrimp & grits, but they sure looked pretty in front of the person sitting next to me at the counter.
As is true of so many diners, breakfast is the most distinctive meal of the day. The lunch menu is much less regionally specific: a roster of burgers, sandwiches, fried chicken, salads, and soups. The bar is open from 8am, when bloody Marys and mimosas are featured attractions. Coffee is served in 20-ounce cups.