When the first edition of Roadfood was published some 40 years ago, one requirement for a restaurant to be listed was that a meal had to cost $5 or less. Needless to say, that prerequisite has changed with the times, but when I paid my bill at Pinpoint, I did have second thoughts about listing it as a Roadfood favorite. Dinner for one — appetizer, entree, dessert, and one drink — cost over $80.
No, it’s not a bargain; and while it isn’t snooty or hifalutin, it is a chef-driven place (as opposed to one run by a cook) — the sort of restaurant that trend-seeking journalists like to discover and make into foodie magnets.
Nevertheless, I would be remiss in my own duty of pinpointing the best truly regional meals — whatever the cost — to not say that this downtown Wilmington storefront is a magnificent taste of coastal North Carolina.
Catfish, for example, is a dish served in 1000s of restaurants in this part of the world; and usually, it’s pretty good. The catfish served here is in a league of its own. Brined and smoked to a point of unspeakable tenderness and elegant flavor, encased in a shattering-crisp crust, it arrives on a bed of leek-creamed heritage grits populated by roasted mushrooms and Brussels sprouts, topped with green tomato slaw and floating in a pool of lemon brown butter. I swooned with every mouthful; and while my goal was to eat only some of it, thus preserving appetite for meals to follow, I cleaned the plate.
A few other inventive variants of Dixie favorites that make me hungry to return: pan-seared grouper with local snap beans and smoked cream, a seasonal roasted vegetable plate, cornbread soup with crisped country ham, North Carolina butterbean hummus, and a grilled pork chop with corn pudding and braised collard greens.
As for dessert, I cannot justify the gluten-free flourless brownie sundae as a regional taste, unless the roasted dandelion root ice cream that tops it is made from local dandelions. But I will say that the ice cream, sprinkled with smoked salt, is a deliriously good companion for the essence-of chocolate brownie it tops, and the whole shebang, surrounded by caramel sauce and candied pecans, generated nothing short of sweet-tooth ecstasy.