The name of The Basics is correct in a way, but in this case, basic does not equal plain. It is a fact that the food is not gussied up or overly complicated. It’s also true that it reflects many basic Dixie preferences, from biscuits and gravy to smoke-cooked pork and fried green tomatoes. So, basic it may be. Ordinary, it is not. A meal here is something special — one you will remember.
Not everything is distinctly southern. At dinner you can get a comfort-food pork-and-beef meat loaf or pesto-encrusted salmon or simply a filet mignon with wild mushroom demi-glace. Or you can eat a hamburger, a BLT, or chicken salad for lunch. I’ll bet they’re all very good, because the regionally accented dishes are terrific, showing the hand of an expert chef.
Brunswick stew is made from an old family recipe; local oysters are cornmeal-breaded for a po boy and dressed with spicy aioli; pan-fried flounder is locally caught, too, served with green tomato bacon marmalade and an herb-fennel grit cake.
While it’s possible to get basic bacon, egg, and cheese on a (superb) biscuit, the breakfast menu also includes shrimp and stoneground grits with Cajun BBQ sauce; a Southern Benedict is made on one of those fine biscuits, including smoked ham rather than Canadian bacon and topped with sausage gravy rather than hollandaise.
Something called Southern Grits may be the most intriguing breakfast dish of all. It is a large portion of the hefty grits topped with sauteed sweet Vidalia onions, chunks of tomato, and crumbles of feta cheese. It’s definitively southern … with a Mediterranean accent.
Located in downtown Wilmington next to Cape Fear Community College, The Basics has a university feel. I don’t mean it’s like a university dorm. It is casual, but not at all sloppy. By university feel, I mean that the menu makes clear that chef Mary Long has a great culinary education; and the food she cooks is like a delicious tutorial.