By Kirsten Cunnings
With so many incredible local dining options in the Cape Fear area, more often than not I struggle with deciding on where to eat. As lovers of variety in our meals, my husband and I often order appetizers or split larger entrees when out with friends. What started out as swapping one spring roll for one coconut shrimp, turned into a routine of ordering multiple appetizers – tapas style.
Tapas originated in Spain as small bites or portions of food typically served with drinks. This small portion style of dining has grown exponentially around the world, and we see it growing here in the Cape Fear region. More and more people are opting for small dishes to share while socializing with friends. Some have even adopted their own local food tours to experience bites of food from different restaurants, in one evening for a fun way to hop around the area.
Charcuterie & Cocktails
If you are looking for some delectable small bites near Wrightsville Beach, Grand Cru Food & Wine provides delicious local options for sharing plates and sipping a creative cocktail while unwinding from your day. Russell Snyder, General Manager, said that the owners wanted to build a restaurant to provide a shared experience. “We thought the best way to do that was for people to sit around and share multiple items, and tapas really lends itself to that very well.” While their charcuterie plate is the most popular sharable and top seller to start the meal, he also recommends the lobster and grits for a killer seafood dish with tons of flavor. Snyder believes that tapas style dining provides a broader range and more of a food education for people. “Smaller portions have people becoming more interested in the food they’re eating, and to try new things. They allow you to move about the menu a little faster rather than having to visit each time for one item.”
Charred Shishito Peppers with Romesco Sauce
When heading towards the Cape Fear Riverfront, there are plenty of options that just may have you creating your own food night on the town. Morgan Avery, Chef of Dram + Morsel offers rotating tapas to fulfill every flavor need. As he waits patiently for his Crème Brulee to come out of the oven I’m presented with some of their most popular shareables currently on the menu. The charcuterie is beautifully adorned with rich cheeses, olives, and salted meats. “The communal way of eating is what we go for, especially with our couches. I find that more people are eating that way, and it’s a better way to feel a restaurant and chef out, as opposed to getting one $40 entrée,” said Avery. The signature dish currently on the menu is the charred shishito peppers with an outstanding romesco sauce, which offers a fun sharable vegan option.
Pork Belly Naan
Newer to the Downtown Wilmington restaurant scene is Rumcow, owned by Joseph and Abigail Sena. As world travelers, they love bringing a taste of their experiences to their menu and offer a large variety of shareable plates spanning from Asian offerings like their tater tots with peanut sauce, edamame and jalapeños, to the good ol’ Southern favorite of Nashville fried chicken & waffles. Topping the list of delectable small bites is the pork belly naan – a sweet and savory mixture served with their homemade peach chutney. When discussing how the tapas menu came about, Joseph says “I like having options and breaking the traditional sit down and eat dinner mold.” He believes that tapas style dining lends itself to trying multiple items and seeing what’s representative of the menu. His wife Abigail adds, “We want all our plates to be fun, innovative, and good for big groups or date night, where you can have two or three small plates and a dessert to share.”
So, as you are asking a friend or loved one that routine question of, “What do you want to eat tonight?” consider a little of everything! Your palate will thank you for it.