Cape Fear Foodie: Best Burger?
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Azalea Festival 2022 as come and gone and it always serves as a homecoming of sorts. With friends and family meeting once again in the Port City for a weekend of fun, but this year just feels different. Spring is in the air and with it comes a renewal of life and a sense that maybe, just maybe we’re on to better and brighter days.
Whenever I head home, I make a point to visit favorite haunts and places to eat. And that got me thinking about what eateries around town that are truly beloved? There are various seafood joints, steakhouses, and Italian restaurants...then you have numerous downtown locations that have been around for decades. The list is truly too many to count, with people having their own cherished spots with fond memories of meals. It’s nearly impossible to highlight one place without shining a light on them all.
However one stop that many people will agree is a true favorite is none other than the home of the “Best Burger” in Wilmington, Winnie’s Tavern.
The Azalea Festival celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2022...and Winnie’s is celebrating it’s own anniversary, 60 years! Located near the state port, Winnie’s has been slinging up massive burgers, crispy fries and ice cold sodas and beers for years. It’s a family run business that has stuck to its roots, even if everything around it is rapidly changing.
When I first visited in 2019, the place needed a little polish. Unabashedly a dive bar with exceptional food, the pandemic worked it’s wicked magic in a different way here. Winnie’s is now immaculate inside, a fresh look has only heightened the atmosphere, without losing everything that has made it special for so long. Plus there is now ample outdoor seating, a perfect choice for a crisp spring evening.
Of course what sets Winnie’s apart is the food, and particularly those massive burgers. But before you dive into a half-pounder, grab a housemade appetizer. I had the Cajun Fried Okra, super soft inside with a spicy, crispy breading. It’s like eating popcorn with way more flavor and only slightly more caloric value. I’ve also had the Fried Pickles, Onion Rings, and Mozzarella Cheese Sticks...all of them are served in those red baskets that drive home that classic diner feel.
Drinks are served in cans or bottles, with sweet tea and a full bar as well. Just make sure your cup is full before you take on the main course. A friend grabbed an old school Fried Bologna sandwich, which to me screams nostalgia around my family dinner table. Though I always had fried bologna with onions and BBQ sauce, this was more of a traditional sandwich with all the fixins. Either way the bologna was thick cut and bursting with flavor.
As for those famous burgers, I opted for the Trailer Park Burger, Winnie’s biggest and boldest. Cajun fried green tomatoes, jalapeno pimento cheese, hickory smoked bacon, lettuce, onion, bread & butter pickles and chipotle mayo on a big, soft sesame seed bun. It’s like a southern trash can pizza between two buns. Every bite is better than the one before it, and if you’re not careful, you can quickly devour a sandwich the size of your head in no time. Throw in a variety of fries (try the sweet potato fries tossed in cinnamon and sugar with honey dipping sauce, you won’t regret it), a side of pickled bean salad and this is a meal fit for a king...or the Queen Azalea.
Winnie’s boasts a number of specialty and classic burgers, along with sandwiches and options for kids. And even though it has those blue collar worker vibes, it’s a place for people of all ages and groups of all sizes. You don’t make it 60 years without creating that cozy, home-again feel with a menu full of tasty food. As for the “best burger” tag, I won’t make that call for you, you’ll just have to make a homecoming here to decide.
IF YOU GO:
Winnie’s Tavern is located at 1895 Burnett Blvd, Wilmington, NC 28401
Do you recommend a restaurant? Or know of a best kept secret that you want the rest of the Cape Fear to know about? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to feature your selection. Cheers!
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