Marc's on Market
7213 Market Street
Wilmington, NC 28411
910.686.6465 - phone
OK, in the interest of full disclosure, I know the owners/chefs of Marc's--well. Sara is my internet girlfriend and we met through Chowhound.com. Her husband Marc and my husband Phillip graciously tolerate our lunchtime liasons and the five of us (with their son Clay) play well together and talk about food and restaurants, among other things.
That being said, I love their restaurant. If I didn't, I'd come up with a lot of lame excuses not to eat there, and I'd be all "... um, I can't review your restaurant because we're friends and I can't be objective and all..." Psh. Not the case. Marc is an incredible cook, as is Sara, and their place is a real gem off the beaten path. It's up toward Ogden, and nestled next to the "One Stop Cop Shop" (which is actually owned by one of my gym buddies, who is a really nice guy).
Marc's decor is simple and elegant.(I covet their stainless steel bar.) It's a spacious, comfortable white tablecloth venue with a great private room for larger parties, a good-sized bar area, and a separate market room with lots of take-home goodies. Well, check out their web site and you can just look at the pictures.
They've been blessed with a stable and reliable staff who are always friendly and knowledgeable. The place has been a neighborhood hang-out for food lovers in the Ogden and Porters Neck areas since they opened--some regulars come in weekly or more. Sara oversees front of house and tends bar, and Marc will often pop out to say hey to people during the evening. Our whole family eats there pretty regularly and all love it.
And the food. Yes, I should probably write something about that. It's all outstanding. From their small plate appetizers like their homemade chips with blue cheese dip (evil, but oh, man...) to their ever-changing house salad (never a dud in the rotation) to the kobe burger (best burger in town - it's the only thing my sister-in-law will order) to the delicious entrees and the wonderful specials Marc creates each week - every dish is prepared with care, creativity and talent. As a reasonably proficient home cook, I look at Marc and Sara and say "OK, that's what separates the men from the boys with cooking."
For fine dining in a place run by a chef with Marc's cred, one is usually happy to pay more than Marc will charge you. He and Sara don't compromise on ingredients, technique, or service--but what sets them apart from so many of their peers is their emphasis on value. They're not trying to charge the most they can--they charge what they need to to keep the place going. Nothing on the menu makes you choke on your wine (oh - good wine list and bar options, also) and you leave with a happy belly and a wallet that isn't empty.
Biased? Me? Well, you might say that, but here's objective proof that these folks know what the hell they're doing: Marc won the cook-off for Wilmington's Top Chef Spring 2008. Against some pretty stiff competition, I might add. Keith Rhodes owns Catch (another one of my favorites reviewed here) and is the executive chef at Deluxe downtown (yet another favorite) and James Bain used to own my favorite all-time Wilmington restaurant, Harvest Moon. He closed it so he could spend time with his babies (but what about ME, James??) and is now working at Dockside. They both came up with some eye-popping stuff, but Marc won. Well, here are some links so you can see for yourself. Phillip is passionate about Marc's, so he asked to put in his two cents: "Chef Marc--Wizard of Ogden."