The Eat Spot
34 North Front StreetWilmington, NC 28401
(910) 763 5366
Lunch and Dinner
And hey! Here's Liz Biro's review!
The Eat Spot is fairly new to downtown. It's on the corner of Front and Princess unfortunately slap dab in the middle of the street construction going on right now. (Look at that. Now I'll have to come back and edit this when they're finished.) It IS open, though, so don't let the fencing and rubble deter you from going on in!
It's a long, open welcoming space, casual with bar and lots of warm wood. I thoughtlessly opted to eat upstairs, not registering the fact that our poor waitress would have to run up and down the stairs multiple times to take care of us. (I did apologize when I finally realized that.) We were there on a slow night, so we could easily have sat downstairs, I just wanted to see what it looked like up there. It's a nice, cozy space, and I would favor that spot again, frankly.
The menu, like the food, is simple. And I like that about the place. It knows what it is - it's a step above bar food, but doesn't try to stretch into the realm of fine dining. There was a good selection of inexpensive wine and beer, plus a basic bar. There was a "bar food" section for nibbles. The salads are classic - greek, caesar, garden, etc. to which you can add chicken or seafood. But the salad dressings available are a notch more interesting than ranch and balsamic vinaigrette. A toasted black pepper ranch was listed, as well as a mustard-horseradish dressing that Phillip ordered on his green salad. The greens were fresh and clean, with a nice blend of lettuce types. I had my doubts about the dressing when he ordered it ("pungent", I figured), but it turned out not to be as sharp as I thought. It still packed a lot of flavor, but was a smooth mix of brown seeded mustard with just a touch of horseradish.
The sandwich options all looked good. Again, fairly solid standards, but a good assortment of them. BBQ chicken, crab cake, a reuben (which I will be trying at some point), a pub buger, fish tacos in corn tortillas, and a chicken pita wrap were included in an extensive list.
Since we went for dinner, we weren't really looking much at the sandwiches. There were a handful of basic plates that all looked plain, but good. Phillip ordered the pork chops with caramelized sweet potatoes, apples, and wilted spinach. I ordered the chicken with roasted potatoes and also had the wilted spinach. To be perfectly honest, I was a little poopy about the dinner I ordered, until I got it. The Fourth Grader in me was having an inner tantrum about not getting a burger with the "fried cheese grits" (I'd be interested to see those) or the PBR-battered onion rings. We were already eating a late dinner, though, and I did NOT need that meal sitting in my stomach that close to bedtime to just creep on down to my butt and thighs while I slept. We waited for our dinners, and I sulked, just sure that I was going to get some dried-out, sad little grilled chicken breast with a spoonful of pitiful little potatoes and some slimy spinach. Thank goodnes was I wrong, or I'd have sulked all the way home.
In one of the Michael Ruhlman books I just read about the Culinary Institute of America, one of the instructors makes the point that if you can't properly cook a chicken breast, you pretty much can't cook. The Eat Spot can properly cook a chicken breast. It arrived at the table moist, hot, and sauced lightly in a good, but not too heavy pan gravy. The potatoes were roasted perfectly - nice and tender with a crispy edge. And the spinach, which usually disappoints me because it's cooked too close to slimy, was flavored with garlic and wilted just enough to have a little crunch. Phillip's pork chops were fast-grilled and served over sweet potatoes that had a little glaze, but not so much that they were icky sweet. The apple was done just as well - a little bite to them, not mushy like applesauce. My only complaint about it is that it was all just a little underseasoned, but as anyone in my family will tell you, I like my salt.
It wasn't lofty food. Just plain-Jane pub fare done well and reasonably priced. It's the kind of meal you can go out to eat and say "Hmmm.... I probably could have cooked this at home, but not any better than this, and I didn't HAVE to cook it or clean up after it, and it didn't set me back much more than a trip to the grocery would have." It's going to be another downtown spot we'll frequent on nights when we don't want fussy, we just want to eat something wholesome and close by.