10 Reasons to Drive to Wilmington

By Danya Henninger  |  April 15, 2014

Head 40 minutes south from William Penn’s Philadelphia and you’ll come to the city named by his son, Thomas Penn, after his friend the Earl of Wilmington. The largest city in Delaware and its surroundings have a fast-growing food scene - restaurateurs get all the bounty from proximity to farmland and the river, but none of the high rent. Here are 10 reasons to make the trip. (P.S. Traveling via Amtrak is even quicker than auto.)

  • La Fia

    It was Philadelphia where chef Bryan Sikora first made a name for himself, first at Django and then at Talula’s Table, but it’s in Wilmington where he’s truly coming into his own as a restaurateur. His combination market/bistro has the hottest table in town as well as the most ambitious bakery. Make advance reservations or sit at the bar for pheasant foie gras pâté and salt-cod chowder, or pop into the retail shop for French baguettes and cheese.

    421 N. Market St., Wilmington, DE; 302-543-5574

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Iron Hill Newark

    Just named best small brewpub at the 2014 World Beer Cup, there are 10 locations of this local mini-chain throughout the Mid-Atlantic region (including one in Wilmington). However, it all began when partners Kevin Finn, Mark Edelson and Kevin Davis launched their first venture here in 1996. Stop in to try the unique house brews (each outpost has a different head brewer), fill up with good American pub fare and take a peek into the brewhouse.

    147 E. Main St., Newark, DE; 302-266-9000

  • Woodside Farm Creamery

    Around 20 minutes west of Wilmington you’ll find this pastoral dairy farm. Family-owned and -operated since 1796, the creamery provides ice cream to dozens of area restaurants, but you can taste it freshest at the seasonal stand selling scoops on the spot. Flavors range from classic (rocky road, butter pecan) to nouveau (bacon, PB&J), and the shop is open noon-8 PM daily. Tip: enter “378 North Star Road, Newark” into your GPS to find the entrance faster.

    1310 Little Baltimore Rd., Hockessin, DE; 302-239-9847

  • Chelsea Tavern

    The Grand Opera House is a can’t-miss stop on any Wilmington visit, and this beer-blessed pub across the street is where you want to land before or after. Thirty taps pour crafts from around the country - including several from Delaware’s own Dogfish Head - complemented by over 170 bottles and cans. Brick-oven pizza makes a great match for all the brew.

    821 N. Market St., Wilmington, DE; 302-482-3333

  • New Castle Farmer’s Market

    Every shopping plaza should be so lucky. Mixed in with a BJ’s, a Verizon store and a KFC next to the small local airport is this huge marketplace filled with more than 70 independent stands. Eat sandwiches (go to Stoltzfus), donuts, BBQ, tacos and pretzels while picking up produce and other assorted goods. The market operates on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

    110 N. Dupont Hwy., New Castle, DE; 302-328-4102

  • Satsuma Asian Kitchen + Bar

    Chef Michael DiBianca recently branched out from his decade-long success at Mediterranean Moro to open this modern lounge focusing on Asian street food. Assemble your own meal out of sushi and small plates, but don’t miss the Korean-style meatballs with spicy pineapple BBQ or the pulled-duck disco fries.

    1707 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, DE; 302-656-3015

  • Penn's Place

    William Penn’s first night in the New World is rumored to have been spent in this historic building on the Delaware River, which has since been reimagined as a cafe and artisanal gift shop. Sit in the stone-lined garden and enjoy sandwiches, salads and “grown-up” PB&Js while sipping on coffee or a changing beer and wine selection. The cafe serves Tuesday-Sunday.

    206 Delaware St., New Castle, DE; 302-322-6334

  • Domaine Hudson

    Vinously inclined travelers will want to add this classy New American to their hit list - the wine program has been lauded by Wine Spectator as well as other media outlets. Glasses are poured from 40-plus temperature-controlled bottles open no more than 48 hours, and there are more than 450 bottles in the cellar. Get the cheese board if you’re just stopping by, or dig into pastas and steaks if you’re ready to settle in.

    1314 N. Washington St., Wilmington, DE; 302-655-9463

  • Kapow Food Truck

    After cooking at his family’s Thai restaurants for years, chef Wit Milburn is about to officially launch his mobile kitchen, which has been soft-rolling the streets for several weeks already. His “tacos, bowls and rolls” menu features flavors from Hawaii to Southeast Asia, including “Thai Guy” wings and “Thai Ta Tas” - tots covered in cheese, basil and hot chile flakes. Follow the location via Twitter, and look for the truck to make an appearance in Philly sometime soon.

  • MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival

    This multiday celebration of great food and drinks is back for a second year with dozens of events held throughout central and coastal Delaware from May 15-18. A very well-designed website makes it easy to browse and buy tickets to anything from a bacon-and-bourbon dinner to a food truck night market. If you can’t make it this year, organizers have already pinned down dates for 2015 and 2016.