Cape Fear Foodie: the best burger?

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – The 2022 Azalea Festival is over and it still serves as a homecoming. With friends and family once again gathering in the port city for a weekend of fun, but this year it’s different. Spring is in the air and with it comes a renewal of life and a feeling that maybe, maybe we are onto better and brighter days.

Every time I get home, I make it a point to visit favorite haunts and places to eat. And that made me think of which restaurants in town are really popular? There are various seafood joints, steakhouses and Italian restaurants…then you have many downtown places that have been around for decades. The list is truly too long to count, with people having their own favorite spots with great dining memories. It’s almost impossible to highlight one place without highlighting them all.

However, one stop that many will agree is a real favorite is none other than the home of the “Best Burger” in Wilmington, Winnie’s Tavern.

A Wilmington staple celebrating its 60th anniversary, Winnie’s Tavern stays true to its roots, and its legions of loyal fans love them for it.(WECT)

The Azalée Festival celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2022… and at Winnie’s celebrates its own birthday, 60 years! Located near the State Harbor, at Winnie’s been making massive burgers, crispy fries, sodas and ice cold beers for years. It’s a family business that has stayed true to its roots, even though everything around it is changing rapidly.

When I first visited in 2019, the place needed a little polish. Shamelessly a dive bar with exceptional food, the pandemic has worked its wicked magic in a different way here. at Winnie’s is now immaculate inside, a new look has only enhanced the atmosphere, without losing everything that has made it special for so long. Plus, there’s now plenty of outdoor seating, a perfect choice for a chilly spring evening.

Of course, what defines at Winnie’s except for the food, and especially those huge burgers. But before diving into half a pound, have a homemade appetizer. I had the Cajun Fried Okra, super soft inside with a spicy crispy breading. It’s like eating popcorn with a lot more flavor and only a little more caloric value. I also had the fried pickles, onion rings, and mozzarella cheese sticks…all served in these red baskets that bring home that classic diner feel.

A classic Southern fried appetizer, these okra pieces are light and airy, with a...
A classic Southern fried appetizer, these okra pieces are light and airy, with the perfect spicy, crispy coating.(WECT)

Drinks are served in cans or bottles, with sweet tea and a full bar as well. Just make sure your cup is full before having the main course. A friend grabbed an old-school Fried Bologna sandwich, which to me screams nostalgia around my family dinner table. Although I’ve always eaten fried bologna with onions and BBQ sauce, it was more of a traditional sandwich with all the ingredients. Anyway, the bologna was thick and full of flavor.

Whether you want your Fried Bologna with onions and BBQ sauce or with all the fixins, this...
Whether you want your bologna fried with onions and barbecue sauce or with all the trimmings, this take on an American classic hits the mark.(WECT)

As for these famous burgers, I opted for the Trailer Park Burger, at Winnie’s the biggest and boldest. Fried Cajun green tomatoes, jalapeno cheese, smoked hickory bacon, lettuce, onion, bread-and-butter pickles and chipotle mayo on a large soft sesame seed bun. It’s like a southern trash pizza between two buns. Every bite is better than the last, and if you’re not careful, you can quickly devour a sandwich the size of your head in no time. Add a variety of fries (try the sweet potato fries tossed in cinnamon and sugar with a honey dip, you won’t regret it), a side of pickled bean salad and it’s a meal worthy of a king … or Queen Azalea.

This Winnie the Pooh creation is the crown jewel of its specialty burgers, with everything from fried...
This Winnie the Pooh creation is the crown jewel of its specialty burgers, with everything from fried green tomatoes to jalapeno cheese rounding off this giant burger.(WECT)

at Winnie’s offers a number of specialty and classic burgers, as well as sandwiches and kid-friendly options. And while it has those blue-collar vibes, it’s a place for people of all ages and groups of all sizes. You don’t turn 60 without creating that warm, cozy atmosphere with a menu full of tasty dishes. As for the “best burger” label, I won’t make that call for you, you’ll just have to come back here to decide.


Winnie’s Tavern is located at 1895 Burnett Blvd, Wilmington, NC 28401

Do you recommend a restaurant? Or do you know a well-kept secret you want the rest of Cape Fear to know? Email me at [email protected] and I would like to present your selection. Cheers!

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