Wilmington Done Right
I have a crush on Delaware, having written previous tales about its musical, pastoral and brewing gems. My recent visit synced with the declaration that Joe Biden was the President-Elect. This excursion explored downtown Wilmington, which is more of a small town where many locals have met Joe or have connections to his altruistic family—and speak highly of both.
My favorite Wilmington hangout is now De.Co (Delaware Collective), a likable food court with a cool bar that’s a people-watching hub. This launchpad for chefs has options ranging from sushi to pho to hoagies. Great place to make new friends. Add: quiet game room.
Bardea (pronounced bar-DAY-ah) is the Italian term for “the goddess of food and drink.” The inviting, subtle 120-seat restaurant costars modern interpretations of traditional Italian and Mediterranean dishes. Here, on Market Street, Wilmington’s main drag, affordable and innovative culinary sophistication arrives via small and large dishes. Utilizing ingredients from local Delaware Valley farms and purveyors, you just can’t go wrong here: avocado (preserved in yuzu butter, pineapple mostarda, chicharron), beet sashimi (ruby red beets, sunflower, bergamot zabaglione), fusilli lunghi (pistachio crema, miracolo di san gennaro), oakwood tart (mushroom xo, whipped goat cheese). Go.
The Hagley Museum and Library may sound like indoor experiences, and that happens, but the outdoor experience here is unforgettable. This 235-acre campus/estate is the origin of the du Pont family story, as it features their original home. On this journey to the early 1800’s, you learn that the du Pont’s made their original riches making gunpowder, technically called black powder, which fortified guns and cannons—but was actually used more for blasting rocks to pave America’s way west. A highlight is visiting the black powder mills and machine shop, as both are powered by a diversion of Brandywine Creek that creates underground waterfalls. The library showcases an amazing collection of patent models which are mini working versions of dozens of historic inventions.
On Wilmington’s rural fringe there are three covered bridges which are near Buckley’s Tavern, built in 1817 as a private residence. It has morphed from stagecoach stop, tollgate, taproom and ice cream store to its current incarnation as a divine restaurant/bar serving American comfort cuisine that’s popular with world-renowned artists, professional athletes, and everyday local clientele. Going here is a special event where you can wear flip flops.
Le Cavalier restaurant at the historic HOTEL DU PONT is a modern French neo-brasserie influenced by the flavors of North Africa and Provençe. This place oozes grandeur. It’s a one-big-spherical ice “cube” fancy cocktail kind of place. The meticulously sourced French classics and inventive riffs on French staples include Soupe A L’oignon (French onion soup, gruyere, comte) and Branzino (blistered herbs, Calabrian chile, pistachio dukkah). Chef Tyler Akin, a Delaware native, reimagined the hotel’s Green Room into a place where foodies will be stopped in their tracks.
Amtrak’s Wilmington station is centrally located between downtown and the waterfront. The newly renovated CSC Station, built in 1905 as a Pennsylvania Railroad terminal, is a nifty common workspace where Amtrak also occupies office space. The Westin Wilmington celebrates its place on the scenic Christina River and is minutes from downtown.