Picture this: It’s noon. It’s the springiest of all spring Saturdays (mid-70 temps, clear skies, empty stomachs). I’m hangry enough to take down any form of sustenance, but I’m hankering for brunch with a side of beers. Then I remember a majority of my favorite lunchtime spots don’t pull out the biscuit specials until Sunday. I peek my head into Bill’s Front Porch and take a hard left toward the hidden outdoor patio. And, look what’s waiting…
Photos by Brian Lantz Photography
And a stellar start to the weekend.
Sister to the outdoor volleyball-themed Market Street party zone known as Capt’n Bill’s Backyard Grill, Bill’s Front Porch opened almost two years ago as an onsite full-service brewery with elevated pub grub. I’ve been well aware of Bill’s epic fried chicken plates and malty Mosaic IPA bombs for quite some time, but it recently occurred to me I hadn’t been by to give it an official critique. When I learned Bill’s serves breakfast items, Friday to Sunday until 3 p.m., all I could say was: God bless the beer brunch!
The interior of the restaurant mirrors its rustic theme: colorful wood panels, Bloody Mary’s stacked with snacks to the roof, and an open layout so customers can watch the magic happen around the tanks. As it was the springiest of all spring Saturdays, my husband and I decided to take things outdoors. The charming sunlit patio offered high-top tables, chairs, a fireplace, outdoor love seats, and most importantly, that string game with the little ring and hook whose name nobody can remember. In other words, there was plenty to keep us entertained while we waited to get our eat and drink on. It was noon, after all, so … beer and coffee, anyone?
When I asked for iced coffee, our server informed me it wasn’t exactly on the menu, but he could make it happen. “Black coffee—lots of ice,” I requested. Even with a splash of cream the coffee had a strong, roasted flavor I definitely wasn’t expecting. Bill’s: 1. Nearly every other diner in Wilmington: 0.
I’ve mostly been familiar with Bill’s brews from taps at other water holes and restaruants. It had been a while since I actually popped in to check out their fresh out-of-the-tank lineup. Color me impressed. The extensive draft menu boasted tons of popular styles: coffee stouts, citrusy pale ales, juicy IPAs, hazy IPAs and more. My husband went straight for The Legend of MoTraNotus. The New England-style IPA (essentially an unfiltered or double IPA that’s been aggressively hopped) was bold on the tongue but smooth and surprisingly light going down. The Citra Pale Ale was super crisp, slightly sweet and hop-forward. Ice cold (and with several ring-toss game wins in my back pocket), I could have sipped this bad boy all afternoon.
The only thing that made our bright, slightly bitter brews better was the Buffalo shrimp. We recently had a standout version at another restaurant and, while they were a touch overpriced and left us wanting more, the jumbo-ness of Bill’s shrimp was wildly appealing. It featured smaller, more bite-size shrimp, but the overall dish was generous enough in size to split between several people. The breaded shrimp were fiery orange and fried. Each was fully encrusted in its own casing of spicy, buttery Buffalo goodness, and when dunked into the thick, creamy blue cheese it was a homerun. Even the blue crumbles weren’t overwhelming in flavor or magnitude. The big, fat spears of celery were stupid fresh and nicely crisp. Side note: the homemade ranch was also super sippable.
For our main courses, the hubs was all about the carbs on carbs and opted for pulled pork hash. The savory mixture was a tangled marriage of shredded potatoes and pulled pork on a baseball bat-size French roll, topped with queso blanco and a fried egg. It was definitely a knife-and-forker. I only got in a few forkfuls before the entire thing disappeared into thin air, but I totally dug the starchy potato flavor against the fatty pork. The bread wasn’t necessary, but to each his own there. All in all, a solid, satisfying brick-in-the-stomach type of a meal.
I rarely pass up any form of a fried chicken biscuit, so the Sunday Fil-A was right up my alley. An open-faced sandwich beauty, it came as two homemade biscuits topped with Bill’s famous fried chicken, pimiento cheese, a fried egg and a zig-zag of Sriracha. The juicy, gloriously crispy chicken breast was crying to be eaten between bread but, alas, it, too, was not a feat meant for the faint (also not something to be eaten with one’s hands). I would have preferred it as an actual sandwich (between one biscuit, cut in half)—because, spread out, it seemed like a lot of components. Flavor-wise, everything obviously mingled brilliantly (crispy chicken, crumbly biscuit, gooey cheese—hello!) but that delicate, airy chicken did get a little lost in the mix.
A side salad seemed like the right thing to do for my body at the time. Wrong. Bill’s Salad had good intentions with its generous amounts of crunchy veggies, but the house-pickled jalapeños were sliced a tad too thick, and the shredded carrots were out of a bag (NBD) and a few days old (WTF). The white balsamic dressing, I’m afraid to say, was a thumbs down thanks to a bottled, astringent flavor.
What’s the lesson here? Always get the side of fries. No worries on the salad, Bill. Keep rocking everything else that went so right. We’ll be back for more.