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Candy, Coney, Arcade:

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UNDER THE BOARDWALK: The Coney Island dogs offer a real treat for Boardwalk flavor at The Boardwalk on Front. Photo by Bethany Turner

UNDER THE BOARDWALK: The Coney Island dogs offer a real treat for Boardwalk flavor at The Boardwalk on Front. Photo by Bethany Turner

Boardwalk on Front
15 S Front St. • (910) 833-8990
www.boardwalknc.com
Bottom Line: Fun for the arcade-loving, carnival-food-eating crowds.

The Boardwalk is the latest in-carnation at 15 South Front Street. The space, which has housed more nightclubs than one could count, has been re-envisioned as a beach-themed arcade with a full bar. Cavernous and dimly lit, a basketball hoop and a golf video game greet patrons as they enter. Boardwalks from around the world—including the famed Coney Island—are used in the 7,800 square-foot interior, welcoming a slew of leagues and contests in corn hole, billiards, hot-dog-eating and more.

I took a seat at the bar to the rear of the building and ordered a beer. The menu didn’t seem terribly daring; most of it has been done before. A few items proved different, like fried artichokes or sweet potato fries drizzled with peanut sauce, crispy bacon and banana chips.

One nice surprise: myriad sauces offered for the chicken wings. I like wings yet don’t particularly care for the omnipresent Buffalo flavor. Being given other options is a treat. I opted for the garlic parmesan and the spicy Asian. The wings themselves were meatier than most and quite crispy. I found the parmesan to be a bit tart, but the garlic covered it nicely. The Asian wings weren’t as spicy as I’d hoped, but had a pleasant bit of zest anyway.

I sampled the Coney Island hot dogs. Forewarning: This is not a meal for anyone with any pretense of showing off for bikini season. Two hot dogs served with onions, mustard and bacon are a caloric monstrosity. I could almost hear the steamed buns groan under the weight of the ingredients. The menu actually promised chili as well, but none came. That’s probably for the best, as the buns fell apart without extra help.

They were good hot dogs by any rational standard. Flavorful and rich, the onion complemented them well. The bacon seemed a bit much—and, of course, that will be debated by folks who say bacon makes everything better. However, I am not sure how much pork one needs on a single dish.

The onion rings served on the side were pretty good, too. Thinly sliced and heavily battered, they came under-seasoned. A little pepper in the batter would go a long way.

Another item not found often on Wilmington’s restaurant scene beckoned my order: pierogis. Basically raviolis stuffed with mashed potatoes, pierogies can be boiled or fried, and come served with a number of toppings. At The Boardwalk, they came boiled and arrived in a heaping portion, which I didn’t realize was intended for sharing. All of the flavor came from the melted cheese on top and heavy-handed salt.

Bars have used salty foods to drive up beer and wine consumption for centuries; it’s not a new strategy. The word “tapas” comes from the Spanish word tapar, meaning “to place on top.” Tavern owners dating back to at least the 17th century would leave a slice of salty ham on top of wine glasses for patrons to munch on. It led them to drink more. But there comes a point where too much salt doesn’t lead to another beer. It just makes me stop eating.

The chicken cordon bleu sandwich was a bitter disappointment thanks to the tough and dry protein. The cheese was sparse and the Dijon mustard added little. The sliced ham was quite good, and I would have eaten more of the French fries had they, too, not been oversalted.

In keeping with the carnival atmosphere, Boardwalk offers cotton candy, funnel cakes, Rice Krispies treats and an array of fried foodstuff for dessert. I made my first foray into the long-popular art of frying candy bars by ordering a Snickers—my fave of the offerings. Now that I’ve tried it, I have one question for the aficionados of fried candy bars: Why? In my opinion, the batter does nothing to improve the flavor. It only slightly melted the chocolate—something I could achieve by leaving it in a hot car for a little while.

Service at The Boardwalk is friendly enough, but timing can lag. I visited twice and both trips took roughly an hour to get in and out, in a restaurant which wasn’t crowded. While that works for the leisurely customer who’s playing games in between, someone going for a quick bite may find it problematic. Speed is important to success in the service industry.

Though I’m not the target audience, I’ll give The Boardwalk credit where it’s due: They’ve found a niche with the arcade-loving, carnival-food-eating crowd. The restaurant also offers a kids’ menu nightly until 9 p.m., so bringing the family is welcomed before downtown‘s party crowd takes over late-night.

But, for the sake of the diner’s cardiovascular health, I hope they lay off the salt.

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