Loyal readers of encore’s sister magazine Devour won’t find a lot of suspense in this one. I already declared the former Patty Wagon food truck as serving the best burger in Wilmington. Thus it shouldn’t be surprising to find I’m a fan of their new brick-and-mortar establishment, The Fork ‘n’ Cork.
Housed in the very recognizable former home of the flagship Slice of Life, Fork ‘n’ Cork has expanded the food-truck menu to include some interesting appetizers and salads, along with a pretty good craft-beer list. The interior exposed brick remains, and the bar sits largely unchanged. The surroundings are familiar, but the absence of pepperoni aromas in the air makes them seem new.
For starters, a new take on an old favorite will tantalize. The duck wings come served with a choice of one of four sauces. A remarkably friendly waitress talked me into the charmoula, a house-specialty of Moroccan origin. Made from, among other things, cumin and paprika, it’s a little tart for my liking. Yet, the peach barbecue sauce, with a fruity sweetness and just the right touch of tang, is a winner.
Duck is larger, darker, and a touch greasier than chicken, but foodies love it for that rich flavor. Fork ‘n’ Cork’s are fried crispy, which is incredibly important. In my opinion duck skin and duck fat are at their best when crispy.
The eatery also offers a fun take on a Canadian favorite: Texas Poutine. French fries pile up with barbecue sauce, brisket, and cheddar cheese standing in for cheese curds and gravy. Considering the restaurant already offers the best fries in town (blanched in water with the skins attached and fried twice for a brown somewhat darker than golden), adding decadent toppings heightens their flare. The brisket is so good it will make another appearance later in this column. The shredded cheddar is appropriately tart, but not melted as thoroughly as I might have hoped. Collectively, the Texas Poutine is more than the sum of its parts. However, the onions are certainly worth the $2 upcharg—buttermilk battered with hints of cayenne for a little bite and fried to a crunchy crispness. I love the fries, but sometimes I’ve got to mix it up a bit.
But Fork ‘n’ Cork has made its mark as a burger joint. And they still stamp it with pride. The bigger kitchen provides more room for new variants, and the Fork ‘n’ Cork takes full advantage with some burgers not tried or found elsewhere, such as the Kreider. Named for a local character of note, Jacob Kreider, the burger features extra bacon and peanut butter. (Kreider was a downtown regular who frequently ordered his sandwiches and even hot dogs with peanut butter; even a cart downtown offers a Kreider dog now). I thought I’d go my whole life without trying peanut butter on beef. As I was about to take my first bite, I realized I was wrong: On numerous occasions I’ve eaten Thai beef dishes with peanut sauces. Suddenly, it didn’t seem so foreign.
I’m glad I tried the Kreider, and it’s fair to say I like it, but I probably won’t be going back to it. The bacon is delicious, first off. The peanut butter is crunchy, giving an unfamiliar texture to each bite. However, it’s still not for me (though there is something to be said for the beef/bacon/peanut butter pairing). At the very least, I encourage anyone still skeptical to give it a whirl.
The Schwiss is a more familiar burger, with Swiss cheese and caramelized onions. The brioche bun, with its heaping helping of butter, adds an additional layer of fatty flavor to the beef, cheese and butter-soaked onions. The cheese is just a little tart, with the sweetened onions balancing it all nicely. The juiciness of the meat is almost remarkable. Look for the second half of the burger to soak through the bun while eating the first half. It’s inevitable with The Schwiss.
And for the brisket: I love it. Admittedly, my cut was a little fattier than I like, as I prefer the end cuts. But those who enjoy a wetter cut of brisket will be thrilled. The char on the sides is magnificent, imparting the flavor of the rub with a little bit of smoke, and the fruity, tangy barbecue sauce ties it altogether nicely. This one gets messy, too, so expect to pick up some remains with a fork. Also, diners should check their faces in the mirror for residual barbecue sauce. It’s all worth a little extra effort.
I’ve been a little remiss in covering the beer and wine selection, and due to time constraints had to skip a new offering at the Fork ‘n’ Cork. But it deserves some mention: beer floats. At last check several are available. I’ll personally be returning fo rthe Dragon’s Milk Stout with sticky toffee ice cream soon.
I’ll miss the old Patty Wagon, for sure. It almost certainly has provided me with the best meal I’ve ever had past two o’clock in the morning. Yet, brick and mortar means more options, and since everything at the Patty Wagon tastes delicious, I plan to work my way through a good portion of the Fork ‘n’ Cork expanded menu. Just take heed: Fork ‘n’ Cork isn’t offering burgers off the McDonald’s Dollar Menu, and the pricing reflects that fact. These are high quality sandwiches, and they typically come in at $13.
Fork ‘n’ Cork
Tues.-Thurs., 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Fri. – Sat., 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Sun., 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.
122 Market Street