This is a dangerous statement since I spend so much time filming in the South but I try to live fearlessly so here it is: I have never truly loved Southern food. Yes, buttermilk biscuits are glorious, fried chicken is delicious and bourbon is my favorite booze yet after a heavy meal of all that butter and everything fried I always seem to find myself slipping into a food coma plagued by the same question, “Was it worth it?” I could, I suppose, simply eat less but anyone who has sat in front of a heaping portion of shrimp and grits knows that in that moment moderation is not a reasonable thing to ask a person. That kind of restraint takes training I simply do not have. So I decided to take advantage of my time in North Carolina and set out on a mission, much at the expense of my skinny jeans, to find a perfect Southern meal, one I wouldn’t regret – flavorful, utilizing local ingredients, taking no shortcuts, using no health conscious alternatives – one that is worth it. As fate would have it, the prescription turned out to be a restaurant called Rx.
Rx gets its name from the fact that it’s located in the former home of a pharmacy. Eat here just once and you’ll know that customer quips like Rx being “the cure for what ails you” aren’t just cheesy, they are also true. The cozy booths, long wood bar and local art make it easy to feel at home which is good since after a meal here you’ll probably want to come back often.
Our meal started with the night’s featured appetizer, compressed fresh watermelon and cantaloupe with sea salt. The waitress, friendly and welcoming like the rest of the staff, assured us it would pull our attention from the cast iron pot full of mini buttermilk biscuits and cornbread we were currently devouring. Although seemingly impossible, she was right. What arrived was simple- a white bowl with balled melon and watermelon topped with exactly the right amount of sea salt and an edible flower. The effect of compressing the fruit (done by placing it in a vacuum sealer) resulted in a brilliant sweetness that was countered perfectly by the salt. I immediately remembered why I waited all year for fresh summer fruit and it made me want to find a farmer’s market first thing in the morning. What followed was equally as delicious.
Heirloom tomatoes were served with a light goat cheese that complimented the tomato flavor without overpowering it, and a simple sprinkling of olive oil and salt (to those who insist their tomato salads require added balsamic for flavor, I offer this dish as evidence that you are mistaken). Next was a wooden butcher board (charmingly shaped like North Carolina) of charcuterie served with pickles, green beans and mustard, which are all made in-house.
My favorite thing at Rx wasn’t on the menu that night (it changes daily to accommodate what’s fresh from local farmers and purveyors) but I need to include it here anyway. Buffalo pig ears. Pig ears sliced thin, deep-fried and tossed in a thick, slightly spicy buffalo sauce. Even if you feel hesitant about pig ears please trust me, if you eat pork order this dish. Our main course was that Southern staple, shrimp and grits, which managed somehow to be authentic without being too heavy (get the recipe).
If you are a person who orders dessert to only have a bite don’t order dessert here. Like any Southern meal worth its salt, dessert is designed for gluttony. Everything on the plate is, true to form, made in-house and like the dinner menu, selections change nightly. On the (only slightly) lighter side, plump local blueberries fill a thinly rolled out pie crust making densely flavored blueberry pie.
For those who think a great dinner isn’t over until you pop your top trouser button, there is warm sticky toffee pudding served with bourbon ice cream and a milky caramel sauce.
Rx is not the kind of place where you pop in for a light meal. In my opinion, it is best enjoyed when you can go all out and then head home to fall asleep full and happy. And if you happen to overdo it, well, you can always stop at the pharmacy on the way home.♥
Photos courtesy of Bonnie Jean Photo.
Rx is located at:
421 Castle Street
Wilmington, NC 28401