Eating in restaurants can be a little like traveling by car: Sometimes, it’s good to be the driver, but on other days, you just want to sit in the back, look at the scenery, and enjoy the ride. That’s why we should all give thanks to the “prix fixe” menu, those chef-curated experiences that typically deliver three (and sometimes four) courses for a fixed price. In a world where menus can seem as thick as small novels, and where some uncertainty accompanies every visit to an untried restaurant, these “fixed price” menus are designed with harmony in mind, and serve as an easy (and often more affordable) way to see a restaurant at its best.
So, next time you hit the road for a fine dining experience at restaurants in Greater Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley, let the chef take the wheel, then settle into your seat and see where they take you. It’s bound to be somewhere good.
421 N. Market St., Wilmington.
Every Wednesday, James Beard Award semifinalist Brian Sikora and his crew put together a $40/person, three-course prix fixe (pronounced “pree feeks”) studded with elevated experiences. Like most restaurants, La Fia’s prix fixe is subject to change, but expect such temptations as a crispy duck leg confit with pomegranate, sesame granola and miso aioli (first course); saffron spaghetti alla chitarra with fresh lump crab, chive bread crumbs and fermented chili butter (second course); capped by such desserts as chocolate “entremet” cake with hazelnut ganache, caramel cream, cocoa nib brittle and vanilla malt gelato.
5525 Concord Pike, Wilmington.
At Sullivan’s, they call their prix fixe “The Sure Thing,” and it’s available through the week for $49 per person. Start with soup/salad (I’ll have the shrimp and lobster bisque, please), then move on to the main course: Steak naturally plays a starring role (either a filet mignon with bordelaise sauce or a New York strip with bourbon peppercorn sauce), but there is also a broiled salmon with beurre blanc, or an herbed, brick-cooked chicken with garlicky mashed potatoes and braised onions. Upgrades are tempting: An extra $10 gets you a bigger steak, but save room for the cheesecake, key lime pie or bananas foster bread pudding.
608 N Market St, Wilmington.
Thursday is the night to head to this cosmopolitan-cool steakhouse that’s getting all the buzz in downtown Wilmington. Snuggle in and feel the city-sleek vibe as you contemplate the $60-per-person prix fixe selections: There’s a choice between a fluffy bao bun, a high-minded interpretation of a “corn dog,” a duck tostada or elk meatballs (first course); a main course of either filet mignon, picanha sirloin or halibut, and (of course) something sweet to end the night.
802 N Union St, Wilmington.
Yes, Wilmington’s Little Italy neighborhood offers more than Italian food, deliciously proved by local favorite Walter’s and its much-loved prime rib special. On Prime Rib Night each Friday, $40 gets you a 14-ounce prime rib (or salmon), plus soup or salad, side dish and dessert. (Pro Tip: On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, head to the bar, where $18 is all you’ll need for dinner (beef tips, salmon, or chicken) and an adult beverage (beer or wine).
1412 N Dupont St, Wilmington.
Chef Dan Butler likes to hand-craft his $40 three-course prix fixe menu fresh each Thursday, so arrive ready to explore some of Wilmington’s most satisfying Italian creations. Recent starters have included such choices as Mushroom Bisque with truffle oil, or Risotto Cake with herbs in tomato sauce. Entrees sustain the delight: There’s a Crispy Pork Milanese with parmesan mashed potatoes on one night, Spicy Braised Calamari on another. Dessert is always a comforting conclusion, especially with such choices as Chocolate Mousse Cake, Carrot Cake and a delightful sounding Pumpkin Cake with maple frosting.
321 A Justison St., Wilmington.
Foodies in this city know to go where Chef/Co-owner Michael DiBianca goes – after all, he’s been reliable a creative force behind some of the best restaurants Wilmington has known, from Restaurant 821 to Moro to Satsuma. At Ciro, he offers an always-evolving tasting menu each night, from four courses ($39) to eight-person “chef’s table ($89), with wine pairing or without. Sample entrees include Tuna Carpaccio with wasabi cucumber salad and chile oil; or a Pan-Roasted Duck Breast with sweet potato, apple-carrot salad and rosemary honey.