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Eater Philadelphia claims “Wilmington is coming for Philly’s Food Scene”

Updated October 25, 2021
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Wilmington was recently featured by Eater Philadelphia for its up and coming restaurant scene, which is starting to give Philadelphia a run for their money! Read more of the article written by Sarah Maiellano below:

“Picture this: A 15-year-old Tyler Akin — now a high-profile Philly chef and co-founder of the Independent Restaurant Coalition — having afternoon tea with his friends in Wilmington, Delaware, at the Hotel Du Pont’s century-old Green Room. It was “a tongue-in-cheek goodbye” before Akin, a star varsity soccer player, went in for major spinal surgery. For the Wilmington native who’d been visiting the city’s finest dining destination since he was a kid in a tie and blazer for events like his grandma’s birthday, the stately space walked the line between ‘awe-inspiring’ and ‘stuffy.’

Today — 22 years later — he runs the place.

Photo by Neal Santos

The Green Room is now Le Cavalier, a decidedly unstuffy French brasserie. After living in New York City, D.C., and Philly, Akin never expected to return to his hometown, but with Wilmington on the rise, he and a cadre of chef friends have moved in — bringing with them impressive accolades and national attention.

The burgeoning dining scene didn’t happen organically, but strategically — thanks to one committed real estate developer and a local government that wants to compete with bigger cities to the north and south.

It wasn’t always this way for Delaware’s largest city. Wilmington is ‘a corporate mecca,’ thanks to the many banks and companies that are headquartered in the tax-friendly state, says Jennifer Boes, executive director of the Greater Wilmington Convention & Visitors Bureau. About 32,000 people work in downtown Wilmington — and most of them leave at 5 p.m., creating a quiet zone after-hours and on weekends. There was a time when downtown dwellers could barely get a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning.

Downtown served as the headquarters for the storied DuPont corporation for over a century, until 2014 when the company stunned Delaware by announcing its decision to leave. As a financial center, the 2008 recession also hit Wilmington particularly hard.

Yet there’s always been hope for the city to grow. It’s right on the busiest Amtrak rail route and is located conveniently on the I-95 corridor between Washington, D.C. and New York. The city is home to the opulent Grand Opera House, an attractive riverfront, sports venues, important Underground Railroad history, and bike trails. And of course, no card-carrying Wilmingtonian fails to mention that it’s President Joe Biden’s adopted hometown.

For brothers Rob and Chris Buccini, these are all good things. Their Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG), a real estate development and management company, has invested $1.5 billion into downtown Wilmington since 2000. The native Wilmingtonians take that old ‘if you build it, they will come’ mantra seriously…”

Read the full article by clicking here.

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