The Budget Epicureans Review: Flaming Amy’s Bowl

Jeremy Smyczek | Staff Writer

Each week, the Budget Epicureans select an eatery or take-out establishment, in search of quality and value. Bonus points are awarded for healthy options.

Given its phenomenal popularity despite a horrid location, the all-you-can-eat hibachi fusion restaurant that is Flaming Amy’s Bowl scarcely needs recommendation. Tucked almost invisibly away behind an auto service station at the corner of Shipyard and College, the place nevertheless has a line out the door during peak hours, and for good reason. If any reader is among the few that don’t know about it or haven’t gone, he or she should consider this a correction notice. It is the best cheap restaurant in Wilmington.

“The Bowl,” as it is known colloquially, is housed in what was, according to the staff, originally an ABC store. The cinderblock walls make it look more like a fortification than a place to eat. Despite, or perhaps in response to this, the Bowl’s architects decided to decorate it as a 1960s diner that could have been frequented by the Jetsons. Aquas, greens and oranges abound, reflecting off beveled metal tabletops and punctuated by abstract artwork featuring brightly multicolored shapes.

The retro kitsch aligns with the whole service experience. If it were any more conspicuously cool, they might start turning away anyone over 30. Tattooed and pierced hipsters do everything from greeting and seating to bringing ironically chic beers like Milwaukee’s Best (for a mere dollar) and tall cans of PBR to patrons. Other workers chat amicably while grilling up food choices in front of their customers.

And what food choices they are. In quality, variety and freshness, the Bowl simply smokes the competition. Portabella mushrooms, shrimp, sliced Serrano peppers and fresh green onions compete with beef, black beans, smoky chipotles and yellow corn to allow combinations ranging from Thai to Tex-Mex. There are even tortillas available should anyone feel confined by the bowl format and need a soft taco instead.

Then there are the sauces. Will it be the sweet, smoky and murderous Chili Death? Or perhaps an aromatic and complex combination of Thai Peanut and Jalapeño Ginger Lime, with a sprinkle of chopped peanuts for texture? From the luscious Poblano Cream to old standbys like teriyaki and marinara, the range and quality of the sauces combined with the choice of brown or white rice or noodles with each bowl allow the customer to create a truly unique experience each time up. The Bowl even gets Budget Epicureans bonus points for multiple lean and vegetarian options.

This can go wrong, of course. One can grow dangerously overconfident and mix, say, the Creole Jambalaya with the Sesame Ginger, or combine meats like shrimp and beef that require different cooking times, leaving one overdone at the end. But that tragedy falls squarely on the customer. Ultimately, Flaming Amy’s Bowl is a meritocracy of sorts: Your meal is as good as your taste is.

Discounts are given for students with IDs.


Cuisine: Hibachi

Price range: $7

Address: 4418 Shipyard Blvd. Wilmington, NC 28403

Contact: (910) 799-6222


Store hours:

11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week