Winnie Swanson – namesake of Winnie’s Tavern and its popular Winnie Burger – was an independent woman who touched three legendary Wilmington eateries before her death in November 2008.
“She was doing her own thing until she died,” granddaughter Wendy Fincher-Hughes said.
Swanson, who had taken the name Walker before her death, had been married five times, Fincher-Hughes said.
A real estate agent, Fincher-Hughes has taken over running the restaurant, following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother.
In 1962, Swanson bought the block where Winnie’s Tavern is now, at 1895 Burrnet Blvd., Wilmington [Map this]. At the time the property housed a trailer park in the back and a building that was to become the tavern in the front, Fincher-Hughes said.
In the last half-century, the tavern built a reputation among locals, and even served as a location for the cult classic film “Blue Velvet.”
Winne’s Tavern has become known for serving a great cheeseburger, Fincher-Hughes said. It wasn’t always that way.
“A lot of time people didn’t know what it was and didn’t know we had food,” she said. Several bars are near the tavern, including the popular Satellite, probably leading to the confusion, she said.
Now, however, the burgers – and rave reviews on Internet food sites – are the biggest draws, Fincher-Hughes said.
Ironically – and perhaps the greatest compliment – is that locals who work in downtown Wilmington restaurants frequently stop by Winnie’s Tavern to eat before going to their jobs, Fincher-Hughes said.
On March 31, 2012, Winnie’s Tavern will celebrate its 50th anniversary – and the life of Winnie Swanson – with a pig picking and music by Chris Bellamy.
“It’s important to honor my grandmother,” Fincher-Hughes said.
Date posted: February 14, 2012
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