Tuesday, June 3, 2014



            Most think of long stretches of beautiful white sand, pounding surf, and fun in the sun when planning a summer trip to the Outer Banks.
Sugary white sand beckons on Hatteras Island
            Not me.  I think of all the wonderful treats I want to eat while there, mostly fresh seafood delivered fresh from the boats to my table.  And how in the world will I get from Corolla or Duck all the way down to Hatteras and Ocracoke to get them all devoured and still fit into my swimsuit?
            Lordy, it’s a problem with us foodies.
            I’ve chosen a few favorites to share, but please be aware that just about any of the fine eateries on the Outer Banks will satisfy your gourmet cravings.  
          Trust me, I wrote THE book, Food Lovers’ Guide to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Globe Pequot Press, 2013.

            Here are ten of my DO-NOT-MISS absolute favorites, with several sources listed depending on whether you are in the northern realm of Corolla and Duck, or mid-section of Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk or Nags Head, or down on Hatteras or Ocracoke Islands, because there’s no way you can make your way up and down the over-100 mile stretch of these sandy shores to eat within a typical summer stay at the Outer Banks.
            That said, you’ve got your work cut out for you.  Happy eating!

TOP TEN. . . . . . . .

      1.  CRAB CAKES.  My all-time, most soul-satisfying favorite food.  Try Miss Os' traditional crab cakes made with very little breading at Owens' in Nags Head, or the Crab Grenades over Asian
      slaw at North Banks in Corolla, or Fat Daddy’s 
      Crab Cakes, rolled in crushed potato chips, at The Fish House in Buxton.


      2 .     SOFT SHELL CRABS.  Nuttin’ like these delicacies, either fried, sautéed or grilled.  Dajio’s on Ocracoke serves them tempura style, while Basnight’s Lone Cedar, on the causeway to Nags Head, lightly fries soft shells from the “shedders” they tend out back.  At the Blue Point soft shells may be sautéed and served over grits with brown butter.

  3.     SHRIMP BURGERS.  I bike for miles to get a soft, white bun stuffed with hot, fried shrimp, cooled with a fresh coleslaw and either tartar or cocktail sauce.  One of the best ever is at Kill Devil Grill.  In Nags Head, Blue Moon Beach Grill serves up a mean “Shrimp Not-a-Burger.”  At Harbor Deli in Hatteras, the shrimp are chopped, then pressed into a patty, grilled and served with a spicy remoulade.

Tacos from Bad Bean Taqueria in Corolla
      4.     FISH TACOS.   Yummy fresh fish, grilled or fried, stuffed into a taco with shredded lettuce, cheese, topped off with a spicy sauce, and what’s not to like?  At the Food Dudes Kitchen in Kill Devil Hills, the fresh catch of the day is marinated, then grilled or fried, then wrapped into a soft taco with tasty coleslaw. Up in Corolla, try the awesome tacos at Bad Bean Taqueria, and especially on Ocracoke, check out Eduardo’s Taco Truck for authentic flavors and the freshest of fish, plus Eduardo is fun to talk with.

5.     TRADITIONAL OUTER BANKS CLAM CHOWDER.  Potatoes, onions, pork fat, clams and water.  That’s it.  No milk or cream goes into the traditional clam chowder served on these barrier islands.  Pure clam flavor shines through.  You’ll find a five-generation recipe at Basnight’s Lone Cedar, and an authentic award-winner at Sam & Omie’s, both in Nags Head.

    6.     BREAKFAST GOODIES.  Can’t imagine rising early enough to wait in line to snag an Apple Ugly at Orange Blossom Café in Buxton?  Poor you, for you’ll miss out on this huge, big-as-your-face fried pastry stuffed with real apple filling.  Or if you are up in the northern realms of the OBX, design your own doughnut – really - at one of several Duck Donuts.

    7.     FROZEN TREATS.  Cool off from the beach heat.  At Zen Pops in Kill Devil Hills, try a Mexican-style popsicle made  with seasonal fruits and fresh herbs, like watermelon agave or my fav, a creamy key lime pie dairy-free paletas de crema.   Enlightened Palate, their all-organic ice-cream, is sold in pints. Down on Hatteras Island, Uncle Eddy’s Frozen Custard in Buxton remains a favorite of the under-aged and older crowd.

    8.     BREAKFASTS.  I love eating a big breakfast out, esp. on vacation.  Pony up to the tables at Pony Island on Ocracoke for a huge plate of eggs, etc. with a side of Pony Potatoes, hash browns with melted cheese, salsa, and sour cream.  Or give the traditional OBX Fish Cakes a try.  They’re made with whatever’s the local catch mixed with boiled potatoes, then hand-fashioned and fried.  Darrell’s in Manteo does a booming business with very traditional choices. Sonny’s in Hatteras Village has been filling up fishermen and charter boat captains for years.  To help chase the hair of the dog after a long night of beach partying, try one of the best Bloody Marys at Sam & Omie’s in Nags Head.

   9.     SWEET POTATO BISCUITS.  North Carolina is the number one producer of sweet potatoes, and on the Outer Banks, they’ve been making biscuits from them for forever.  Folks flock to Kelly’s on the soundside of Nags Head for the sweet potato biscuits served warm from the oven.  Put a thin slice of country ham between them, and man, you’re in heaven.  The Flying Melon on Ocracoke also serves these delicate treats as a warm-up for your meal.   

Tiny Layer Cake - 16 layers!
     10.  DESSERT.  I am such a sucker for sweets.  Twist my arm and make me eat or all!  Key Lime Pie, ubiquitous at any warm beach scene, is to die for at Basnight's Lone Cedar in Nags Head.  The seasonal bread pudding had me swooning at The Flying Melon on Ocracoke.  And you just cannot be on Ocracoke without having a slice - or two - of the traditional Fig Cake, made from fig preserves made from one of the 11 varieties of figs that are grown on this tiny island.  The Back Porch and Dajio's serve up an authentic slice. And then there's the Tiny Layer Cake, usually 15 or 16 layers thick, you'll find at Darrell's in Manteo and at Basnight's Lone Cedar.  

Ocracoke Fig Cake

Need more inspiration on eating in the Outer Banks?   Find some of the recipes from OBX chefs shared in my cookbook, as well as traditional recipes.  

Want a signed copy?  Email me, or check the independent bookstores up and down the OBX.

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