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Jan 16, 2007 03:37 PM

Best and worst on the Outer Banks

I am sure alot of us chowhounds out there are familar with the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Was just wondering what everyones favorite place to dine at is. And also the least favorite would be helpful also. Thanks....OBX

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  1. These are both pretty obvious, and not really Chowhoundy (like so much else on this board), but I've had really outstanding meals at both the Blue Point in Duck, and Penguin Isle in Nag's Head. It has been 2-3 years since I last visited the Outer Banks, so I can't vouch for the current quality of either, but put it this way: the meal we had at the Blue Point was so good that we completely rearranged our schedule to eat there again the next day -- and we were staying in Salvo, a full 50 miles south of Duck.

    I probably won't get back to the Banks for another year or two, but I'd definitely be eager to hear recommendations for more downscale/hole-in-the-wall type of joints, as well as for fish markets.

    3 Replies
    1. re: rossgrady

      As far as fish markets go...there is only one I ever recommend, Austins Market in Nags Head. They have been doing a great job for almost 50 years in the same location. They are directly across from Jockey's Ridge. You know your there when you see a big shark in a cage in the parking lot. A couple "locals" favorite places I would suggest are Awful Arthurs on the Beach Road, Art's Place, Chili Peppers, and Sam & Omies. Hope you enjoy..

      1. re: rossgrady

        Hey there - definitely go to Kill Devil Grille...not sure what milepost, but it's on Beach looks like a little diner...but it is way more than that! My boyfriend and I stumbled upon it last summer and to say the least, we were pleasantly surprised! The's awesome! Everything is fresh and delicious. Go on a Wednesday for dinner and bottles of wine are 1/2 price. I have been going to the OBX my entire life & this place is hands down the best place I've eaten at down there. We went again this summer and once again, they did not disappoint! This is a MUST TRY.

        We also ate at Reddrum this summer (Beach Road). It was good food...though, the portions were on the small side and it was a little pricey. But it's worth a try.

        Do not...I not eat at Miller's! I don't know what I was thinking, but I went there this summer and spent a lot of money on a meal that I could've made much better myself with my eyes closed and little to no cooking skills. (yes, it WAS that bad!) The atmosphere is overly touristy and "blah", I could barely stand it. I only ate there because it was late and I was very hungry. What a waste of money.

        Another place (for breakfast) you should try is Jolly Roger...also on Beach Road. It's just great breakfast family has made it a tradition to go there.

        For a good burger, hit up Snowbird on Beach Road. It's actually known for it's 24+ flavors of ice cream, but the burgers were always really good there. I don't know if it's changed though..I haven't gotten a burger there in a few years.

        Also, for live crabs....I recommend buying them at Sugar Shack on the Nags Head/Manteo Causeway. This summer the place I always used to get them at (Austin's) and another place near our rental home were both sold out. Also the owner/manager of Austin's is not exactly friendly. Sugar Shack was not sold out of crabs, the service was great, and turns out..they're less expensive!

        Hope this helps :-)

      2. In summers past our family's mainstays were RV's and Owens. RV's was casual; Owens more upscale, or rather, old school. If nothing else the decor in Owens lobby is worth a stop for a cocktail. RV's also has a nice sound view.

        1. It's been a few years since we've been to the Outer Banks, but the two places I really wish I could go back to are Jockey's Ribs and Sam and Omie's. Jockey's Ribs had the best ribs and very good steak. The ribs were perfectly caramelized, fall off the bone with a sauce that was not too sweet and not too spicy. We got to Sam and Omie's too late for breakfast but just in time for lunch. I got a special of some pork that was good but the mashed potatoes were amazing. I even asked how they were made and the cook came out and told me, "I'm Irish. You throw potatoes, onion and garlic in a pot. That's all."

          Other places that we found to be decent were Pigman's BBQ, Big Al's on Manteo (more for the '50's atmosphere), and Coastal Cactus.

          We did not like Miller's for either food or service.

          1. I've always liked Basnight's Lone Cedar Cafe overlooking the sound in Nags Head.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jsb23nc

              Curious as to why you "avoid" Argyle's. We have been going to the Outer Banks for about 20 years and have decided that the Blue Point and the Colington Cafe are two of the finest restaurants the area has to offer. We get to both every year. Last year on a tip from a local we went to Argyle's and had a wonderful meal. We definately would go back based on that experience.

            2. I'm an OBX local of over 20 years and a real are my recommendations:

              Fine Dining: The Blue Point in Duck. The best, bar none.
              Ocean Boulevard in Kitty Hawk. Flying Fish Cafe', Kill Devil Hills and Colington Cafe' in Kill Devil Hills, Colington Road. In Corolla, there's Metropolis, for Tapas. 1587 in Manteo is great. And, we mustn't forget Owens, in Nags Head for a touch of history and good seafood prepared well.

              Great Sandwiches/deli stuff: Beach Bread in Kitty Hawk, Good Life Gourmet in Kill Devil Hills and for a great lunch, Seaside Vegetarian in Kitty Hawk. Captain Franks in Kitty Hawk does great Hot dogs. John's Drive-In on the beach road in Kitty Hawk for the dolphin boat and amazing milk shakes.

              Family favorites: Sam and Omie's, Nags Head, Chili Peppers, Kill Devil Hills, Lone Cedar Cafe' on the causeway to Manteo, Black Pelican in Kitty Hawk (love the off season steamed oyster special), RV's has been sold, so I don't know if it's still good. Lodavechi's is pricey, but has good Italian Food. And, if you're in Manteo, try Daryl's. Good fried seafood, hush puppies and if the striper s in season, you can't beat their broiled preparation.

              Beer & shrimp/casual dining places: Art's Place in Kitty Hawk, Awful Arthur's in Kitty Hawk, Slammin' Sammy's sports bar in Nags Head, Kill Devil Burger (great burgers and custard ice cream), Five Guys (of DC fame) for burgers and Cosmo's in Southern Shores for pizza. And if you're not a stickler for atmosphere, the local supermarket, Seamark, has a great eat in seafood bar: steamed shrimp, oysters, fresh tuna salad and great seafood chowders and oyster stew at great prices.

              There's not a good BBQ place on the north beach, but on the way here, in Coinjock on Highway 158, there's the Currituck Barbecue Company (look for the neon pig) that does great NC style BBQ and some decent beef brisket with a nice selection of BBQ sauces, so you can pick your favorite. Pray for sweet potato casserole as a side and don't forget the banana pudding.

              Steak and Ribs: JK's in Kill Devil Hills cooks everything over mesquite and their ribs are to die for. Prime Only in Nags Head is a la carte and pricey, but the steaks are excellent.

              Asian food: The Thai Room in Kill Devil Hills. There's a Japanese Hibachi/sushi place here that is pretty good, but I'm sure it's better where ever you live.

              Places we avoid: Kelly's, Mako Mike's, Argyle's, Pigman's, Penguin Isle in Nags Head has gone downhill in the last couple of years, Jolly Roger, Keeper's Galley, the Sanderling Inn, all the take out Chinese places.

              I'm not so familiar with the southern beaches, but I do like the Froggy Dog in Hatteras and Bubba's BBQ.

              I'd be happy to elaborate on any of my suggestins, you only have to ask. Happy Trails!

              21 Replies
              1. re: SweetPhyl

                Excellent list! Add the Roadside Bar & Grill in Duck for delicious clam chowder.

                1. re: Jeanne

                  Sorry, my bad...LOVE Roadside, great chowders and salads and BLTs!

                  1. re: SweetPhyl

                    Just heard that Lodavechi's may not be opening this comig season.Which is really sad to hear. They really are good people and were trying to do a good job. Which brought me to this thought.As you know SweetPhyl we are losing more and more good places to eat here on the beach. This is such a monster of a place to try to run a business. I guess I am trying to figure out what is it that us locals can do to try to help keep the local eateries from going belly up.It is so sad to see all the "chain" places that are opening up. Just something to think about....OBX

                    1. re: obxspiritdreamer

                      Pass ordinances that make it impossible to open chain restaurants. It's a little more complicated than that, but it's pretty common, I think, in coastal areas.

                      1. re: obxspiritdreamer

                        Well, the restaurant business anywhere is tough, but in a seasonal area, it's especially difficult. We have that "100 days of glory" in the summer and most of the places here that stay open year round, do so just to keep their employees; there's not much profit or they break even. However, things have changed and while I agree that we're losing some of the smaller places, we'e also getting new ones all the time. And, there's a place for the chains, too. Back in the old days, if you didn't want a fried seafood platter, you were pretty much out of luck for dining on the OBX. Now, we have a varied selection and I've been known to hit Outback for an affordable steak dinner. As for what the locals can do, our economy is soooo dependent on the real estate market here. When real estate suffers, so does everybody else: attorneys, surveyors, contractors, mortgage lenders, grocery stores, restaurants, EVERYBODY. It's amazing how much lagging sales affect the local economy. So, my advice to local restaurants, is to cut your prices in the off season and be happy if you break even. Most of the locals I know cannot afford to eat out right's really sad. Pray for a return of the real estate market!

                        BTW, I'm truly sad to hear about Lodavechi's...loved their picatta and always felt truly welcomed by Sonny & Dawn. Pity.

                        1. re: obxspiritdreamer

                          The formula is very simple on keeping the mom and pop restaurants going AND successful. I spent 24 years in the restaurant business and the last 16 years selling all kinds of food to restaurants. The chains are known for consistency even if it's mediocre know what you're gonna get. If the mom and pops would stick to these few things and do them consistently well, most would solve their own problems.
                          1. A clean looking exterior with all the lights working properly
                          2. Someone who is friendly greeting you once inside the door
                          3. Fast, but not too fast friendly service and be knowledgeable with your menu.
                          4. Easy one....serve hot food hot and cold food cold and serve it fresh and tasty..use local in season ingredients
                          5. Clear plates and glasses as the meal progresses
                          6. Friendly thank yous and goodbyes upon end of meal and exiting

                          These 6 things are the ONLY things important to a restaurants success in season and out of season.

                          These 6 things are

                      2. re: Jeanne

                        This was going to be my suggestion, too. They also do well for burgers and do a bit more upscale stuff at night. They had a duck entree that I was a fan of and the woman who runs the front of the house is also a dessert lover and makes a lot of recipes from current cooking magazines for their dessert menu.

                      3. re: SweetPhyl

                        What a nice list....My wife and I are also locals of about 7 years now and you hit the good ones pretty much on point.One that I would add as a personal favorite would be The Tale of the Whale on the causeway heading to Manteo...Thanks again SweetPhyl

                        1. re: SweetPhyl

                          Hi SweetPhyl,
                          Thanks for the great suggestions! I will be in Avon with Hubby and dog so we plan to cook most nights. Any suggestions for great seafood Market's down that way? Someone mentioned Austin's in Nag's Head..........
                          Also, do you fish? We will be bringing our gear:)
                          Thanks so much!

                          1. re: SweetPhyl


                            hey pards - your posting bout obx restaurants got me to join this chowhound deal - I think that seamark reco is up our alley- we planning on being obx for a week in feb.
                            mostly round that ockracoke- I saw a plate of grits and shrimp on tv and i'm wanting to find the places where the locals go- seemed you made some great recos but we eat beef everyday - and are looking forward to a couple of good "home style" type places like what folks from NC eat- if you think on it a bit more and something like that comes to mind please respond. I wrote another guy - not chowhound - just personal and he knew a place where we got a 2 pound cheeseburger in a bowling alley in NE Colorado. We of course are leaning more seafood and local stuff- my wife tried fried okra and she likes that as of june. Any extra help would be appreciated.

                            Thank you
                            dakotah territory

                            1. re: dakotah

                              Aw geeze Dakota...I Love Ocracoke, but I'm really clueless about the restos there. I'm more of a north beach gal. Anybody out there got a clue about "the number one beach in America"? I've heard great things about The Back Porch, but haven't eaten there...

                              Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

                              1. re: SweetPhyl

                                The Back Porch is favorite restaurant on O'coke.

                              2. re: dakotah

                                We know Ocracoke well. Great place to vacation, especially in Fall and Spring when there are fewer tourists. In February, however, most restaurants will be closed for the season. The only places that will definitely be open on the island in wintertime are Howard's Pub (big burgers, raw bar, huge beer list: and Jason's (pizza, subs, etc.), which is across the street from Howard's. Neither has the best food on the island, though both are fine for eating.

                              3. re: SweetPhyl

                                I grew up in Nags Head and my parents and some family are still there. I was gonna go all local expert on your a%# but honestly, I couldn't have done better (and no doubt would have done a lot worse) than SweetPhyl. That rundown is perfect.

                                Oops . . .cept I would mention the Nags Head Fishing Pier for breakfast. Not so much for the food (it's ok - i always get the em special with bacon) but the view is AWESOME.

                                1. re: happypig

                                  The salt herring for breakfast at Nags Head Pier would be worth a trip even if the restaurant was in the desert.

                                2. re: SweetPhyl

                                  Sweet Phyl... I am curious about Daryl's.... I couldn't find anything about them online, do you know their address? I will be visiting the OBX during Thanksgiving, currently live in CA and need to get my fill of hush puppies when I am back east. Any other suggestions for top hush puppy spots? Also, I am looking for somewhere to go for a thanksgiving meal. I was considering the lifegaurd station at the sanderling inn, curious why its on your avoid list. THANKS!!! =)

                                  1. re: SweetPhyl

                                    i'm at the outer banks right now, and have eaten at a few places listed in the thread (and on your list in particular):

                                    - sam and omie's. i had the crab eggs benedict. quite tasty, and the staff alone makes it worth the trip. i see how they have earned their rep.
                                    - thai room. again, what an amazing staff. i'm relatively sure the lady refilling our drinks was also the owner, and the food was excellent.
                                    - jockey's ribs. overpriced. WAY overpriced. and the ribs were pathetic. i had a gumbo that was tasty, though; this place feels like it has an identity crisis, trying to bridge the gap between a grub-type rib place and fine dining, and it doesn't work.
                                    - mama kwan's. i had the fish tacos one day for lunch. decent. there are better fish tacos available where i'm from (huntington, wv). how does huntington west virginia know how to better make fish tacos than a place at the beach?
                                    - corolla pizza. this place is quality. my (large) family ate two pepperoni pizzas, a works pizza, and a white pie (the one sans ricotta) and were thoroughly impressed.
                                    - beach bread. haven't eaten here per se, but bought a few cookies and a loaf of seeded rye, all of which was AWESOME. i'm buying a loaf of their country white to freeze and take back.
                                    - austin's seafood. bought some soft shelled blue crab. the staff was extremely helpful, explaining in detail how i should prepare them and just in general being super nice.
                                    - the blue point. food was excellent. the little rolls they bring pre-meal were like little clouds of delicious yeasty goodness, and i'm relatively sure the crew consumed a good four plates of them. we ordered two appetizers: the chipotle prawns and the fried green tomatoes. can someone PLEASE give me the recipe for something that tastes like the lemon tarragon mayonnaise they put on the tomatoes? holy moses. i personally had the crab cakes, but others around the table ordered the fried catfish, scallops, and new york strip, all of which were stunning in appearance and delicious in flavor. desserts were good if a bit dainty. i prefer my desserts huge and decadent, and it's clear they're shooting for a more french aesthetic in this department. definitely try the strawberry rhubarb cobbler. it was the star of the four we ordered (strawberry banana bread pudding, chocolate torte, creme brulee, and the cobbler).

                                    on the whole i've come away relatively unimpressed thus far with the food at the outer banks. have i just eaten at the wrong places? i did so much research, and tried to take everyone's advice, but the best meals i've had are the ones i made myself. what's the story?

                                    1. re: beelzebozo

                                      thanks for the post- great timing for my vacation. We are off to Corolla (whalehead) in July. We have been searching for good pizza in Corolla onn each visit, and have yet to find it. Will definitely try Corolla pizza this July- one question- Is Corolla Pizza the pizza olace in a small strip mall with a gas station out front? TIA

                                      1. re: macca

                                        i'm actually not sure. i'm pretty sure it's down near thai room (mile point 8.5 on the beach road) in kill devil hills, but i can't promise that. you should be able to do a google search and get the telephone number. we had their pizza specifically because we got in our house late (~7:30p) and didn't feel like going out after the long drive.

                                        1. re: beelzebozo

                                          Thanks- will check it out. Can't wait to get there. Hope you are enjoying your vacation. We have a long drive, too- coming from Massachusetts.We usually go down a day early and get a hotel room for one night, then up and shopping before we check in on Sat am. Will keep this thread for ideas.

                                    2. re: SweetPhyl

                                      Thank you for this very helpful post. I just got back from a two week stay in Duck during which time I had the opportunity to sample the local dining options. I would like to say that The Flying Fish has a new chef and it is not a good thing. The taste is mediocre at best and the presentation resembles something one would find at a diner. My husband and I decided to take both meals home and ended up throwing them out the next day. Truly awful and very expensive...good idea to avoid at all costs!

                                      My personal favorites however are The Pearl, Ocean Boulevard, and The Blue Point. The Pearl offers Sunday brunch, is oceanfront, and the chef's special attention to detail is outstanding...I could go on and on about this place because we truly loved it. Highly recommend it.

                                      Another place we visited was Owen's. It is great for families since the portions are huge, very shareable, and fresh. I would not categorize it as fine dining since the preparation is simple and traditional (no frilly stuff).

                                      Finally, if you are craving fish tacos or a very fresh inexpensive lunch without sacrificing taste, I highly recommend THE BAD BEAN (2 locations). This place is a 10 on cravability!

                                      Hope this post help someone = )

                                      Flying Fish Cafe
                                      2003 S Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948