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Morehead City/Beaufort NC

Please help out some Philadelphians heading down to Morehead City for a week -- first time in the Carolinas! Can't find any recent postings about restaurants. Looking for suggestions about the local specialties, seafood restaurants, local haunts, and fine (but not too fine) dining. Menus with abundant vegetarian choices a plus.

Thanks, in advance, to the wonderful Chowhound community.

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  1. My favorite fine restaurants in order of preference:
    Williams- Morehead waterfront
    Blue Moon Bistro-Beaufort
    Bistro By the Sea-Hwy 70 in front of the Hampton Inn
    Carltons-Pine Knoll shores, around Mile marker 10
    Stillwater-Beaufort waterfront

    For good breakfast, deli sandiches and Friday and Saturday night pasta specials (cheap)- NY Deli on your right just over the Atlantic Beach bridge by Crowes Nest marina

    2 Replies
    1. re: NXS

      Good suggestions by NXS. I'd also add Channel Marker on the left just after you cross over the bridge from Morehead City to Atlantic Beach. Also, consider Rap's (Morehead City) and Clawson's (Beaufort) if you just want some bar food (though, they are both only adequate).

      1. re: jsb23nc

        I had lunch at Channel Marker about a month and a half ago - everyone was disappointed in their food. I had a shrimp burger which couldn't compare to EL's Drive Inn - an institution in Morehead City and still going strong. My friend had their fried flounder which she couldn't eat. I don't recommend it.

    2. My husband's family has a condo in Atlantic beach, so we frequent the area during the summer as often as we can.

      For quicker lunches, I liked the NY Deli and the Bountiful Bagel (in MHC, 4050 Arendell St).

      For a leisurely lunch or Sunday brunch, I always enjoy The Spouter Inn (http://thespouterinn.com/). Spouter's has a very nice outdoor patio (honestly I go there for the patio as much as for the food; the food is good but I found the desserts to be just so-so), and of the 8 or so times we've been there we've seen dolphins out in the distance at least 3 times. I believe Stillwater is right next to Spouter's... Stillwater is also good.

      For breakfast, I enjoyed the Cox Family restaurant (in MHC, it's on 70). It is homestyle cooking... not sure how vegetarian it is if you don't eat eggs.

      For dinner, I have always enjoyed Amos Mosquito's in Atlantic Beach. It is popular, though (espcially with local families... I think because of the extremely nice people who run the place and the make-your-own-s'mores on the dessert menu). I have been there many times, and the one time my tuna was over-cooked, they replaced it immediately and comped us dessert for our trouble.

      When I was in MHC for business for a few weeks, all the locals were talking about El's drive-in for shrimp burgers. I haven't been, but if you happen to drive by you might give it a try.

      Have a wonderful time in MHC!

      1. I enjoyed The Crab's Claw, in Atlantic Beach, right on the beach:


        Some other good tips on this thread as well.

        5 Replies
        1. re: MMRuth

          Whatever you do, don't believe the hype about the Sanitary.

            1. re: MMRuth

              MMRuth, I think what jsb23nc is trying to say is, there are dozens of restaurants in the Crystal Coast area that are better than the inexplicably popular Sanitary Fish Market.

              You'll see their t-shirts around, no doubt. Sanitary is a very sort of chic choice for vacationers because of their spot on the water, and, I don't know, there's some sort of trendy thing going on there where people just like to say they're "going to Sanitary." Average if you ask me..

              I've never been big on the Channel Marker either...El's however is a must. Remember it is just a drive in though...albeit one awesome drive in.

              1. re: planbee

                I won't defend their food but part of the "hype" is the fact they have been in business for nearly 70 years and thus are a true landmark destination in NC. Countless folks parents and grandparents associate going to the beach there with a trip to the Sanitary. There is better food around . . . and there is worse food too.

                1. re: planbee

                  Ah - thank you - I'm not that familiar with the area - visited Crab's Claw with my mother who lives in New Bern - and so I thought it was some reference to the word "sanitary" in conjunction with Crab's Claw! Appreciate the clarification!

          1. We enjoyed dinner at the Net House in Beaufort a few weekends ago. Plain simple fried seafood, but very fresh and cooked perfectly. The seafood bisque was especially good - three of us shared a large bowl as app. Hushpuppies and desserts may be their only vegetarian items.

            Not that I think about it, it wasn't quite that plain - this was the first time I've eaten crab stuffed softshell crabs, and I will definitely get them again.

            1 Reply
            1. re: AreBe

              For home cooking and good basic seafood, I'd also recommend Mrs. Willis in Morehead City. El's is indeed a long-standing institution but I frankly prefer the shrimp burgers at the Big Oak in Salter Path which is almost equally famous. It's been awhile since I've been but one of my all time favorites is Windansea on the Morehead waterfront if still open.

            2. If you are looking for a restaurant that has a variety of vegetarian choices as well as fresh seafood, you should try Cafe Zito in Morehead City. I don't think any of the other restaurants mentioned actually have vegetarian entrees. And if you really want fresh, local seafood, don't go to the Sanitary or Channel Marker. It is not fresh and it is almost always not local. Right now there are 3 places in MHC and Beaufort that are finalists in the Best Dish of North Carolina competition. Cafe Zito is one of them, but all three are worth a visit. You can see for yourself:

              1. For lunch and dinner, try the Beafort Grocery...in Beaufort (obviously). www.beaufortgrocery.com

                As mentioned before, El's in Morehead is great for shrimp burgers, hot dogs, hamburgers, etc.

                1. I definitely second the recs for Blue Moon Bistro in Beaufort. I like the Beaufort Grocery better for lunch (or brunch) than for dinner - I think the dinner menu tends to be very heavy and overpriced. Stillwater (Beaufort waterfront) is an extremely lovely place for a long, leisurely waterfront lunch.

                  Since I haven't seen it mentioned yet, Aqua in Beaufort is also very good - they serve small plates, pretty creative, nice wine list - although there's nothing particularly "local" or beach-y about it.

                  Totally agree about the Sanitary fish market - not only is the food not very good, the prices are very high! My boyfriend went once for lunch at about 3 pm, and they made us order from the dinner menu (apparently lunchtime was over), where we were hard-pressed to find an entree for less than $15. It is a landmark, but I think they pay as much attention to t-shirt sales as food these days. I don't know the other Morehead restaurants as well as I do Beaufort, but for very good, straightforward seafood, Net House in Beaufort would be my choice.

                  1. Where ever you go, don't eat at either Sanitary or Captain Bill's. Both deserve each other in bad food hell...

                    However, some of the best seafood and one of the best steaks you'll ever eat will be found at the Watermark Restaurant near Emerald Isle.

                    1. Blue Moon Bistro in Beaufort and Cafe Zito in MHC are the best. Bistro by the Sea pretty darn good and a lot of fun.

                      1. Thanks to all of you who contributed your thoughts. We heeded your advice and avoided the Sanitary (unlike friends who went the first night and were disappointed-should've looked at Chowhound first!).

                        Made it to:
                        Beaufort Grocery Co. for lunch: Very good.
                        Net House. Great stuffed soft shell crabs and everybody enjoyed their meals. AreBe was right: the seafood bisque was amazing. Took out a pint our last night.
                        Bistro-By-The-Sea: Not exactly a fine-dining atmosphere, but the food was quite good. Too bad there wasn't any fish that didn't have fancy sauces.
                        Blue Moon Bistro: salmon over lobster ravioli with asparagus-excellent. Hint: in the afternoon was told the place was fully booked, but showed up around 9:00 after golf and were seated in the bar area. Our best meal.
                        Williams: highly recommended by our hosts, but we were a bit disappointed. Slow service (although two drinks were on the house as make-up). Overall, though, very good.
                        NY Deli: took out sandwiches. Great hoagie!

                        Didn't make it to El's Drive-In for a shrimp burger, but had one from Laurie Ann's in Swansboro. I thought it would be a patty-the shrimp equivalent of a crabcake-but to my surprise it was a pile of fried shrimp between two hamburger rolls. Silly me.

                        The "best" meal, though, was when my partner cooked the three fish we caught during a five hour fishing trip. Hmmm...$140 tour divided by three fish equals $47 per fish. Oh well, that's not the point; it was the experience we went for. Oh wait, my SO got seasick for much of the trip ....At least one of us had a good time!

                        Thanks again to all you Chowhounds. Much appreciated.