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May 28, 2009 08:52 PM

North Carolina seafood restaurants - which ones source locally?

I like my seafood to be fresh and local (having grown up 20 miles from working waterfronts in my youth, I got spoiled on the taste). Plus, I like to support local families and communities. So what seafood restaurants in NC feature fresh and local seafood for the bulk of their menu? I called a few of the places I like to frequent with some mixed results:

1) Catch Restaurant - Wilmington, NC - as expected, their strategy is to source from local and sustainable seafood. The blurb at the bottom of their menu proclaims as much. They proudly feature "NC shrimp" and "local oysters". I've found not everything is always available, but that's a good thing.

2) South Beach Grill - Wrightsville Beach, NC - this place led to a disappointing phone call. It had always been a staple of mine at the coast, and I know in times past their menu stated that the seafood was fresh and whatever they were selling in the adjacent market. Well, I called them and asked whether the shrimp and oysters were local, and they flatly said "no" and left it at that. They didn't even volunteer where it was coming from.

3) Backfins Crab House, Wake Forest, NC - the blue crabs here are awesome, but I asked about the other seafood sources. Oysters there are from Louisiana, and shrimp are "not local but domestic." I overheard another table recently state that the calamari looked "too uniform" to not be prepackaged, but that's hearsay.

4) Red Barn Grill, Hubert, NC (or Swansboro, NC) - this is a place at the very end of the road that features a seafood market and working dock and is a favorite gem for locals. When I called and asked about whether the shrimp and oysters were local, they seemed surprised that I would even be questioning it, and said, "you can bet your bottom dollar." I'm really gonna have to try this place soon.

So, that's my roundup. Anyone know of any other seafood restaurants, especially ones inland near the Triangle, that stick to local sources? I like calabash-style, and unfortunately a place that sources well like Blu Seafood and Bar in Durham doesn't tend to feature that style too much.

South Beach Grill
100 S Lumina Ave, Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480

215 Princess St, Wilmington, NC 28401

Red Barn Grill
101 Red Barn Road, Hubert, NC

Backfins Crab House
110 S White St, Wake Forest, NC 27587

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  1. Gary's Down East, in Arapahoe, is usually second to none, especially when softshells are in season. However, I don't know their sources.

    3 Replies
    1. re: wb247

      I live here on Topsail Island and in the past years you could find fresh Seafood at most of the Restaurants now thanks to US Foods and Sysco that has been replaced with pre-breaded and frozen Seafood.I buy My Seafood from the Fishermen and take it home and cook it,Leave that crap to the Tourists who don't know anybetter.

      1. re: jellybear

        I am bringing our Family down for the first time in August.Are there any nice non- seafood places to eat at.We do like seafood, but are there any good alternatives?Thanks.My group is a little larger than most I don't like having to many bad dining experiences , besides that I don't want it to taint our visit.

        1. re: wifeneightkids

          where are you going? In the Jacksonville area, most of the choices you have will not be seafood restaurants.

    2. The Lone Cedar in Nags Head uses fresh local seafood and they grow some of their produce on site.

      8 Replies
      1. re: mpjmph

        wow, great rec. from their website:

        "At Basnight's Lone Cedar Cafe you won't find frozen, imported or farm-raised seafood of any kind. You won't find frozen meats, canned vegetables stored in chemical preservatives or mass produced desserts.

        Here's what you will find on the menu at the Lone Cedar Cafe:

        * fresh-caught fish, crabs, clams, squid, shrimp and oysters-brought to our docks daily by local watermen, cleaned and prepared onsite;
        * steaks from the top 3% of all beef produced in the United States;
        * pork and poultry products are from North Carolina farms;
        * just-picked vegetables brought from local farmers;
        * recipes seasoned with an assortment of insecticide-free, fresh herbs;
        * delicious, down-home, handmade desserts by our resident pastry chef.

        1. re: mikeh

          A word of warning though, they do not take reservations and are often very crowded, especially during peak beach tourist season. If you do go and have a long wait they have a very nice deck over looking the sound and you can check out the raised beds where they grown herbs and tomatoes.

        2. re: mpjmph

          Food there could be the most outstanding anywhere but I don't eat there because of the

          Other places on the OBX just as good, or better, imho.

          1. re: goodeatsinadive

            Please disclose those other places. Thanks!

          2. re: mpjmph

            Lone Cedar is amazing BUT a bit expensive. Especially for a large group. I had the best Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops there! OMG. Our whole family was thrilled with the place. We didn't have a reservation and yet we got right in pretty much. Waited only a tiny bit. The place was packed. You should dress fairly nicely though, altho' we were pretty casual and we had no problems. For more casual and less expensive I would go with Awful Arthurs. They also have a few NON seafoody places there. One of them was Cajun, I forget the name now. We also had terrific Thai food at Thai Gardens. Unbelievabley good.

            1. re: RisaG

              Lone cedar is not amazing. I had the most bland, mediocre piece of tuna there with no sauce. I also had sugar snap beans that were missing a really good chance if they weren't frozen. After my one visit, I would also avoid a crab dip appetizer, which was more like hot cream cheese and horsradish dip with no crab to be seen.

              1. re: veganhater

                This is surprising in a few ways. They source a lot from local farmers and have their own garden, so not sure why you were getting frozen beans.

                1. re: mikeh

                  It could have been how they were cooked, or overcooked, but they were watery and tasted like frozen versions. I thought the same thing after reading their testamonial on the menu. Everything we did have was completely underseasoned, and the fish ordered (Tuna and Spanish Mackerel) was served naked, with tartar and cocktail sauce on the table. I will give them one more try this summer and report back.

          3. Check with 22 North on Wrightsville Beach, I haven't been there for more than a year but I believe that they get a lot of thier seafood from Mott's Channel Seafood. Also, I believe, Mark's on Market (Wilmington- Ogden area) sources locally Heck of a Peck Oyster Bar, Wilmington, works with the NC Marine Fisheries to help restore oyster beds in the area and in 2006 received the Pelican Award from the NC Coastal Federation for thier conservation efforts (I think that makes them worthy of a visit).

            You have to remember that seafood is seasonal and some areas are over fished or destroyed by polution. You can't pull oysters from many creeks around Wilmington because of polution in the water. When buying seafood I always go for wild and as local as possible. If NC or SC shrimp aren't available in the winter Ithen I would happily take Gulf Coast shrimp. As long as it is not farm raised and from outside of the US.

            1 Reply
            1. re: seaglass910

              This is a very good point. My underlying objective is going with restaurants whose menus reflect the seasonality of availability. I'd prefer those like Catch or Lone Cedar that change their menu up to reflect what's available, but I'm also fine with Gulf Coast shrimp, etc. What I don't want to do is go to seafood restaurants that source their product from Sysco or US Foods (as the other poster mentioned, most seafood restaurants these days do) or those that go the prebreaded/prefrozen route. The truck should be coming from the docks or US-17 South, not from I-40 West...

            2. Tryon Palace Seafood in New Bern gets their stuff from local fisherman; the owner is an ex-commercial fisherman himself.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Naco

                Looks like their hours are 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Monday-Saturday. Gonna make it over there soon.

              2. Kemp's in Raleigh is run by the same family that runs the North Carolina Seafood Restaurant at the Farmer's Market there. I always heard all their seafood was local. You should try both these restaurants if you haven't already.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Lewes17266

                  I checked with Kemp's and their seafood is not "local" per se, although their distributor sources from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic. Close...but not quite.

                  Still have to check with the Farmer's Market.

                  1. re: mikeh

                    Twin Creeks which is right at the bridge before you cross over to Sunset Beach. The owners also own a Seafood Market. I know a few people who work there, everything comes from local sources.

                    You can tell the diffenece when you eat there, one of the only places I'll go myself or take company.