Emerald Isle, NC
don't miss the shrimpburgers (and barbecue) at the big oak drive inn, in salter path, just down the road from emerald isle. the red barn grill, in hubert, is a terrific, no frills seafood place, and is worth a trip (just about 20 min). in morehead city, i've been going to the sanitary fish market for lunch my entire life, and though it's something of a tourist trap these days, they've still got the best hush puppies in eastern carolina, and the food is good. white swan barbecue, which is attached to a gas station down near atlantic beach, is pretty great, too. there are plenty of upscale options down there these days, but i haven't really been to any of them.
oh, and if you make a trip up to beaufort, (cute little seaside town, worth the short drive) just past morehead city, the beaufort grocery is a great little lunch spot, with both seafood and non-seafood options (their crabcake sandwich is the best around, i think). there's a nice little boat museum there in town, too.
also nice, if not food related, would be a trip out to either cape lookout or hammocks beach - both only accessible by ferry. and if you're up for a longer drive up the outer banks, the coolest campground on the coast is the frisco, nc, national (or state?) park service place. a little out of the way, but that's the way we like it, right? right in the dunes, right on an unspoiled stretch of hatteras national seashore, with a view of the lighthouse up the coast. very cool.
Here are a few places in Moorhead City open for lunch and dinner serving good local seafood.
Bistro by the Sea @ 4031 Arendell St., Morehead City, NC 252 - 247 - 2777.
Chef 105 Restaurant @ 105 South 7th St., Morehead City, NC 252 - 240 - 1105.
Ruddy Duck Tavern @ 509 Evans St., Morehead City, NC 252 - 726 - 7500.
Shepard's Point @ 913 Arendell St., Morehead City, NC 252 - 727 - 0815.
913 Arendell St, Morehead City, NC 28557
Ruddy Duck Tavern
509 Evans St, Morehead City, NC 28557