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Hatteras clam chowder favorites in OBX?

Melanie Wong Apr 20, 2011 12:59 PM

During my two days in the Outer Banks (Wednesday and Thursday from Ocracoke to Kitty Hawk), I'd love to try a couple good examples of Hatteras style clam chowder. This can be to-go or eat-in. One of the regulars on my home board, San Francisco Bay Area, grew up in Virginia and had mentioned it years ago.

From reading old posts, so far I've found recs for chowder at:

Diamond Shoals
Pop's Raw Bar
Sam & Omie's
Rundown Cafe

And where not to go:
The Pelican in Ocracoke

Still good? Other spots?

Sam & Omie's Restaurant
7228 S Virginia Dare Trl, Nags Head, NC 27959

Rundown Cafe
5218 Virginia Dare Trl N, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949

Pop's Raw Bar
48967 Nc 12 Hwy, Buxton, NC 27920

Diamond Shoals Restaurant
46843 Nc 12 Hwy, Buxton, NC 27920

Pelican Restaurant
PO Box 447, Ocracoke, NC 27960

  1. 1
    12North Oct 21, 2013 08:34 AM

    I was just at The Black Pelican in Kitty Hawk the other day and tried their Hatteras style chowder. Lots of flavor and lots of clam! We've been coming to this area for MANY years and always make it a point to stop by this establishment. Another favorite of ours is Red Sky Cafe in Duck. Very fresh and everything is made to order. Cozy yet just a little more upscale cuisine.

    1. Melanie Wong Sep 26, 2013 01:04 AM

      Final example was found at Lone Cedar where it's called Mama's Wanchese clam chowder on the menu. From a family recipe, this is made with just clams, bacon, onions, and clam in a clear broth. This had a bit more substance to it, picking up a slight thickening from the potato starch, and included a substantial amount of coarsely chopped clams. My favorite of my clam chowder run, this version was bursting with clean fresh flavors. A terrific way to go out.

      There was a special event going on at Lone Cedar and seating in the Osprey Lounge was all that was available to me. I had a seat at the bar and the barkeep took good care of me. The first softshell crabs of the season were the special of the day. They were such a treat especially with a glass of a nice Macon Village.

      I got a cup of the she crab soup to go, intending to reheat it for my breakfast. When I got back to my room, I figured I should have a little taste of it fresh before putting it away. Boy that was delicious and packed with big lumps of sweet crab. I finished it on the spot and recognized why this is such a famous dish.

      On my way out of town I stopped at The Dunes in the middle of breakfast service to see if the clam chowder might be available for take-out. The hostess checked with the kitchen, but it was too early in the day and the chowder had not yet been prepared for the day. Someone else will need to report on this one.

      When prepared well with fresh ingredients, as at Lone Cedar, Hatteras chowder is a unique and pure expression of local clams unsullied by cream or tomatoes. A most delicious quest.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong
        JayL Oct 22, 2013 12:02 PM

        Chowder the way chowder should be.

        1. re: JayL
          Melanie Wong Oct 22, 2013 04:52 PM

          Preaching to the choir! And I say that with all the fervor of a recent convert. :)

          My trip in 2011 was planned so that I could immerse myself in North Carolina's barbecue. Hot dogs and donuts added some diversion. I have to say that my foray into Hatteras clam chowder was as satisfying as visiting historic pits.

      2. Melanie Wong Sep 25, 2013 02:02 AM

        A big storm was coming in and the innkeeper urged me to hit the road early. One of the workmen came out to the parking lot with me to see what my rental car looked like. He said he'd be returning north himself in less than an hour and would keep an eye out for me if I was stuck on the side of the road. Ominous.

        I had a long wait to get over the bridge, as only one direction was allowed to cross at a time. But I did make it and had an unusual visit at Kitty Hawk, barely able to stand up in the fierce winds.

        Early dinner that night was at Tortugas Lie. The Hatteras clam chowder had pretty good flavor, but the clams were dominated by the sweet taste of carrots.

        I mentioned to my waitress that I was on a quest to try as many versions of chowder as I could and she recommended that I go to The Dunes.

        1. Melanie Wong Sep 25, 2013 01:45 AM

          My innkeeper at the Sea Side Inn had pointed me to Dinky's saying that it was by far the best restaurant on the island. I poked my head in there too, but no Hatteras chowder.

          Before departing the next morning, I made one more try, stopping at a seafood market I'd noticed, Harbor House Seafood. Success! Hatteras clam chowder made from local fresh clams and nothing from a can. More about it here,

          1. Melanie Wong Sep 25, 2013 01:37 AM

            Finally posting the rest two years after the fact . . .

            After Diamond Shoals I was determined to taste Hatteras style chowder on Hatteras Island, so I went to Pop's Raw Bar immediately afterwards. Indeed Hatteras chowder made without dairy, instead this was dominated by the taste of very smoky bacon. In this photo, the pieces of smoked fat floating on the surface are easy to see.
            And this second photo shows the melted bacon fat separated along the edge of the bowl.

            More like bacon chowder than clam chowder.

            1. Melanie Wong Apr 29, 2011 05:27 AM

              First stop on the Hatteras-style clam chowder derby was Diamond Shoals in Buxton.
              I stopped there on Wednesday after a visit to the Cape Hatteras lighthouse nearby.

              Diamond Shoals is a multi-year winner of best chowder on Hatteras Island.

              Oddly though, the prize-winning chowder is not Hatteras-style, but rather has milk in it and fresh herbs. The small bits of chopped clams and clam broth base seemed canned to me. I did like the texture, not too thick, for a New England chowder. But the Italian herbs were way overdone and this reeked of too much rosemary.

              A couple of hush puppies were served up with the cup of chowder. Unfortunately, they seemed like they'd been held under a heat lamp for too long as the crust was tough and hard.

              The restaurant did redeem itself with the appetizer size, fresh grouper fingers, $7.99.
              My first time tasting fried snowy grouper and I loved the soft pillowy texture of the white flesh. Very light battered coating, and fried to a tee. This came with a quite spicy chipotle dipping sauce. I asked for tartar sauce too. Served in a squeeze bottle, the tartar was very dense and thick with juicy pickle bits and fresh dill from the herb garden.

              Diamond Shoals Restaurant
              46843 Nc 12 Hwy, Buxton, NC 27920

              1. j
                Jeanne Apr 21, 2011 10:04 PM

                Tortugas Lie is one of my favorite restaurants in the Outer Banks - is a very casual, fun place with good food. They have the Hatteras clam chowder, as well as a grilled tuna burger and a fried oyster burger. I usually get their Baja fish tacos - yummy.


                1. meatn3 Apr 20, 2011 02:46 PM

                  I'm pretty sure the Pelican has changed hands and name. My SO played there last summer and said the food was very tasty. No idea if the new owners are doing chowder though. I'll try to find more details.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: meatn3
                    Melanie Wong Apr 20, 2011 05:35 PM

                    Thanks, I did a search and found your post saying it's now Daijio. When I first read the name, I thought it was Japanese. Now I've read the website and it's anything but. :)


                    305 Irvin Garrish Hwy, Ocracoke, NC

                  2. Sue in Mt P Apr 20, 2011 02:06 PM

                    I'd look for oyster stew as well. Oysters are still, barely, in season.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Sue in Mt P
                      Melanie Wong Apr 20, 2011 02:13 PM

                      Oh, good idea! Where's your favorite for oyster stew? And how does it differ from the style served in the Northeast (New England, New York)?

                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                        Sue in Mt P Apr 20, 2011 02:22 PM

                        I can't tell you the difference since I've never had it up north. In my rare trips to NYC I load up on pastrami and bagels.

                        At Rundown I always get Rundown. I've only had breakfast at Sam and Omie's. I've never been to the other 2.

                        1. re: Sue in Mt P
                          Melanie Wong May 14, 2011 07:27 PM

                          Thanks for putting the idea in my head. Here's my post on the oyster stew in Beaufort, NC.

                          And I did check out the Rundown Cafe, what a cool little place! The clam chowder there is New England style, so I got a cup of the Rundown soup. The traditional Jamaican soup made with fish, coconut milk, tomatoes, onions and yams is $3.50/cup and so rich that would be about all I'd want at one sitting. And then I'd want it again and again. Thanks for the rec.

                          More chowder reports soon...

                          Rundown Cafe
                          5218 Virginia Dare Trl N, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949

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