Ocean Isle Beach
For Mexican - 1) San Jose / slightly better overall food IMHO & good beer specials & 2) San Felipe. Both are technically in Shallotte (10-15 minutes away), have very good service and are better than average. If you like spicy, tell them and they will kick it up for you and both make their own Hot Salsa.
San Jose makes their Chorizo in house and uses Angus Beef.
Duffer's (also in Shallotte) has very good Burgers and good selection of hot sandwiches, reasonably priced and a locals favorite.
Thanks for your input! Follow up:
We did go in to Calabash one night because my daughter needed her annual Low Country fried sea food and hush puppy fix. Suffice it to say that we are good for at least another year. The highlight of the trip was getting ice cream at the Creamery there, sitting in rockers on that big porch, and watching my 15 month old granddaughter tackle her first ice cream cone.
Once my SIL's parents arrived, we went to a Mexican place that's behind the Food Lion near Sunset Beach. Las Palmas, I think. We were on our way to Barefoot Landing & decided that was a better option than eating in on of the expensive tourist traps there. Disclosure: My SIL's father is Mexican, so the family in general has higher expectations for Mexican food. Overall, it was OK. Drinks were great. There were 8 of us and a 15 month old, so the fact that we got good, fast service was a real plus. The food, however, was meh. My Chiles Rellenos were by far the worst I've ever had -- Poblanos cut in half & filled with a not very well season ground beef mixture. Others did not seem to have an issue with their food, but no one said they loved it either. Next year we will go to one of the places in Shallotte recommended above.
The rest of the time we ate at home. We discovered a wonderful produce stand, called Alice's, a few mile or so from the bridge on the way to Sunset Beach, on the right-hand side. Great corn, melons, lettuce, & tomatoes. Alice sent us to a shrimp guy who was a bit further down the road on the left-hand side. He sells what he catches, and he only sells shrimp. They were outstanding. Better than the shrimp from the docks at Calabash. We had surf and turf 3 nights, with steamed cocktail shrimp, marinated, skewered & grilled jumbo shrimp, and steak from Lowe's of burgers. We stopped at both places the morning that we left & brought stuff home.
We did not try the Sugar Shack -- maybe next year. We also noticed that a Mexican place was "opening soon" in the strip of stores just over the bridge & across from Lowe's. That will be for next year too.
I know you have already made your trip so I will post this for the benefit of future visitors.
While out going for groceries, my wife spied Causeway Gourmet 100-6 Causeway Dr, 910 575 1084 at the mainland foot of the OIB bridge.
They were closed but let her in and gave her a menu and lots of good vibes.
We (6 of us, age 87-14) went just after 6 pm Friday night as we didnt want to wait for a table and wanted to make the OIB Friday night outdoor music "concert" at the museum .
This place is predominately a caterer and they do a big take out and delivery business.
The dining room is small , maybe 10 tables, all full by 6:30 and for what it is worth, the room was rather warm. It is adjacent to the kitchen and they do a HUGE take out business. We may pick up next time we go.
What a great way to eat at the beach, no dressing or waiting!
We began with a grilled garlic shrimp app served with chipotle cocktail sauce. We all loved it, the shrimp were garlicky and done just right.
The menu is rather extensive, nine salad options (inc. sesame noodle, Thai beef, caprese, etc.) 10 cold sandwiches, 16 hot sandwiches, 5 pasta dishes (my wife had the Sunset Shrimp - sauteed shrimp in a tomato basil cream sauce with bowtie pasta - great), 9 main entrees plus several off the menu specials. I had the sauteed flounder served on vermicelli with garlic spinach and a lemon caper butter sauce - outstanding.
They also have a large dessert menu which is subject to change.
Our order also included a grilled salmon salad as an entree, one lasagna and one 3 cheese open face sandwich, plus one dessert and many spoons.
Total pre tip was $92.00 (again, 6 of us, one app , 6 meals and one dessert - no alcohol - but they do serve beer and wine) which I thought was very reasonable for the quality of the meal.
It was less expensive than the debacle of a meal we had at Sharky's at OIFC which I will not bore you with .
Patronie's Pizza at Holden Beach is very good. We found this place last weekend while we were at Holden (don't get to Holden but every couple of years, by choice). Haven't had pizza from another place there, but one would be hard pressed to find something better than Patronie's. Definitely a "must do" the next time we're that way.