Food

North Carolina Seafood Tour Part 3: Outer Banks

  • By Sandy Lang
  • Photography by Peter Frank Edwards
  • Illustration by Joseph Edwards

Travel from Ocracoke Island to Duck and taste some of the most delicious seafood North Carolina has to offer.

outer-banks
Along the saltwater edge of North Carolina, we have seafood. It’s in shacks, in stores, in dining rooms. It’s everywhere. There’s no way we could get to it all, but we tried. We sent a writer and a photographer on a three-part, south-to-north drive that took them on beach roads and ferries and fishing piers. They traveled 250 miles. And everywhere along the way, they ate.
  1. Howard’s Pub

    After the 22-mile ferry across Pamlico Sound, our first stop on remote Ocracoke is Howard’s Pub. Open since the late 1980s, it looks like a rambling, wooden beach house on the outside. Inside, above the wooden booths and tables, college pennants, surfboards, and license plates fill the walls. It’s a comfortable place to sit, and we order conch fritters to start (big chunks of conch and a sauce with a peppery kick), and then The Works, a seafood combo of oysters on the half shell, peel-and-eat shrimp, steamed mussels and clams, and a cluster of steamed crab legs.

    1175 Irvin Garrish Highway
    Ocracoke, N.C. 27960

  1. Buxton Seafood

    The next morning a fog hangs, and the ferry to Hatteras is about 15 minutes late. The sun burns through, though, and we’re on our way to Hatteras Island and Buxton Seafood, in business for nearly 50 years. The owner for the past decade, Nick Wolosuk, a former farmer and construction worker, is behind the counter in his vinyl work apron, and his Chihuahua, Patrick Henry, sleeps on a blanket near the cash register. Along with fresh scallops, shrimp, flounder, and other seafood, the market stocks Moss’ Seafood Breader Mix, made in Kittrell. His inventory, he explains, is based on his philosophy to buy and eat food “from here, not China.”

    49799 N.C. Highway 12
    Buxton, N.C. 27920

  1. Kelly’s Outer Banks Restaurant and Tavern

    We continue driving north, and N.C. Highway 12 still looks rough in places. Some of the tallest dunes have been windswept and washed over, and the multicolored, temporary bridge rumbles beneath the car’s wheels. In Nags Head, Mike Kelly works in his office in the cavernous Kelly’s Outer Banks Restaurant and Tavern. Art and memorabilia from the Outer Banks cover the walls throughout the dining rooms. He points out an 1884 black-and-white photo of men seining for jumping mullet, a whale vertebra “brought in from a guy at Stumpy Point,” and a “practice bomb” recovered from the World War II firing range in Duck. Dinner won’t be served for a few hours, but Mike gives us some just-made sweet potato biscuits for the road. Kelly’s biscuits are a specialty, and he says the four-ingredient recipe — sweet potatoes, brown sugar, water, and biscuit mix — was given to him by the cook at a hunting lodge in Currituck County.

    2316 South Croatan Highway
    Nags Head, N.C. 27959

  1. Coastal Provisions

    We head toward Currituck Sound, but first, we make a stop in Southern Shores. A popular gourmet food and wine store, Coastal Provisions, opened an adjoining outdoor oyster bar last summer. And it has a reputation for serving a whopper of a crab cake sandwich. One of the owners, Dan Lewis, explains that the crab cakes are made with lump and jumbo-lump crabmeat and a base of Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, bread crumbs, and spices. “We’re purists and don’t add green peppers or other fillers,” Lewis says. “We think the crab should taste like crab.” A local customer liked the sandwich so much that he began ordering a double (two crab cakes on a bun), and now the hefty Kevin’s Ultimate version is also a standard on the menu.

    1 Ocean Boulevard
    Southern Shores, N.C. 27949

  1. The Left Bank

    The final stop of the day, and of this mouthwatering, shore-following driving tour, is at The Left Bank restaurant in Duck, part of The Sanderling Resort. It’s a smooth finish. The elegant, curved room of windows facing the Currituck Sound is furnished in colors of Cognac and cream, and delicate bird sculptures are displayed on glass shelves. The food can look like a sculpture, too. One of the dishes on the tasting menu concocted that night by Chef de Cuisine Travis Lee Robinson consists of a single Rappahannock oyster in a gleaming, porcelain white shell, topped with white lychee sorbet, hackleback caviar, and a tiny sprig of Thai basil. It’s gorgeous and delicious. With no wall between the kitchen and the dining room, we watch the food being prepared. As at so many of the places on this coastal drive, in North Carolina, it is a place for people who simply and genuinely love the ocean and the seafood that it brings.

    1461 Duck Road
    Duck, N.C. 27949

A fan of seafood and road trips, writer Sandy Lang is based in Charleston, South Carolina, and she’s a contributing editor for Charleston Magazine and Maine magazine. Her most recent story for Our State was “Gimme Some Sugar” (February 2012).

Follow the rest of the Seafood Tour:
North Carolina Seafood Tour Part 1: Southern Coast
North Carolina Seafood Tour Part 2: Crystal Coast

This entry was posted in Coast, Dining, May 2012 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to North Carolina Seafood Tour Part 3: Outer Banks

  1. Kerri Hemric says:

    My grandfather was fishing at the coast when this issue was made and had his picture put in it. I didn’t receive an issue to keep. Is there any way I could get a copy?

  2. R U Kidding says:

    I think your research is a tad faulty. Howard’s Pub may be the biggest restaurant on the island but they are most certainly NOT the best. You missed the best (The Flying Melon, The Back Porch, The Cafe Atlantic) by taking the easy route.
    And conch? King crab legs? Mussels? These are native to North Carolina?

  3. Vernon Joyner says:

    The Pony Island restaurant on Ocracoke should definitely be on your list of North Carolina seafood restaurants. The food is great, traditional seafood with the best hushpuppies on the island. It’s our favorite on Ocracoke. In addition to their menu items, my family and I enjoy bringing our own “catch of the day” fresh from the waters of the Pamlico Sound, which they always cook to perfection, and serve with abundant sides. I was raised in Eastern North Carolina and I’ve been going to the Outer Banks for as long as I can remember. The Pony Island never fails to bring me back to the old time seafood restaurants of my youth.

  4. Pingback: North Carolina Seafood Tour Part 2: Crystal Coast | Our State Magazine

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