A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

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Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

How many have you been to? Check each off your list with The NC Seafood Restaurant Bucket List. [cool-timeline based="default" category="local-legends" layout="compact" compact-ele-pos="main-date" designs="design-2" skin="light" date-format="Y" pagination="ajax_load_more" filters="no" icons="NO" animations="none"

39 Legendary North Carolina Seafood Restaurants

How many have you been to? Check each off your list with The NC Seafood Restaurant Bucket List.

Sunny Side Oyster Bar


Inside a white-and-green clapboard building dating back to 1930, customers can take a seat at the horseshoe-shaped counter for scallops, shrimp, crab legs, and, of course, oysters — all steamed. Read more …


1102 Washington Street
(252) 792-3416

Sam & Omie’s

Nags Head

Capt. Sambo Tillet opened Sambo’s to serve breakfast to other local fishermen. He later added the name of his son, also a fisherman, to the restaurant. In 1971, the family sold the restaurant, but customers still come in for their morning “Omie-lettes,” as well as lunch or dinner featuring local fish.


7228 South Virginia Dare Trail
(252) 441-7366

Sanitary Fish Market and Restaurant
Sanitary Fish Market and Restaurant

Morehead City


Capts. Ted Garner and Tony Seamon first met at the Morehead City port and soon joined forces to open the Sanitary. Now, Garner’s grandchildren Jeff and Lisa run the place. Diners can enjoy the famous soft-shell crab sandwiches surrounded by historical photos.


501 Evans Street
(252) 247-3111




Ruth Beck, one of the first to serve Calabash-style fried seafood, founded Beck’s restaurant in 1940. The restaurant has been passed down through generations and carries on the Calabash tradition with plates full of fried clams, scallops, shrimp, and flounder.


1014 River Road
(910) 579-6776


Nags Head


Everyone thought that Bob and Clara Owens were crazy for opening their restaurant on the bare strip of land that was South Nags Head in 1946. Seventy-seven years later, their family-owned business is still serving authentic food from the North Carolina coast. One of the restaurant’s most renowned dishes is Miss O’s Crabcakes, named for the woman who started it all. Read more …


7114 South Virginia Dare Trail
(252) 441-7309

The Breezeway Restaurant
The Breezeway Restaurant

Topsail Beach


The original Breezeway Inn & Cafe buildings, located on the site of the Camp Davis barracks and mess hall, were replaced by the Breezeway Restaurant and Motel in 1972. During their meals, diners can marvel at a 300-gallon fish tank and co-owner Bill Cherry’s extensive collection of shells and sharks’ teeth.


634 Channel Boulevard
(910) 328-4302

Beach Shop & Grill
Beach Shop & Grill

Topsail Beach


In 1952, Warren’s Soda Shop was known for its hot dogs, hamburgers, and orangeades. Today, owner Cheryl Price has transformed it into an upscale New American restaurant that prides itself on its scratch-made farm- and ocean-to-table fare made with organic and sustainable ingredients.


701 South Anderson Boulevard
(910) 328-6501

El’s Drive-In
El’s Drive-In

Morehead City


No need to get out of your car: Just wait for a carhop to walk up, take your order, and be back in a flash. The small brick building is unassuming, but inside, legendary meals are made. Once customers receive their oysterburger or shrimpburger, they can dine outside at wooden tables or roll down their windows to enjoy their meals on the spot. Read more …


3706 Arendell Street
(252) 726-3002

Darrell’s Seafood Restaurant
Darrell’s Seafood Restaurant



Locals know that there’s more than just fried oysters, crab cakes, and popcorn shrimp here — there’s also delicious barbecue. Founded by Darrell and Dora Daniels, the restaurant is now run by their son Allen and his family, who all play a big role in carrying on the legacy.


521 U.S. Highway 64/264
(252) 473-5366

T&W Oyster Bar



This restaurant started as a small, 25-seat A-frame building on cofounder Earl Taylor’s family farm in Carteret County. The current space, which has remained the same since 1985, seats 250 people and offers freshly shucked oysters and hot hush puppies.


2383 NC Highway 58
(252) 393-8838

The Crab Shack
The Crab Shack

Salter Path


Vernon Guthrie opened this iconic restaurant as an extension of a seafood market. Today, Craig Guthrie carries on his father’s legacy. Customers can enjoy steamed king, snow, Dungeness, or blue crab legs, and, occasionally, a tasty dish that is deeply tied to Bogue Sound: conch stew. Read more …


144 Shore Drive
(252) 247-3444

Big Oak Drive-In & BBQ
Big Oak Drive-In & BBQ

Salter Path


Walk up to the window for an unforgettable coastal lunch of barbecue, burgers, and fried seafood — including the famous shrimpburger: fried shrimp, tartar sauce, slaw, and ketchup stacked on a steamed bun. Read more …


1167 Salter Path Road
(252) 247-2588

The Bridge Tender

Wrightsville Beach


Sitting at the base of the Wrightsville Beach Drawbridge, this restaurant is known for its Angus beef steaks, refined seafood dishes, and view of the Intracoastal Waterway. John and Catherine McLatchy bought the place from its original owners in 2003, and Catherine has kept the tradition going since John’s death in 2017.


1414 Airlie Road
(910) 256-4519

John’s Drive-In
John’s Drive-In

Kitty Hawk


When Pat and “Big John” Tice opened John’s Drive-In, they set out to share classic beach bites. Now, Outer Banks natives Jason and Chelsea Jordan are at the helm and still serving John’s famous milkshakes and Dolphin Boats — fried mahi-mahi sandwiches with homemade tartar sauce. Read more …


3716 North Virginia Dare Trail
(252) 261-6227

The Pilot House



Built by a 19th-century merchant, this Greek Revival-style building was moved to its current location during the development of Chandler’s Wharf in 1977. Back then, customers carried dishes from the service window outside to what is now the “porch.” Today, diners feast on dishes ranging from Cajun to contemporary Southern dining to “down-home cooking.”


2 Ann Street
(910) 343-0200

Gulfstream Restaurant

Carolina Beach


Written on a chalkboard sign inside this restaurant is the motto “Happiness comes from salty air and a hot breakfast,” a sentiment that has resonated with customers for more than 40 years. Gulfstream started as a local family tradition by Spiro and Joanne Simotas, who nurtured it into a classic spot now run by Ed Thomas and Rich Johnson.


78 Myrtle Avenue
(910) 458-8774

Howard’s Pub & Raw Bar
Howard’s Pub & Raw Bar



Ron Howard, descendant of an early colonial owner of Ocracoke Island, built what would become an iconic pub on his property in 1978. Today, customers come for the fresh, local seafood, hand-cut french fries, chowder, sandwiches, and salads, as well as a dozen North Carolina draft beers on tap, which can be enjoyed on the Sky Deck with panoramic views of the island.


1175 Irvin Garrish Highway
(252) 928-4441

Orange Blossom Bakery & Cafe
Orange Blossom Bakery & Cafe



Built in the 1950s as the six-unit Orange Blossom Motel, this spot’s name comes from the orange trees that were on the property. After the owner died in 1974, the motel was converted into a bakery.


47206 NC Highway 12
(252) 995-4109

Miller’s Waterfront Restaurant

Nags Head


Guests enjoy spectacular views of sunsets and local wildlife from their tables overlooking Roanoke Sound while dining on specialties like flounder topped with jumbo lump crabmeat or sipping a cocktail at the open-air bar upstairs.


6916 South Croatan Highway
(252) 441-6151

Tortugas’ Lie

Nags Head


High-quality Caribbean cuisine — Cayman conch fritters, teriyaki burgers, St. Martin shrimp pasta — earned this restaurant a visit from Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, as well as a legion of fans who have made it one of the most popular spots on the coast.


3014 South Virginia Dare Trail
(252) 441-7299

The Blue Point
The Blue Point



In 2022, a trio of local siblings took over The Blue Point — one of the first fine-dining restaurants in the northern Outer Banks — adding curated cocktails and keeping many menu favorites, like she-crab soup.


1240 Duck Road
(252) 261-8090

The Oceanic
The Oceanic

Wrightsville Beach


In 1934, a large fire in north Wrightsville Beach destroyed more than 100 buildings, including the 1905 Oceanic Hotel. In 1990, The Oceanic restaurant opened on the Crystal Pier, paying homage to the bygone landmark.


703 South Lumina Avenue
(910) 256-5551

Beaufort Grocery Company
Beaufort Grocery Company



Charles Park, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and his wife, Wendy, established this restaurant in the same spot as the former Owens Grocery Store. Salads and sandwiches are available for lunch, while dinners include main courses of roasted rack of lamb and double-cut pork chops.


117 Queen Street
(252) 728-3899

Provision Company
Provision Company



Often called “Pro Co.” or “Provisions,” this restaurant is the epitome of casual waterfront dining. Eat like a local and order “Thee Special” — half a pound of steamed shrimp served with a local deviled crab cake and corn.


130 Yacht Basin Drive
(910) 457-0654

Basnight’s Lone Cedar Cafe

Nags Head


Commercial fisherwoman Vicki Basnight and her sister Caroline continue to support local fishermen, just as their family has since they opened this restaurant. Diners can expect to see ingredients from across North Carolina coming to the table.


7623 South Virginia Dare Trail
(252) 441-5405

Waterman’s Grill



While working at a restaurant in Virginia Beach, founders Brian Roberts and Katy and Rick Ebersole met and bonded over their love for creative cuisine. The three then moved to Edenton to create a casual and nautical dining experience.


427 South Broad Street
(252) 482-7733

Cypress Creek Grill

Elizabeth City


This restaurant’s popularity grew rapidly after its doors opened, requiring a move to a larger riverfront location in 2002. As one of the first fine-dining spots in downtown Elizabeth City, it continues to offer innovative American cuisine, such as pan-seared local scallops over chilled orzo salad.


113 South Water Street
(252) 334-9915

Michael’s Seafood Restaurant

Carolina Beach


Its beachy ambience and award-winning chowder have made Michael’s a local favorite. The restaurant has also played an active role in the community by creating a culinary arts scholarship and raising money for cystic fibrosis.


1206 North Lake Park Boulevard A
(910) 458-7761

Fishy Fishy Cafe
Fishy Fishy Cafe



Owner Bridget Chirico designed this café as a beacon for island-hoppers. The classic menu includes stuffed shrimp, blackened tuna, and crab cakes, much of it made with seafood caught with the boat docked next to the restaurant.


106 Yacht Basin Drive
(910) 457-1881




Chef Keith Rhodes crafts his menu using seasonal North Carolina flavors, from sweet potatoes to local oysters. Every ingredient in his creations is consciously sourced to support sustainability.


6623 Market Street
(910) 799-3847


New Bern


Sustainability and local ingredients are showcased in dishes like sweet corn-and-pimento hush puppies, as well as in the restaurant itself, which was built from reclaimed materials. Even the name was inspired by a log that was found in the nearby marina, which was transformed into the hostess stand.


100 Pollock Street
(252) 514-0033

Saltwater Grill
Saltwater Grill



This laid-back restaurant boasts a menu of classic seafood dishes with a modern spin, like a crab cake stacked on top of a filet. In the summer, guests can pick up a meal and dine dockside in swimsuits and shades with a view of the White Oak River. Read more …


99 West Church Street
(910) 326-7300




This vibrant Wilmington restaurant catches the eye and transports diners from one coast to another. For lunch or dinner, guests can dine on classic Central American dishes made with North Carolina ingredients, such as jerk shrimp skewers and Panamanian paella, that reflect its lively exterior. Read more …


7210 Wrightsville Avenue
(910) 256-3131

Southern Salt Seafood Company and Waterfront Restaurant
Southern Salt Seafood Company and Waterfront Restaurant

Morehead City


This revival of Carteret County’s oldest restaurant, Captain Bill’s, brought fine dining to a classic waterfront space. The menu offers delicious takes on traditional seafood dishes, many of which are made using fresh catch from the restaurant’s own boat and oysters from its offsite aquaculture business.


701 Evans Street
(252) 499-9528

Cypress Hall Kitchen + Bar
Cypress Hall Kitchen + Bar

New Bern


Chef Ashley Moser’s grandmother instilled in him a fondness for cooking at an early age. It’s a passion that grew during his time at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina, and which is on full display at Cypress Hall, where he serves up seasonal and local dishes like sweet pea risotto and Valenciana Paella.


219 Middle Street
(252) 633-5909

Dock House Seafood & More

Holden Beach


It’s hard to miss this bright blue restaurant overlooking the Holden Beach Bridge and the Intracoastal Waterway. As customers gaze at summer sunsets over the dock, the savory aromas of local favorites — like the mac-and-cheese burger, seafood potpie, and chicken and waffles — float in the air. Co-owner Tommy Economos vacationed in Holden Beach all his adult life and returned for the beauty and good company, both of which are found at his restaurant.


103 South Shore Drive
(910) 846-9920

NC Coast Grill & Bar
NC Coast Grill & Bar



Longtime Outer Banks chef Wes Stepp’s menu features tasty surprises and flavorful twists, like his Cowboy Candy: crispy pork belly over kimchi and pickled ginger tossed in sweet-and-spicy Asian lacquer.


1184 Duck Road
(252) 261-8666

The Hackney



Just a stone’s throw from the Pamlico River, in a restored 1922 bank building, The Hackney’s menu changes seasonally with dishes reflecting a fusion of cuisines that have influenced the South. Read more …


192 West Main Street
(252) 623-2368




This downtown Wilmington restaurant is a legend in the making, reflecting the beauty of the ocean in the elegant interior design and on the plate. Read more …


1 South Front Street
(910) 769-5996

How many have you been to? Check each off your list with The NC Seafood Restaurant Bucket List.


This story was published on May 26, 2023

Abigail Keller

Abigail Keller was a spring 2023 editorial intern at Our State.