A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dates and hours of operation vary depending on the season, so please call ahead to confirm restaurant hours.  Located along North Carolina’s northeastern coastline and along the Outer

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dates and hours of operation vary depending on the season, so please call ahead to confirm restaurant hours.  Located along North Carolina’s northeastern coastline and along the Outer

A Foodie’s Guide to Currituck

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dates and hours of operation vary depending on the season, so please call ahead to confirm restaurant hours. 

Located along North Carolina’s northeastern coastline and along the Outer Banks, Currituck County is packed with stunning waterfront views — and plenty of eateries to take your vacation to the next level. Whether you’re on the mainland or in Corolla, consider this your guide to the best of Currituck cuisine.


Dining on the Mainland

Coinjock Marina Restaurant

If you want some down-home favorites, order the Southern fried chicken or the pork chops at Coinjock Marina. You’ll leave happy. But if you want to take your dining experience to the next level, ask for Chef Eric Vangelder’s “world-famous prime rib.” You’re guaranteed one of the best steak dinners of your life. Choose from the 32- or 14-ounce cut, which come with au jus along with a spoonful of horseradish — a carnivore’s trifecta that has solidified Coinjock’s reputation with loyal diners year after year.

Coinjock Marina Restaurant’s location is prime, too. Overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway at Mile Marker 50, it’s a perfect stopping point for boaters passing through, says manager Christy Stallings. “While you eat, you can look at the million-dollar yachts as they pull up to the marina,” she says.

321 Waterlily Road, Coinjock
(252) 453-3271


Simply Southern Kitchen

Crispy fried okra, collards seasoned to perfection, macaroni and cheese, green beans, fresh corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, baked beans: Simply Southern Kitchen is the kind of “meat and three” with so many perfect sides you’ll wish it was a “meat and six.” While you decide (and really, why not get them all?), share a basket of hush puppies and homemade honey butter. Manager Kristy Liford recommends pairing your choice of sides with either the fried chicken or fresh flounder — though you can’t go wrong with the house-smoked barbecue.

8627 Caratoke Highway, Harbingers
(252) 491-8100


Mel’s Diner

Remember when Flo, that sassy waitress from the ’80s hit sitcom Mel’s Diner leaves to pursue her own restaurant dreams in Cowtown, Texas? At its namesake in Grandy, North Carolina, the spot-on classic diner decor is sure to jog your memory. “The atmosphere is unique, and there’s all kinds of things to look at, including Elvis memorabilia and neon signs,” says owner and chef Jennifer Brock.

Stop here for breakfast or lunch on your way to or from the Outer Banks (you’ll know it by the aluminum Airstream-style exterior) and grab a seat at a cozy booth or up at the soda fountain. For breakfast, Brock recommends pancakes or the homemade biscuits and gravy. For lunch, try the fried chicken dinner or spaghetti. Don’t leave without a slice of homemade pie — Flo wouldn’t have it any other way.

6684 Caratoke Highway, Grandy
(252) 457-1010


Digger’s Diner

“Open when we start; closed when we crash,” claims Digger’s Diner, the restaurant just across Dungeon’s Yard from Digger’s Dungeon, home of the infamous monster truck, Grave Digger. After you work up an appetite checking out the monster trucks on display outside — and going for a ride around the dirt track — stop by the diner for a “super burger” or the fried fish tacos topped with an Asian coleslaw.

5666 Caratoke Highway, Poplar Branch
(252) 453-0971



Pass the Salt Café

Dan Pennington remembers the culinary words of wisdom his mother, Rosaria, shared from her childhood in Italy: “Food does not have to be complicated; it just has to be good.” Today, this concept is reflected in most every menu item at the historic 1930s home-turned-cozy café he and his wife, Tina, own and operate in downtown Currituck.

Olive oil, fresh cherry tomatoes, garlic, and capers make their way into a linguini dish with baby clams; pickled beets and candied pecans punctuate the arugula salad with goat cheese and a Champagne vinaigrette. Inspired by Rosaria and a love for their community, the Penningtons’ sunny yellow café is always packed with locals and vacationers, many of whom make their way around the menu with the goal of trying something new with every visit.

138 Courthouse Road, Currituck
(252) 722-3355


Weeping Radish Brewery and Pub

North Carolina’s first microbrewery, the Weeping Radish is proud of its simple approach to beer, which adheres to the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot Purity Law of 1516: “Beer must be brewed using only four ingredients: hops, malt, yeast, and water.” That means no additives, no chemicals, no preservatives. With the goal of reducing its food chain to fewer than 200 miles, Weeping Radish sources its free-range pork and beef from local farms. “We have an on-site butcher’s facility where we grind our own meat and make all of our own sausages,” owner Sophie Bennewitz says.

“If you come, you have to try our sausages because they’re homemade and definitely amazing. We’ve won awards in Germany for our sausages. And the Rueben,” Bennewitz adds. “It’s our most popular sandwich and has pastrami that we make in-house.” Plan your visit for Wednesday, she suggests, so you can cap your meal with a brewery tour.

6810 Caratoke Highway, Grandy
(252) 491-5205


Walnut Island Restaurant

It was love at first sight when, almost 35 years ago, Barry and Donna Nelms laid eyes on the 1950s hunting and fishing lodge for sale on Currituck Sound. “The view of the Currituck Sound is just outstanding,” Barry says. “It is such a tranquil, picturesque place. Right across the way, you can see the Currituck Lighthouse at Corolla.” It didn’t take long for the two to open their 15-acre property’s 12-room lodge and restaurant to the public.

Unlike most Currituck restaurants that are open seasonally, the Nelms greet guests year-round. In the summer, their front lawn and pier are filled with patrons relaxing by their tiki bar; kids playing cornhole and swimming in the sound; and diners ordering a second bowl of Barry’s famous she-crab soup — loaded with local, lump crab meat. Arrive by boat or by car, but bring your fishing pole. “Most people don’t know this, but the large-mouth bass are back,” Barry says.

169 Walnut Island Boulevard, Grandy
(252) 453-2261


Dining on the Island

Upside Restaurant

Upside Restaurant’s cocktail menu would be tempting anywhere, but it’s downright irresistible when enjoyed looking over the water from the restaurant’s deck. Options like the Blueberry Bourbon Honey Bourbon Smash and the Watermelon Ginger Martini take advantage of fresh summer ingredients. At lunch or dinner, try traditional Southern favorites with a twist, like the lobster quesadilla and the Sloppy Jose with chorizo, ground beef, mozzarella, and jalapeños. Save room for a slice of the chocolate peanut butter pie, which features an Oreo cookie crust and a chocolate ganache topping.

797 Sunset Boulevard, Corolla
(252) -597-3030

At Upside Restaurant, you’ll have a delicious dinner right off the water.



Be sure to make a reservation for this intimate, yet quirky (think moody lava lamps and abstract art) Corolla hot spot. Inventive tapas feature global ingredients, says Executive Chef Mark Anthony. “We serve plates from all over the world with a lot of fusion.” Think Thai shrimp cakes with sweet-and-sour sauce, and west Indian shrimp curry with red bell peppers, sweet onions, and jasmine rice. Vegetarian and vegan diners are also in luck, as Metropolis features fully dedicated vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free menus. Can’t decide? “We’re known for our soups and risottos,” Anthony says. Try the saffron and mushroom risotto with black truffle oil, garlic breadcrumbs, and chives.

520 Old Stoney Road, No. 2221, Corolla
(252) 453-6167


Uncle Ike’s Sandbar and Grill

Ask for a seat on the patio at this beachy joint. According to pretty much everybody, your best bet for lunch or dinner is an order of Ike’s Famous Fish Tacos, the restaurant’s best-seller for more than a decade running. Made with blackened, grilled, or fried fish and served with a house-made remoulade, it’s easy to see why this is a locals’ favorite. If you’re feeling indulgent, go for the seafood mac ’n’ cheese crowned with local Wanchese scallops, jumbo lump crab meat, and shrimp.

1159 Austin Street, Corolla
(252) 597-1606

This story was published on Mar 24, 2020

Robin Sutton Anders

Robin Sutton Anders is a writer based in Greensboro.