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It’s lunchtime at the beach, and Greentail’s Seafood Market & Kitchen in Nags Head is filling up quickly. Inside the small, cheerful, cottage-like space, Bryan Whitehurst welcomes customers from behind

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It’s lunchtime at the beach, and Greentail’s Seafood Market & Kitchen in Nags Head is filling up quickly. Inside the small, cheerful, cottage-like space, Bryan Whitehurst welcomes customers from behind

It’s lunchtime at the beach, and Greentail’s Seafood Market & Kitchen in Nags Head is filling up quickly. Inside the small, cheerful, cottage-like space, Bryan Whitehurst welcomes customers from behind the front counter. Alongside the shrimp, clams, oysters, scallops, and crabmeat resting on ice, he lays out the freshly filleted fish that he got from O’Neal’s Sea Harvest in Wanchese just an hour earlier.

A line forms at the wooden counter in the back, and customers’ eyes scan the big menu on the wall and the list of chalkboard specials. As she takes orders, Brandi Midgett offers advice to those struggling to decide.

It’s always a challenge to choose from Chef Mark Newsome’s diverse range of traditional and innovative seafood preparations. Will it be a Southern-fried seafood basket or an Asian-inspired crispy fried shrimp and rice noodle bowl? Authentic Hawaiian-style poke (hands-down a house favorite) or fish tacos? Even the sides play on the idea of old-school versus new-school flavors: Korean chili paste collards or Southern-style coleslaw? Plain hush puppies or Mattamuskeet blue crab hush puppies with malt vinegar aioli?

Mark Newsome, Brandi Midgett, and Bryan Whitehurst own Greentail’s Seafood Market & Kitchen. photograph by Baxter Miller

A few customers in line ask what pomfret is, and Midgett explains that it’s a delicious species of fish with white, flaky flesh. Diners find a place at one of the 20 indoor seats or at an outdoor picnic table, and it’s not long before they’re enjoying the fresh, local seafood for which Greentail’s is renowned.

The simple concept behind this market and restaurant is to offer food that’s freshly caught from the sea and to support Outer Banks commercial fishermen. Newsome, Whitehurst, and Midgett, three consummate restaurant veterans, combined their diverse skill sets and opened Greentail’s five years ago. Midgett, a native Outer Banker who grew up in a family of seafood restaurateurs, and Whitehurst, a passionate recreational fisherman and trained chef, were ready to work for themselves. They were thinking of opening a small restaurant together when Newsome, a mostly self-taught chef who formerly owned restaurants in Virginia, approached Whitehurst with the idea of combining an all-local seafood market and a restaurant.

The success of this concept hinges on Whitehurst’s well-established and trusted connections with local commercial fishermen and fish houses, and his deep understanding of fishing seasons and regulations. “I like knowing exactly where our fish comes from,” he says. “If you’re buying fish from us, I can tell you who caught it and when.”

Greentail’s serves fresh-caught fillets like tilefish and tuna, which folks can take home to cook or enjoy in-house in a poke bowl. photograph by Baxter Miller

Their unified commitment to local fare (with a few necessary exceptions) means serving and selling lesser-known species like pomfret, tautog, sheepshead, or even eel alongside favorites like tuna, mahi-mahi, and trout. Whitehurst doesn’t hesitate to bring in alternative species — what some might call “trash fish” — from the fish house. Newsome has the adventurous streak and the cooking chops to make them enticing for customers, and Whitehurst can sell anything in the market.

“If someone comes in for mahi but we don’t have any fresh because they’re not catching it that week, Bryan will definitely send them home with something they’ll like just as much or maybe even better,” Midgett says.

Whitehurst also gives customers advice about cooking techniques and flavor combinations — he’s created recipe cards that they can take home.

“I like the aspect of education,” Whitehurst says. “Some of these fish might sound intimidating, but it’s just because you’re not familiar with the name. We can help you with that.”

With each dish they serve and fillet they sell, the restaurateurs in this small business are expanding people’s perceptions of what it means to eat local.

Greentail’s Seafood Market & Kitchen
3022 South Croatan Highway
Nags Head, NC 27959
(252) 715-6300
greentailsobx.com

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This story was published on Jul 25, 2023

Molly Harrison

A native North Carolinian, Molly Harrison moved to the Outer Banks after college in 1994. She works as a writer and editor from her home in Nags Head. Harrison is also the author of the Insiders’ Guide to the Outer Banks.