La Dolce Vita Italian Restaurant • Corolla
When visiting the Outer Banks, your first thought when it comes to dining will likely be seafood — but take those blinders off, and you’ll find La Dolce Vita Italian Restaurant. Inconspicuously tucked between a frozen yogurt joint and a Putt-Putt golf course, La Dolce Vita is one of Corolla’s top-rated restaurants, and it doesn’t take long to find out why. Its interior is modern and stylish, with dramatic light fixtures, an inviting waiting area with plush seating, and a full bar.
Start perusing the menu, and you might forget you’re on the coast of North Carolina. From the appetizers to the desserts, La Dolce Vita boasts classic Italian family recipes: burrata cheese with basil pesto and fresh tomatoes, Sicilian-style mussels, and hand-tossed pizzas. All of their sauces are housemade, and their tried and true spaghetti and meatballs are hard to beat. One of the best things about La Dolce Vita is its back porch; when the weather allows, sit outside and enjoy the Corolla sunset with a delicious meal and a glass of wine.
798 Sunset Boulevard, Corolla, NC 27927 • (252) 453-0069 • ladolcevitacorolla.com
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Lifesaving Station Restaurant at Sanderling Resort • Duck
Sanderling Resort is home to four restaurants, each with its own unique appeal. From fine dining at Kimball’s Kitchen to the relaxed patio atmosphere at Sandbar, it’s hard to go wrong — but the restaurant that stands out the most is the Lifesaving Station. Not only is it the only dining option at the Sanderling that’s open year-round, it’s also housed in the historic Caffey’s Inlet Life Saving Station No. 5. Caffey’s Inlet was one of seven stations constructed in 1874 to assist traveler aboard shipwrecked vessels, and was given a new life as a stunning, beachside restaurant after being decommissioned in the 1950s.
The Lifesaving Station went through renovations earlier this year, and is beautifully decorated — nautical without being kitschy, with casual seating and dark hardwood floors. It serves daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner to resort guests and visitors alike, so you can enjoy a delicious meal no matter how long you’re in town. Its seasonal menu focuses on elevated Southern coastal cuisine, with offerings like fried chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, and pan-seared local rockfish. You’ll find a “CS” next to many of its menu items, which stands for “Carolina Sustainable” and indicates that these dishes are made with local, sustainable, and organic ingredients — something that Sanderling Resort is passionate about. Lunch and dinner are spectacular here, but Lifesaving Station claims to have the “best breakfast on the Outer Banks.” Don’t miss the Sanderling Benedict (two perfectly poached eggs over a Carolina crab cake), or the pecan waffle with maple butter.
1461 Duck Road, Duck, NC 27949 • (252) 449-6654 • sanderling-resort.com
Steamers Restaurant • Southern Shores
Originally located in Corolla, Steamers Restaurant reopened in Southern Shores, just north of Kitty Hawk. The popular restaurant used to close in the off-season, but is now open year-round and is better than ever.
It’s all about the ocean at Steamers Restaurant, from its waterfront views to its wide variety of fresh seafood. Its Southern Shores location is just a block away from the beach, and its cool-toned interior and high ceilings give the restaurant a breezy atmosphere, literally and figuratively. Relaxation comes naturally here, especially when you’re sitting in one of Steamers’ ocean-blue Adirondack chairs on the back porch during sunset.
Back to the impressive seafood: Steamers’ menu boasts dozens of fish and shellfish, and the chefs source their ingredients locally whenever possible. From fresh oysters and clams to yellowfin tuna and scallops, there is practically the entire ocean to choose from. The best thing about Steamers is that you can opt for a upmarket dish like the Honey Bourbon Grilled Salmon, or a down-home basket of peel-and-eat shrimp, straight from neighboring Wanchese, with zesty cocktail sauce and a hearty squeeze of lemon. It might be the only upscale restaurant on the Outer Banks where eating with your hands is not only accepted, but also encouraged.
1 Ocean Boulevard Unit 115, Southern Shores, NC 27949 • (252) 261-0224 • steamersobx.com
Ocean Boulevard Bistro & Martini Bar • Kitty Hawk
Since 1995, Ocean Boulevard Bistro & Martini Bar has impressed both locals and tourists with its high-end, seasonal menu and its superb ocean views. Housed in the historic building that was once Virginia Dare Hardware (built in 1948), the location is near and dear to many patrons’ hearts. Some of the original components of the beloved hardware store are intentionally visible even after extensive renovations, such as the steel beams running across the dining room ceiling that the original owners sourced from the Norfolk Naval Shipyard to complete their vision of an open space with no intruding walls or columns.
Ocean Boulevard updates its dinner menu with each season; fresh seafood is always an option, and time of year you’ll find hearty dishes like pan-roasted duck breast and grilled rack of lamb. The restaurant’s martini bar has a speakeasy feel, with warm lighting and frequent live music. Its award-winning specialty martini menu changes frequently depending on what ingredients are readily available in the area — such as the Russian Sweet Tart martini with raspberry puree and mint syrup — and the bartenders are known to create new cocktails on the spot.
4700 North Virginia Dare Trail, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949 • (252) 261-2546 • obbistro.com
The Hatterasman Drive-In • Hatteras
You won’t find any white tablecloths or glass stemware at the Hatterasman Drive-In; think plastic trays, Styrofoam plates, and a whole lot of napkins. The Hatterasman is exactly what you would imagine a small beach town restaurant would look like: no frills, just great food and service. The best way to describe the menu would be “finger food done right” — from crispy fried shrimp and hush puppies to homemade barbecue sandwiches and french fries, it’s more than just a seafood joint. In fact, one of its most popular menu items is the Hatterasman Burger, topped with bacon, onion rings, melted Cheddar cheese, and barbecue sauce. Here’s where all of those napkins come in handy.
The Hatterasman is great for a quick bite, offering a “get it and go” breakfast menu from 6 to 10:45 a.m. daily, and the lunch and dinner menus can be ordered to go as well. But don’t confuse the words “drive-in” with “drive-through” — when you come to the Hatterasman, stay awhile. Hatteras Island Veteran Support Teams created the Hatteras Island Veteran Memorial Park and a public picnic area right on the restaurant’s property. So grab an outdoor picnic table, play a round of cornhole, and strike up a conversation with your server or neighbor, because the Hatterasman is the kind of restaurant that makes you feel like family.
57449 North Carolina Highway 12, Hatteras, NC 27934 • (252) 986-1005 • facebook.com