My first visit to the Outer Banks of North Carolina was one for the books. Not only did I find a charming beach destination with unique history and beauty, but the Outer Banks food scene was the best on the East Coast. I even live at a beach destination, with the freshest of seafood, and Outer Banks (referred to as OBX) still ranked supreme. Best of all, you don’t have to be a seafood enthusiast to enjoy the diverse offerings of the Outer Banks. Here are the highlights from restaurants that wowed me through service, taste, and menu options on my Outer Banks trip with four other journalists. I think that after reading, you will see why I was amazed by the delicious and versatile Outer Banks food scene.
Diamond Shoals Restaurant, Buxton (Cape Hatteras)
This typical looking restaurant was laid-back and super casual, but the food at Diamond Shoals packed a powerful punch. Diamond Shoals Restaurant delivered incredible simple food items that will astound you. Diamond Shoals has the only fresh salad bar option in the Outer Banks. The salad bar could be ordered alone or paired with a protein. Diamond Shoal’s Tomato Basil Crab Bisque was good, with deep flavors and plenty of lump crabmeat. We all shared a pound of delicious Steamed Shrimp with Old Bay seasoning and drawn butter. The shrimp was gone in about one minute; I almost licked my fingers at the table!
For lunch, my fellow journalists chose grouper, clam strips, and oyster lunch baskets. I had the spicy tuna (Yellowfin with jalapeños) salad wrap and it was phenomenal. I was reluctant to order it, as I had never had tuna salad on a flour tortilla, but the waitress highly recommended it. Lucky me! This tuna wrap will definitely make my Top Eats of 2017 post. I paired my sandwich with Diamond Shoals Restaurant’s tasty cole slaw. My group raved over the seasonal Fried Soft-shell Crab with a side of sweet potato fries. The restaurant served breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There was also a sushi bar and vegetarian options.
The Dunes Restaurant, Nags Head
We had a tasty breakfast at The Dunes, a popular restaurant with a breakfast buffet and nice gift shop. The Dunes uses sustainable locally sourced items when possible. I immediately felt welcomed by the restaurant’s tasteful decor and friendly servers. The breakfast buffet was full of favorites including bacon, sausage, quiche, muffins, biscuits, and more. It was also beautifully decorated with fresh flowers and clever serving pieces.
Instead of choosing the buffet, my group ordered from the menu. We selected fluffy biscuits (as big as an open palm), stacks of pancakes (that took up the entire plate), a variety of eggs, grits, and gravy. The eggs were cooked to order and the sausage gravy was perfect. Everything at The Dunes Restaurant was satisfying; needless to say, no one left hungry. Billowy biscuits with the perfect density cannot be missed. Pick up a souvenir t-shirt from The Dunes, too.
Ortega’z Southwestern Grill, Manteo
Ortega’z was a great eatery in downtown Manteo, featured on one of Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (Triple D). This Southwestern restaurant had two indoor dining rooms and a covered outdoor patio. Mojo Pork Nachos (with jack & cheddar cheese, sour cream, & salsa) and Chips with Guacamole and Salsa kicked off our tasty lunch from Ortega’z Southwestern Grill. The salsa was smoky and enjoyable, but the chunky guacamole was the biggest hit. Yum!
Many us went with tacos as our main course, including the Guy Fieri approved Fish Tacos and Buffalo Fried Chicken Tacos. My Wasabi Shrimp Tacos, lightly breaded and flash fried, were topped with tangy sweet chili sauce and coconut coleslaw. Oh, those tacos were scrumptious! One of the house specials was Soft-shell Crab, which ended up being the #1 choice requested not only by us but by the rest of the restaurant’s patrons as well. Ortega’z offered a full bar including beer and wine.
Owen’s Restaurant, Nags Head
Serving the Outer Banks since 1946, this typical looking restaurant proved to be the best meal that I had in the Outer Banks. I think my colleagues would agree. I loved the homey feel at Owen’s Restaurant and their huge display of decorative china and oyster plates throughout the enormous property. Huge, yet comfy wooden arm chairs donned the tables and cut glass windows added a level of sophistication. Dark floral fabrics hung from the windows and white tablecloths took the level of the restaurant to fancy, while the atmosphere remained casual. The gift shop was great for keeping us entertained while waiting on our table.
My group and I ate almost everything listed on the menu at Owen’s. We began with a huge variety of Owen’s Restaurant appetizers, Coconut Shrimp, Escargot, Sea Scallops Rumaki, Crabmeat Remick, Crab Stack, and Fish Bites. This was in addition to the complimentary cheese crock with crackers that was on the table. I swooned over the fish bites (the dipping sauce was spot on!), Crabmeat Remick (rich and wonderful but not a typical crab dip) and the Crab Stack, which had layers of mango, tomato, and avocado with a key lime vinaigrette. It was sublime! We followed that course with the highly recommend Lobster Bisque. There was total silence once we tasted the soup, as everyone was consumed by the pleasurable taste of it. For the third course, Wedge Salads with blue cheese dressing was out of this world.
Eyes Rolling Back in our Heads
Our dinner choices were the Catch of the Day, Soft Shell Crab, Yellowfin Tuna, and Shrimp and (mascarpone) Grits, which received the highest of praises. Freshly baked bread followed. Though we were all still sighing and making guttural noises of happiness, we could not pass up Owen’s delectable dessert choices. We ended up with a Creme Brulée, a slice of Key Lime Pie, Fourteen Layer Chocolate Cake, and Chocolate Mousse. I am a Southern gal and those pain-staking uber thin layered cakes delight me. The Chocolate Cake was wonderful! Have you ever eaten a fourteen layer cake?? Shout out to the creator of this recipe! It is no wonder that Owen’s Restaurant was the best meal of my Outer Banks trip.
Duck Donuts, Duck
This popular made-to-order donut shop had multiple locations, but we visited the Osprey Landing one. Duck Donuts’ concept is that you order and pay for the donuts in one place (shop) and then go to another (in this case across the boardwalk) and watch your donuts be prepared. The custom making process began with vanilla cake donuts, dipped in your choice of coating (maple, chocolate, strawberry, etc.), dusted with toppings (peanuts, sprinkles, coconut, etc.), and drizzled (blackberry, salted caramel, etc.). It was so much fun watching the donut makers in action. The finished products were Instagram worthy and delish colorful donuts, with the perfect level of sweetness. Maple Bacon is Duck Donut’s most popular flavor combination but I preferred strawberry lemonade. Drinks served include coffee, juice, soda, and bottled water.
Tortuga’s Lie, Nags Head
Tortuga’s Lie, one of the finest seafood restaurants in the Outer Banks, has a Caribbean-inspired menu and casual feel. The beachy themed restaurant was decorated with license plates, colorful surfboards, and other beachy decor. Opened in 1991, Tortuga’s Lie was also featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (Triple D). My group ordered Chili Wings, Creole Crawdads (served on bruschetta), and Cayman Conch Fritters to share as appetizers. All three were outstanding! For lunch, we chose the Greek Salad (add Garlic Shrimp), Hummus Wrap, Burgers (including the crab topped burger-of-the-day), Jerk Chicken, and the Soft-Shell Crab.
My crab topped burger was good, but after I paired it with a side of Tortuga’s Lie’s key lime curry dipping sauce, it was spectacular! The Hummus Wrap was praised quite a bit, too. For dessert, we all shared a slice of peanut butter pie, with an amazing chocolate ganache layer. It was a little slice of heaven! Don’t miss the Tortuga’s Lie souvenir t-shirts available for purchase and the fun sand volleyball court out back.
The Lifesaving Station at the Sanderling Resort, Duck
Situated in the luxurious Sanderling Resort, the Lifesaving Station Restaurant is the resort’s casual dining option for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It has a nautical themed two-story dining room with views of the ocean and resort. Their specialty is Southern coastal cuisine, using local ingredients as often as possible. The Lifesaving Station’s Heirloom Tomato and Burrata and Fried Calamari (with lemon aioli) appetizers should not be missed. They are fantastic!
Soft-shell Crab, Grilled Local Tuna (red quinoa and asparagus salad), Sanderling Surf & Turf, Buttermilk Fried Chicken (mac & cheese, haricot vert), and Seared Sea Scallops (with a scrumptious creamed succotash) were our dinner entrées. I opted for the Surf & Turf; Filet (with béarnaise sauce), Shrimp, and a Crab Fritter with fingerling potatoes and asparagus. It was so tasty! For dessert, we shared the Blueberry Cobbler with black sesame seeds and miso ice cream (served in adorable tiny cast iron skillets), Tiramisu, and a huge Strawberry Layer Cake. The cake was big enough to share with two to three people, but it was so yummy that one would be inclined to eat it all. The unique Blueberry Cobbler was the crowd favorite.
The Outer Banks Food Scene Amazed Me
I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to The Outer Banks and getting to check out so many amazing eateries. I am thrilled to have been introduced to North Carolina’s premier coastal destination and cannot wait to return to the island. Check out some of these items when you visit the Outer Banks!
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