My first visit to North Carolina’s Outer Banks was one for the books. Not only did I find a charming beach destination with a unique history and beauty, but the Outer Banks food scene is one of 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. You don’t have to be a seafood enthusiast to enjoy the diverse offerings. Here are seven great places to eat in the Outer Banks that wowed me (and a group of fellow travel writers) with impressive service, food taste, and menu options.
#1 Diamond Shoals Restaurant, Buxton (Cape Hatteras)
This typical looking restaurant is 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 excellent, 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 friends and I chose grouper, clam strips, and oyster lunch baskets. Mine was the spicy tuna (Yellowfin with jalapeños) salad wrap. It was phenomenal! I was reluctant to order it, as I had never had tuna salad on a tortilla, but the waitress recommended it. I paired my sandwich with Diamond Shoals Restaurant’s tasty coleslaw. Winning combination right here! My friend raved about the (seasonal) Fried Soft-shell Crab, which looked really tasty.
Diamond Shoals has a sushi bar and vegetarian options, too.
#2 The Dunes Restaurant, Nags Head
We ate a tasty breakfast at The Dunes, a popular Outer Banks restaurant offering a breakfast buffet and a lovely gift shop. The Dunes Restaurant uses sustainable, locally sourced items when possible. I immediately felt welcomed by the tasteful decor and friendly servers.
The buffet was full of favorites, including bacon, sausage, quiche, muffins, biscuits, and more. It was also beautifully decorated with fresh flowers and smart 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 while you are there.
Explore the best things to do in the Outer Banks in this post.
#3 Ortega’z Southwestern Grill, Manteo
Ortega’z is a great eatery in downtown Manteo, featured on 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, was topped with tangy sweet chili sauce and coconut coleslaw. Oh, those tacos were scrumptious!
One of Ortega’z Southwestern Grill’s 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.
#4 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 massive display of decorative china and oyster plates throughout the enormous property.
We ate almost everything listed on the menu at Owens, beginning with a variety of 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 were on the table. I swooned over the fish bites (the dipping sauce was spot on!), Crabmeat Remick (rich and enjoyable, 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!
For dinner, our choices were the Catch of the Day, Soft Shell Crab, Yellowfin Tuna, and Shrimp and (mascarpone) Grits, which received the highest of praises. Homemade desserts followed and finished off the evening with a bang.
#5 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 delicious, 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.
#6 Tortuga’s Lie, Nags Head
Tortuga’s Lie, one of the most excellent seafood restaurants in the Outer Banks, has a Caribbean-inspired menu and casual feel. The beach-themed restaurant (opened in 1991) is decorated with license plates, colorful surfboards, and other beachy decors. Tortuga’s Lie was also featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
Our travel writer’s group ordered Chili Wings, Creole Crawdads (served on bruschetta), and Cayman Conch Fritters to share as appetizers. All three were outstanding! I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a tastier crawdad appetizer in my life!
Our lunch dishes were the Greek Salad (add Garlic Shrimp), Hummus Wrap, Burgers (including the crab topped burger-of-the-day), Jerk Chicken, and the Soft-Shell Crab special-of-the-day.
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 got a lot of praise, too.
For dessert, we all shared a slice of peanut butter pie, with a fantastic 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 outback.
#7 The Lifesaving Station, 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.
The restaurant’s 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. Both were 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 tasty 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 colossal 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 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 fabulous eateries. How thrilling it has been to explore North Carolina’s premier coastal destination. I hope you will check out some of these great places to eat in the Outer Banks when you visit this seaside treasure.
Where shall I eat on my next visit?
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Thanks to the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau for inviting me on this incredible familiarization press trip. I did not receive any other form of compensation. All opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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