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Outer Banks, North Carolina (OBX)


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I know that many people travel to the beach each year, but most of the time people cook their food at home & hit up a grocery store on the way in to town.

Since my family gets lazy sometimes, we are bound to eat out a few times a week while there. But, I noticed the area seems a bit desolate in terms of food options. Does anyone have recommendations? I've found one place we would actually go back to this year (besides places for snacks like donuts).

I won't elaborate much since I wrote these places up w/ their own reviews already on yelp.

Good:
Food Dudes - atmosphere is friendly, food is spot on. Can get crowded.
Duck Donuts - get 'em fresh
Try My Nuts - just a nice snack place to get different varieties of nuts, popcorns, fudge, candy

Ok:
Shun Xing - it's cheap and pretty good, though quality has gone down recently

Bad:
Mama Kwan's
Tale of the Whale - we used to go here every year as tradition. Not only has it gotten more expensive, but the quality of food has gone waaaay down. Multiple send backs at the table for inedibility

Thanks for any help!

-Nicole

(p.s. it's a family trip so places with tons of drinking or margarita bars won't work, sadly)

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Does anyone have recommendations?

Way, way back in the late 1980s or early 1990s, there was a bakery called Gingerbread House in Frisco. Twenty years later, I have no idea what it's like, but it used to have terrific doughnuts, and in the evenings served really tasty pizzas. I would love to know if this place is still any good (the pictures of the baked sweets still look good, but the pizza crust looks pretty ordinary). Needless to say, my palate back then was a lot less, shall we say, "discerning" (I used to think it was quite novel going to Brew-Thru.)

Can someone else give Nicole some recommendations?

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Thanks for the links Ericandblueboy! I must have missed them as I was searching quickly on my phone last night.

A lot of great places on there -- many of them are on islands or far north (Corolla).

I'll recommend the following to my family:

Black Pelican (Kity Hawk) $$

Ocean Blvd Bistro (Kitty Hawk) $$

Bad Bean Baja Grill (Kill Devil)

Kill Devil Grill

Tortuga's Lie

Sooey's BBQ

Sam & Omie's

Dune Burger

Run Down Cafe

Duck

Gingerbread House Bakery

Blue Point $$

Red Sky Cafe

Paper Canoe $$

Corolla (The whole Tim Buck II Shopping Center looks great)

North Banks

Fin & Claw

Sweet Spot

Corolla Village BBQ

The Shack (Coffee)

Manteo

1587 $$

Duck is probably the furthest we'll go though since we're staying in Kill Devil Hills and Manteo and Corolla are pretty far.

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Just saw someone on CH saying Captain George is a must. The list of seafood is indeed tempting - crabs, clams, crawdads, cutlass, cuttlefish, calamari,cod caviar, cockle, conch. Okay, I'm exaggerating. See the link for the menu. A couple of rednecks that I golfed with last year also raved about the place. I just might go check it out at the end of the month, although I much prefer someone else taking one for the team.

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Had a stellar meal at The Blue Point in Duck, NC last week. I booked on OpenTable and asked for a window booth so we could watch the sunset, and the request was honored. Be still my heart... the colors were preternatural!
Food was spot on, coming out of a quiet and orderly kitchen, which can be partially viewed.
I had the Ginger and Hoisin Short Ribs with Napa Kimchi. 4 meaty ribs, falling off the bone, tasted delicious with the acidic foil of the kimchi.
Their signature lump crab cakes sat in little pools of a watercress sauce, which was verdant and bright and lifted the sweet crab meat.
DH liked the crab soup (very generous portion), which had a good amount of meat, but wasn't really a she crab soup, and he's eaten a lot of she crab soup in Charleston!
DH's double rib pork chop was cooked perfectly to medium-- still pink in the middle. The mac and cheese it came with was zippy with whole grain mustard. A good rendition of the comfort food side dish, which most places just don't get right.
We had the dessert special of pound cake (moistened with a simple syrup, I believe) topped with strawberries and cream (bourbon was involved, I think). Coffee with dessert was served in generous size mugs, thank you!
******
The Lifesaving Station in Sanderling was mostly forgettable. My crab chowder had thin strands of backfin crab, but tasted OK.
My shrimp dish had a generous amount of shrimp, but unfortunately, they were overcooked to death.
No dessert as I was freezing my ass off underneath a ceiling full of fans that caused an uncomfortable breeze. I don't see how any food can stay hot for very long!

*********

The Seaside Farm Market in Timbuck II in Corolla is lovely as usual. Lots of home baked good, boiled peanuts (don't get it, but have at 'em!), produce and seafood. A good collection of canned goods and wine too.

My earlier pic of shrimp cocktail featured their jumbo bugs.

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After spending the day kayaking in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, we stopped in at Max's Stone Fired Pizza for a bit of sustenance. It is located somewhere around mile Marker 5 and in Kitty Hawk and should be avoided at all fucking costs.

A hot pocket at the Kwik Mart, eaten raw, would be more satisfying. "Max" must be the brother of Joe Corbi. This place blows.

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This is a plug, not a review:  Haven't been there.  An old graduate of the bartending school owns two restaurants on the Outer Banks, one in Avon, a new one in Hatteras, both named the Open Water Grill.  I can say that the views are excellent and the seafood is fresh.  If you are traveling down to the Southern or more Central portion of the Outer Banks it might be worth a visit.  I won't get there this summer, possibly next summer.

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Climbing the lighthouse in Buxton is always fun, but get there as early as you can.  It gets hot and crowded later and the staircase is narrow!

Taking the ferry to Ocracoke and exploring is a nice diversion if it's not a beach day.  But again, arrive as early as you can.

In the fall, winter and spring, visiting the Pea Island is great for wildlife (birds) but you'll need binoculars.

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Kill Devil Grill and Blue Point in Duck were great last October!  Blue Moon in Nags Head has a nice grilled octopus appetizer. (Might have been a special).

The way things look right now we might be going in October if we can eat in, not pick up. We stay at the Best Western in KDH, and not much to do around there. One year our week was rainy every day so we saw a Tarzan marathon on TCM!

Camera with zoom in Pea Island if you don't have binoculars. Great for birds!!

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On 6/26/2020 at 2:53 PM, Bart said:

Climbing the lighthouse in Buxton is always fun, but get there as early as you can.  It gets hot and crowded later and the staircase is narrow!

Is this the lighthouse they moved about thirty years ago? I remember visiting a light house in the Outer Banks (not for the first time), and it seemed oddly unfamiliar - and then I found out there was some incredibly elaborate displacement that occurred in the previous decade (all dates written here are via faulty memory).

Does anyone remember this great bakery somewhere around Avon, or Frisco, or in one of those towns, with these really good donuts, and in the evenings they served really good pizza? I was much younger then, and my palate hadn't developed, but I remember being in heaven whenever I went here - it was on the east side of the highway. Might it have been called The Gingerbread House? That name just popped into my head as I was writing this.

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On 6/29/2020 at 11:31 PM, DonRocks said:

Is this the lighthouse they moved about thirty years ago? I remember visiting a light house in the Outer Banks (not for the first time), and it seemed oddly unfamiliar - and then I found out there was some incredibly elaborate displacement that occurred in the previous decade (all dates written here are via faulty memory).

Does anyone remember this great bakery somewhere around Avon, or Frisco, or in one of those towns, with these really good donuts, and in the evenings they served really good pizza? I was much younger then, and my palate hadn't developed, but I remember being in heaven whenever I went here - it was on the east side of the highway. Might it have been called The Gingerbread House? That name just popped into my head as I was writing this.

Looks like that place is still there. 

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OK, after two weeks in the Outer Banks, it's clear this is not somewhere you go to for the food.  That said, we found a handful of places that stood out from the rest and that we would go back to:

Best of the bunch was a Mexican food truck in Ocracoke called Eudardo's. This simple taco stand produced our best meal of the trip -- freshly made hot tortilla chips with guacamole, carnitas tacos on masa tortillas, fried fish (local mackerel) tacos on flour tortillas -- everything was excellent.  I wouldn't quite say it is worth a trip to go to this place simply because you have to take a ferry to get to Ocracoke and the wait can be long, but if you're there I'd highly recommend this place for lunch (they also serve breakfast if you happen to be staying on the island).

80 miles north of Eduardo's, in Nags Head, a completely different experience - Woo Casa.  The menu is all over the place (tacos, poke, banh mi...) but everything we tried was tasty.  I was particularly impressed by the banh mi (which had all the flavors you'd expect from an Eden Center sandwich) and the truly excellent fries.  As of June 2020 they are technically only doing take out, but if you don't mind the strip mall parking lot ambiance, you can eat at one of the three picnic tables out front.  The owner is super friendly.

Toward the end of our stay we were craving spicy food, and my wife found Single Fin Thai-Sushi. Ordinarily I would run as fast as I can away from a Thai restaurant that advertises sushi but in OBX you don't have that much choice, so we gave it a shot, and at the end of the day it wasn't bad at all.  I'd say it was about what you'd expect from a B+ Thai restaurant in the DC area, nothing mind blowingly good but a place you'd be happy to go back to when the mood strikes.  The waterfall beef and garlic pork were both quite good, and drunken noodles, ordered spicy, were chewy and satisfying and delivered the needed kick. 

Honorable mention goes to Buxton Munch, in Buxton, for decent crab cakes, seafood tacos (the day we went they gave us a choice of three locally-caught fish), and fried oysters.

Ice cream shops abound on OBX but most serve up Hershey's or some other similar crap.  Booty Treats is no exception but at least they get really creative with their combinations and add-ons, so you can create something pretty unique there.  And it's just a block walk to the beach.

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On 7/4/2020 at 7:42 PM, Rhone1998 said:

OK, after two weeks in the Outer Banks, it's clear this is not somewhere you go to for the food.  That said, we found a handful of places that stood out from the rest and that we would go back to:

Best of the bunch was a Mexican food truck in Ocracoke called Eudardo's. This simple taco stand produced our best meal of the trip -- freshly made hot tortilla chips with guacamole, carnitas tacos on masa tortillas, fried fish (local mackerel) tacos on flour tortillas -- everything was excellent.  I wouldn't quite say it is worth a trip to go to this place simply because you have to take a ferry to get to Ocracoke and the wait can be long, but if you're there I'd highly recommend this place for lunch (they also serve breakfast if you happen to be staying on the island).

80 miles north of Eduardo's, in Nags Head, a completely different experience - Woo Casa.  The menu is all over the place (tacos, poke, banh mi...) but everything we tried was tasty.  I was particularly impressed by the banh mi (which had all the flavors you'd expect from an Eden Center sandwich) and the truly excellent fries.  As of June 2020 they are technically only doing take out, but if you don't mind the strip mall parking lot ambiance, you can eat at one of the three picnic tables out front.  The owner is super friendly.

Toward the end of our stay we were craving spicy food, and my wife found Single Fin Thai-Sushi. Ordinarily I would run as fast as I can away from a Thai restaurant that advertises sushi but in OBX you don't have that much choice, so we gave it a shot, and at the end of the day it wasn't bad at all.  I'd say it was about what you'd expect from a B+ Thai restaurant in the DC area, nothing mind blowingly good but a place you'd be happy to go back to when the mood strikes.  The waterfall beef and garlic pork were both quite good, and drunken noodles, ordered spicy, were chewy and satisfying and delivered the needed kick. 

Honorable mention goes to Buxton Munch, in Buxton, for decent crab cakes, seafood tacos (the day we went they gave us a choice of three locally-caught fish), and fried oysters.

Ice cream shops abound on OBX but most serve up Hershey's or some other similar crap.  Booty Treats is no exception but at least they get really creative with their combinations and add-ons, so you can create something pretty unique there.  And it's just a block walk to the beach.

Did you feel generally safe out and about there? Masks, etc?

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3 hours ago, stevem said:

Did you feel generally safe out and about there? Masks, etc?

While we were there the Governor had *just* ordered a mandatory mask order for retail establishments.  Prior to that, a lot of places had signs up asking or demanding customers wear masks, but apparently it wasn't the law until that order was issued.  So keep that context in mind.  If compliance in DC is maybe 95%+ (I'm talking about wearing masks inside shops/restaurants), maybe it was 85% there.  Certainly most people were, but we would definitely see people occasionally walk into a place without masks.  Sometimes they were challenged by the establishment, often they weren't.

Just walking down the street? No one would be wearing masks.  On the beach, definitely not.

That said, did we feel safe? Yes, because we never dined inside, spent very little time in stores at all (and when we had to go to a store, only one of us would go in, obviously wearing a mask, and retail workers were almost 100% masked), and most importantly we just never found ourselves in crowded situations (it's very easy to find space on the beach to yourself there, at least in the southern part of OBX where we were).

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Where are people staying in OBX that they feel safe? 

Honestly, price is no object - I'd love to get away, even at the most expensive place on the Outer Banks, but I haven't a clue where that might be. I'm not looking to dine well, or to deep-sea fish; I'm looking for a nice, luxurious, safe hotel with a nice swimming pool area.

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5 hours ago, Rhone1998 said:

While we were there the Governor had *just* ordered a mandatory mask order for retail establishments.  Prior to that, a lot of places had signs up asking or demanding customers wear masks, but apparently it wasn't the law until that order was issued.  So keep that context in mind.  If compliance in DC is maybe 95%+ (I'm talking about wearing masks inside shops/restaurants), maybe it was 85% there.  Certainly most people were, but we would definitely see people occasionally walk into a place without masks.  Sometimes they were challenged by the establishment, often they weren't.

Just walking down the street? No one would be wearing masks.  On the beach, definitely not.

That said, did we feel safe? Yes, because we never dined inside, spent very little time in stores at all (and when we had to go to a store, only one of us would go in, obviously wearing a mask, and retail workers were almost 100% masked), and most importantly we just never found ourselves in crowded situations (it's very easy to find space on the beach to yourself there, at least in the southern part of OBX where we were).

Thanks! We are going north where it’s more crowded but I’m pretty confident in our ability to stay out of group settings (and order plenty of carry out). The only place we love is a coffee shop in Duck and they seem to be appropriately stringent.

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6 hours ago, DonRocks said:

Where are people staying in OBX that they feel safe? 

Honestly, price is no object - I'd love to get away, even at the most expensive place on the Outer Banks, but I haven't a clue where that might be. I'm not looking to dine well, or to deep-sea fish; I'm looking for a nice, luxurious, safe hotel with a nice swimming pool area.

I am no OBX expert...this was our first time there. But are there nice hotels on the Outer Banks? From Kitty Hawk down to the southern point, where we were, we saw none. Only rentals and cheap motels. It’s pretty rustic. 

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2 hours ago, Rhone1998 said:

I am no OBX expert...this was our first time there. But are there nice hotels on the Outer Banks? From Kitty Hawk down to the southern point, where we were, we saw none. Only rentals and cheap motels. It’s pretty rustic. 

Yes, I haven't been in ... well over twenty years, I think - it was always very rustic and craggy (lots of pickup trucks with fishing poles on them).  No good food, no nice beaches - why does everyone go here? 😉

That said, I always *loved* throwing the little bags of (popcorn? bread crumbs? bird seed?) to the seagulls trailing the Ocracoke Island Ferry. And I've never seen one miss - the Baltimore Orioles would do well to hire one.

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9 hours ago, DonRocks said:

Yes, I haven't been in ... well over twenty years, I think - it was always very rustic and craggy (lots of pickup trucks with fishing poles on them).  No good food, no nice beaches - why does everyone go here? 😉

That said, I always *loved* throwing the little bags of (popcorn? bread crumbs? bird seed?) to the seagulls trailing the Ocracoke Island Ferry. And I've never seen one miss - the Baltimore Orioles would do well to hire one.

Huge difference between southern outer banks and northern outer banks. Very different experiences. Not making judgments - just the truth.

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On ‎7‎/‎9‎/‎2020 at 1:11 AM, DonRocks said:

Where are people staying in OBX that they feel safe? 

Honestly, price is no object - I'd love to get away, even at the most expensive place on the Outer Banks, but I haven't a clue where that might be. I'm not looking to dine well, or to deep-sea fish; I'm looking for a nice, luxurious, safe hotel with a nice swimming pool area.

First, there are literally no rental properties available in July or August from Corolla to Ocracoke.  None!  I thought I wasn't using the search function properly on a couple sites because I kept coming up empty so I called, and the woman told me that because people can't go to Europe or Disney, they are driving to the beach instead and everything is booked.

Second, as someone mentioned, I don't think there are any luxe hotels.  Maybe some nice B&Bs?  But your best bet is to rent a place (this fall or next year).  Some of the beach houses are VERY tricked out with pools, hot tubs, gourmet kitchens, elevators, etc.  You can go from a shotgun shack to a place that's $20K a week.  Unfortunately, I haven't found many small places that are really nice.  I don't really look for them, but in a bunch of casual searches it seems that the 2 and 3 bedroom places are all 20/30/40 years old while the newer places are all 6/8/10 bedroom places with a corresponding price tag.

And as far as dining out goes, the best restaurant is your own kitchen, unless you really love fried...…….everything!  That's a bit of an exaggeration, as there are some decent places here an there, but when I go, we very rarely dine out.  And when we do go "out" it's usually just to pick up a pizza.  On the flip side, the fresh seafood is plentiful and cheap. 

For me, the appeal of the place is that there's nothing to do but go to the beach and cook and eat and drink and soak up the natural vibe.  But I always stay way down in Avon or Buxton where there is almost literally nothing to do besides laying on the beach.  Up in Nags Head/Kitty Hawk/Kill Devil Hills, it's like any(resort)town USA.  All sorts of tourist traps and movies and mini golf and bars, etc.  I avoid it like the plague. 

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20 hours ago, stevem said:

Huge difference between southern outer banks and northern outer banks. Very different experiences. Not making judgments - just the truth.

3 hours ago, Bart said:

For me, the appeal of the place is that there's nothing to do but go to the beach and cook and eat and drink and soak up the natural vibe.  But I always stay way down in Avon or Buxton where there is almost literally nothing to do besides laying on the beach.  Up in Nags Head/Kitty Hawk/Kill Devil Hills, it's like any(resort)town USA.  All sorts of tourist traps and movies and mini golf and bars, etc.  I avoid it like the plague. 

For me, personally, I would no sooner go to Duck (or Kitty Hawk, or Nags Head) than I would Germantown. I do remember a place called the Weeping Radish Brewery up in the northern part that I enjoyed, but that was only for a quick visit.

If I remember correctly, there's a very long (10-20 miles) stretch of protected land, with virtually no commerce - something like a government-controlled reserve - that essentially separates the Northern Outer Banks from the Southern Outer Banks.

And then there was Brew-Thru.

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On 7/9/2020 at 10:01 AM, DonRocks said:

Yes, I haven't been in ... well over twenty years, I think - it was always very rustic and craggy (lots of pickup trucks with fishing poles on them).  No good food, no nice beaches - why does everyone go here? 😉

I like the beaches!

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2 hours ago, saf said:

I like the beaches!

The beaches were awesome.  You can literally stop by the side of the road and walk over a sand dune to have a pristine stretch of beach all to yourself.  I can't think of another place I've been in the US where that's possible.

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I love the beaches too. The North part is definitely more crowded than the South, but still much, much less crowded than the Eastern Shore. Some of the food is terrible but some is pretty good. Duck Cottage is a wonderful coffee shop/bookstore. And, you’re at the beach. The beach is good.

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On 7/10/2020 at 11:56 AM, Bart said:

First, there are literally no rental properties available in July or August from Corolla to Ocracoke.  None!  I thought I wasn't using the search function properly on a couple sites because I kept coming up empty so I called, and the woman told me that because people can't go to Europe or Disney, they are driving to the beach instead and everything is booked.

For what it’s worth, I was curious about this and texted the lady whose condo we rented about her availability for the rest of the summer. She says she has one week left, from August 29 to September 5. This is a very nice, modern two bedroom condo on the ocean side in Rodanthe. If anyone is interested I’m happy to put you in touch with her.

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I've been twice to the Outer Banks, so far this summer. One week in Corolla, in July, in a western-themed, smaller rental between the sound and the ocean. It had three bedrooms, perfect for the small group I was with. We did not eat out at all, except for a few excursions to Dairy Queen (no judgement please.) But we had great local seafood that we grilled at the rental, from  Dockside Market and Seaside Market. Seaside has a larger variety of non-seafood items- produce, snacks, mixers, etc. It was a remoter-remote work week for me so I did not go to the beach everyday during the day. Early evenings on the beach saw few people - definitely no crowds. The beaches during the day were not too crowded either - we (ok, the newly licensed 16 year old son of a friend) drove most days to the 4-wheel drive beach. People were not all masked but did keep socially distant. Both the Food Lion and the Harris Teeter were enforcing mask rules - and the ABC store had a 5 (or 8?) person in-store limit. The people in the wild horse tour jeeps were generally not masked and often packed in those vehicles. We did not partake of that experience, but you could walk on the beach safely and still encounter the horses. 

I then spent a vacation week in August with the same group in a very large, tricked-out house in Salvo (and have this one again in October.) That part of the Outer Banks is much less crowded but also a lot fewer options if you want to venture out. But, many options for renting kayaks, SUPs, bikes etc. We stuck to the beach by our house and and had no crowds, although a bit closer to Rodanthe Pier saw a lot more people. The Food Lion is the only large grocery store on the island and they were enforcing masks and in-store crowding - we had to wait outside one time to get in. Mostly though we bought seafood at Austin South Island and cooked most meals. We got take-out pizza at Lisa's and some prepared meals at Austin South Island, and the kids got carry-out hotdogs at Frank's a few times. Waves Market has some essentials and a great beer selection, and there is a Dollar General for some basics.  We normally go out to Top Dog and Waterman's (great sunset locale, room for kids to run around, and in more normal times, live music.) Both were open but we did not visit. 

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