Congratulations! If you are reading this you are probably going to, have been , currently are on, or are planning an Outer Banks Vacation! There is not enough space on this page to describe just ALL The Outer Banks has to offer from food, fun, activities, history, things to do, etc. Southern Shores Realty - your premiere destination for Outer Banks Vacation Rentals and The Outer Banks Current would like to welcome you to the "Outer Banks Top 10"; a guide feature bringing to you the "bests" and "must-trys" from around the beach! Our first installment: "Top 10 Foods to Try", is to educate and inform visitors about the cuisine that should be experienced at least once to get the most out of your stay! These are not necessarily our favorites, sponsors, endorsers, or partners. They are simply a collection of delicious experiences we feel you should share in at least one time that you are here. So in no particular order, I present to you:
THE OUTER BANKS TOP 10 FOODS TO TRY!
NORTH CAROLINA BARBEQUE -
You heard it right! North Carolina Barbeque! I'm not here to start a war over "who invented the..." OR "who started...", but what I can tell you is that you would be sure missing a staple of Americana if you passed up true eastern NC BBQ during your Outer Banks Vacation! Hopefully many of you have sunk your teeth into the soft, melt-in-your-mouth experience that is true eastern Carolina barbeque. If you have not, you are missing out on one of the defining cuisines of the area. Historically very vinegary, NC BBQ is a revelation for those of you that slab gobs of sauce onto your pork patties! Memphis, KC, and Texas can have it their way, but the way pork is prepared here, in time honored manner, is AMAZING! You won't find a lot of beef as pork is the preferred medium of mastery here, but the essence of the "Q" here is to cook and prepare the pork in such a manner that extras are not needed! The process starts with LOW and SLOW smoking/cooking to preserve the texture of the meat while complimenting it with smokey notes. After the cooking process most pork is either chopped or "pulled" before it's reached it's final stage. A short toss in some sauce (typically brown sugar, vinegar, and pepper flake) and the meat is ready for the mouth! Typical accompaniments include fries, slaw, cornbread, or some oh-so-buttery-yum hush puppies (adjective creation comes with experience)! Now for some excellent references! A GREAT NC BBQ experience can be found at many of the purveyors here at the beach, however some standouts include: High Cotton BBQ, Sooey's BBQ, and Pigman's BBQ. Heck, try all you can find! There is NO reason not to give NC BBQ a shot and once you try it, you will be hooked!
SOFT SHELL CRAB -
Considered a delicacy, soft shell blue crabs are a delicious experience and a perfect way to savor one of the area's most plentiful resources! Typically available from May - September, soft shell crabs are blue crabs that have shed or molted their old shell in order to develop a new shell to correspond with their growth. After shedding the old shell, the crabs have an extremely soft and edible exterior. The soft shell crab season is a VERY busy time for the local fishermen. After harvesting, blue crabs are kept in large fresh water tank assemblies most often refereed to as "peelers" or "shedders." These shedders are checked frequently throughout the day to harvest the crabs as soon as they have split from the shell; the key to soft shell crabs is the FRESHNESS! It's recommended that after molting, soft shell's are eaten within 4 days as they should be kept alive before cooking (if possible). Typically after molting their shells the crabs are packed on ice and shipped across the country to be savored. One of the benefits of vacationing to the Outer Banks and eating locally is the price is not as expensive. What may cost you $15 a dozen here may very well be $60 in New York City, etc. Soft shell crabs are easy to prepare! Most often times a good battering and pan frying is the method of choice, however you can broil, bake, etc., with the crustaceans. Keeping with the "simple and tasty" motif, traditionally soft shells are served up fried with a squeeze of lemon, and on a fresh baked bun with lettuce and tomato! They may seem a little out of most people's realms, but soft shell crabs are definitely a must-try and can be found on many menus in-season and when food vendors attend festivals, etc!
OYSTER STEW -
Another tasty resource of the Outer Banks is oysters! Harvested much like clams, oysters are found in the brackish waters of the sound and can be dredged, raked or gathered by hand in water. Prime oyster season is typically in the fall, however because of demand, you can find oysters on the menu most of the year on the Outer Banks. After harvesting, oysters can be prepared many ways; steamed, boiled, baked, broiled, fried or even consumed raw. Although many look for pearls to be concealed by the shells of an oyster, folklore suggests finding a small crab (known as an oyster crab) inside of your oyster is very lucky! These small creatures actually come to live inside of some oysters for protection and are often cooked right up with the mollusk itself. No matter how you indulge in oysters whether by the dozen steamed or raw with a chaser, one dish you MUST try at least once is oyster stew. People LOVE food down here and competition gets pretty heated when claiming #1, or "the best" at anything. However, that being said there is a very tasty nomination I'd like to serve up to my readers to go out and try some superb stew. Striper's Bar & Grille in Manteo, just past the Shallowbag Bay Club, serves up an AMAZING cup of oyster stew! It's simple, delicious, and quite frankly leaves you wanting more. The recipe is fabulous; cream, butter and oysters finished with chimmy churry & oyster crackers. If you haven't tried it yet, please do! It's definitely a dish to remember the tastes of the Outer Banks!
DUCK DONUTS -
The name says it all! Unfortunately for other rounded pastries, Duck Donuts has made a name all for themselves! Owned and operated by former vacationers, Duck Donuts has grown to four locations on the Outer Banks and serves up donuts the way they were intended; warm and with just a little bite to them! If you include sugary indulgences in your regular morning routine or just like to splurge once on your visit, trust me when I tell you to try these creations out. There are a few things to remember when it comes to Duck Donuts: 1) Go Early! - many, many people are now trying the simple deliciousness that is the Duck Donut, so get there as soon as you can in the morning. 2) Don't be afraid to call in your order! - With all the flavors of icing and combinations of toppings you can be sure your family members want to customize the order (my personal indulgence is maple icing with bacon topping)! And lastly, 3) Remember your friends back home! - Duck Donuts can travel with you home. A quick zap in the microwave for 8 seconds provides your friends at home a great sample of what you enjoyed at the beach each morning (granted only if any last the car ride home)! Overall, there is a reason Duck Donuts made the list, they are unlike any other yummy treat down here and you will thank me once you bite into the warm fried-fresh creation!
KEY LIME PIE -
Wait; we aren't in Key West are we? NOPE, but another honorable "must-try" mention is a tangy yet sweet creation being served up on the Outer Banks! Traditionally a fare waging culinary contests further south, there is a Key Lime pie being served on the Outer Banks that any vacationer would be missing out on if not tasted at least once. The not so secret restaurant is called the Kill Devil Grill. Located right on the beach road past milepost 9.5, the Kill Devil Grill has captured a spot in many vacationer's hearts the same as many of our famous eateries. The one item we HAD to highlight as a must-try however, is the Key Lime pie! Oversized and set on a delicious buttery crumble crust, their Key Lime pie is the tastiest I have ever eaten. The portion is large - so be prepared to share! The filling itself is served at just the right temperature and has the best balance of sweetness, lime flavor, and the zesty finish you would expect! What are you waiting for? Get on over to the Kill Devil Grill and cool off after a hot day in the summer sun with a big slice of Key Lime pie - The Outer Banks way!
DOLPHIN (MAHI-MAHI) -
The Outer Banks is considered to be the billfish capital of the world! With hosts of marlin, sailfish, swordfish, etc. being hauled in off charter fishing vessels, there's no doubting the statement. As an avid fisherman, I am proud to live in such a historically bountiful fishing destination. One of the major harvests from both commercial and recreational fishing is Dolphin (dolphinfish or "mahi-mahi" as many Hawaiians and restaurant goers know it as). The taste of the fish is fantastic; it has a nice white flaky texture and can stand alone or be woken up by hosts of sauces, salsas, and spices. You need to try dolphin at least one time when you're down here on the coast! It is often served as a lunch fare as perfect portions are not giant and the fish is rather thin making fillets not as tall. My personal favorites for dolphin include: fish tacos, blackened over rice, and batter fried and on a sandwich (not so crazy about the mango salsa mania). Speaking of sandwich, there was an OVERWHELMING response from our "field studies" that aligned well with a must-try dolphin destination. If you have only one chance to try the fish out - you need to stop over to John's Drive In, located on the beach road in Kitty Hawk at milepost 4.5! Heralded as having the "Planet's best milkshakes", John's cooks up a tasty torpedo that is the "Dolphin Sandwich" served right with tomato and tarter. For those of you craving more fish,less bun - go ahead and get the "Dolphin Boat" which will add some tasty fries, more fish and a drink to the equation while ditching the bun! The taste of the sandwich is simply spot on. The bread is corn dusted and warm, the fish is fried perfectly, and it all comes together with a great atmosphere to eat; right smack across from the salty sea itself! No paid endorsement, no playing games here, get on over to John's Drive In, and taste some dolphin....and a milkshake!
SHE CRAB SOUP -
An ode to the blue crab; we meet again! We have another culinary creation that makes the "Top 10 Foods to Try" on the basis that it's too delicious to pass up on. You've reached the point in your life when you've eaten enough clam chowder and lobster bisque. You need to step out of the routine and into a warm creamy bowl of a soup that will rock your socks off - come on, you've earned it! The soup is named for the "She Crab", or female crab, as the orange crab roe is an ingredient in traditional she-crab soup. Other ingredients may be added to the soup or substituted for others, although tasty crabmeat is found in all versions. She crab soup is particularly delicious with its heavy cream, milk, and buttery base partnered up with some light veggie notes (celery, onion, bell pepper, parsley) depending on where it's ordered. Of course you will find some Old Bay crab seasoning, a dash of sherry, and generous helpings of crab meat. Together, the creamy base is a perfect medium for the crab's texture, and the spices, sherry, and veggies add perfect accents to the taste! If you are a fan of any crab dips you have eaten in the past, go on, don't be bashful, order a massive bowl of the "she" and make your stomach smile! Now as to where to go dine: I have eaten more bowls of She-crab than I'd like to admit, however there are two GREAT mentions that you should consider. Hurricane Mo's Beachside Bar & Grill in Kitty Hawk and The Colington Cafe in Kill Devil Hills are rated highly and frequently considered some of the best She-crab that the Outer Banks has to offer! There's no point in trying just one, so go ahead and taste them both, then drop us a comment on the top or bottom of this page to help settle the score!
"APPLE UGLIES" -
Once again I present you with a must-try that has made a name all for itself. Although not representing a single property in the town of Buxton, NC, Southern Shores Realty and The Outer Banks Current are giving you the best of the beach. Period. And back to tempt your sweet tooth is the "Apple Ugly." Conjured up at the Orange Blossom Bakery & Cafe, Apple Uglies are the tasty treasure of the southern beaches! The creation is a fantasticly large mount of what could also be called an apple fritter in other culinary cultures. They are large, warm, and loaded with large chunks of apple and swirled with cinnamon. The Ugly is fried, giving it a crust demanding a conscious bite, and is then glazed over with some of the tastiest sugar icing you will experience! The Apple Ugly is a must try at LEAST one time in your life, even if it's so you can just tell the story later! The Orange Blossom offers a nice menu selection for the early morning visitors ranging from hot breakfast sandwiches on fresh bread to cookies and pastries by the dozen. One (not so secret) secret tip for getting your hands on an "Ugly" is to GO EARLY! Published open hours are from 6:30am - 11:00am 7 days a week, HOWEVER, I can tell you from experience (with a small violin playing in the background) if you make the mistake of going anytime after 8 or 9 in the morning you have a better chance of winning $1,000 in the lottery than getting your paws on an Ugly. Sure, there will plenty of "something" left, but you don't want just "something"; you want an Ugly! In later posts we will cover the joys and fun of an excursion to the southern beaches and Ocracoke Island. If you are traveling further south, make an attempt to get to the Orange Blossom early one morning and your family, friends, and stomach will thank you!
OYSTER "SHOOTER" -
You've made it! Your enjoying an Outer Banks Vacation Rental! It's time to unwind from the stresses of work and your "ordinary" routine that occurs the other 51 weeks out of the year. You are on the Outer Banks and a fantastic way to celebrate your vacation is with an "Oyster Shooter." What is an Oyster Shooter you say? Well, it's no secret (especially if you read up to this point) that on the Outer Banks oysters are enjoyed in a wide variety of ways. Fried, steamed, ... yeah, yeah, yeah, we got it the first time. However the raw seafood culture is also quite popular on the beach. While oysters are a tasty treat served raw on the shell paired with your favorite beer, etc., there's a way to enjoy several of these together, all at once. The purpose of these lists are to get you (yes you) out and about trying out all the cool stuff you have to do at LEAST once on the Outer Banks, and the Oyster Shooter is no exception! It all starts off with a freshly shucked oyster, that gets plopped into a shooter filled with ice cold brew, and topped with a dash of cocktail sauce or hot sauce depending on where you get one! Recommended stops include Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar on the beach road at milepost 6 across from the Avalon Pier, and Howard's Pub on Ocracoke Island. These two come highly recommended from many visitors as well as my own personal taste buds! Make your Outer Banks Vacation complete; celebrate your week in paradise with an Oyster Shooter - you'll always remember it!
OUTER BANKS BREAKFAST -We have now pretty much celebrated the flavorful creations that the beach has offer as far as sandwiches, entree's, sides, sweets and deserts, but what happened to true breakfast at the beach? I'll tell you what happened! It is here and it needs to be experienced! There are many options that the Outer Banks has for breakfast seekers ranging from buffets to grab and go markets. There is a must-try restaurant on the Outer Banks that will treat you to a breakfast fit for a king... AND a pirate! The hint has been dropped and the curtain rises; The Jolly Roger Restaurant located on the beach road on milepost 6.5 in Kill Devil Hills, is a hands-down, knockout punch for a tremendous Outer Banks Breakfast! When I recommend to you The Jolly Roger for breakfast it's not because they have one particular dish that rocks, it's because they have a FULL breakfast menu that will amaze you with any pick you make. The portions - enormous, the selection - vast, the ambiance - probably the most unique on the beach. The cozy setting is complimented by hundreds of lights, ornaments, and other decor PLUS a full crew of pirate-dressed wait staff that will make your visit one to remember! Every item on the menu is delicious; huge homemade toast slices, tasty grits, enormous pancakes, and the most delicious paring of seafood and breakfast ever. Popular combinations include taking your breakfast favorites like omelets and eggs benedict, and then pumping them up with loads of fresh crab meat that take them to an entirely different level! A visit to the Outer Banks would not be complete without a tasty breakfast out. A morning meal to remember can be ordered right up at The Jolly Roger! I know where I'm going to eat Sunday Morning!
I sincerely hope that this list proves to be both informative and resourceful to our readers. This is not a definitive list by any means. The foods are not ranked, the recommendations are not paid for, they are simply the here and now recommended eats for visitors. You should really get out and make the most of your vacation to the Outer Banks. Don't take for granted that you can try a special food next visit if you are lucky enough to come back; sometimes sadly, menu's change, businesses come and go and you might miss out on something great. You don't have to deplete your savings account and go on a roundabout dining tour, but print the page and leave it in the car -you never know when the perfect opportunity may open up for you on your vacation! We are looking forward to generating more Top 10 Lists for The Outer Banks; our next installments will guide you to must visit attractions and activities you need to experience! I'd like to thank our readers for giving us content to produce and publish. Without you and the rest of Outer Banks vacationers, I would not be living here today! Until next time - get out and enjoy!