December 18, 2017
Outer Banks Bucket List is your go-to guide to all the must-see attractions, hidden gems, and good stuff in between on the Outer Banks. This week, we’re talking all things Bad Bean—the Tex-Mex grill in Kitty Hawk that’s heating things up on the OBX.
When it comes to continually crafting new dishes that are as mouthwatering as the last, a lot of restaurants miss the mark. Either they undertake overly ambitious recipes that fall short of their promises or they continue to make the same plates without bringing anything exciting to the table. Bad Bean Baja Grill in Kitty Hawk, however, surpasses both of these shortcomings thanks to the talented guidance of chefs Rob Robinson and Matt Payne.
Every day, the masterminds behind Bad Bean Baja Grill—endearingly shortened to “Bad Bean” by locals—are churning out delicious and unexpected flavor combinations. Whether it’s savory black bean pancakes or a Thanksgiving dinner burrito, there’s always something new to sample at Bad Bean. Chefs Rob and Matt call on a variety of influences to invent exciting twists on some of your favorite recipes. Their daily specials are not to be missed. Dishes like pork belly topped with fresh chile verde and a perfectly cooked fried egg over a jalapeño cheddar biscuit or duck carnitas tostada smothered in green chile enchilada sauce balance flavor combinations without managing to intimidate. Somehow, every day is more enticing than the last.
At Bad Bean, they’re constantly drawing inspiration from the Outer Banks. Many of their specials, especially during the summer months, incorporate local produce and seafood. Whether that means they’re using local drum and flounder in their ceviche recipes or crafting decadent yellow fin tuna burgers topped with grilled onions and chipotle mayo, local ingredients tend to steal the show. Their creativity with seasonal ingredients isn’t limited to their comestible offerings, either. Creating their own house margarita mixes ensures two things: 1) a delicious margarita and 2) fresh, seasonal flavor. During melon season, a honeydew margarita is a refreshing necessity and you’ll definitely want to get your hands on the prickly pear version in the early fall.
That’s one of Bad Bean’s prevailing qualities—their priority on local and seasonal ingredients. Thanks to chefs Rob and Matt’s commitment to providing quality as well as flavor, this results in a menu that deftly balances the expected and the nontraditional. Diners can choose between classic go-to’s like soft tacos (the barbacoa is out of this world) or adventure into some of Bad Bean’s signature offerings like their chipotle meatball quesadilla or The Havana, their version of a classic Cuban.
The desserts are straightforward palette pleasers—banana coconut pound cake and sopaipillas (warm pastry dusted with cinnamon sugar and drizzled with honey, served a la mode). If you’re lucky, you can treat yourself to one of their specials like a pumpkin cheesecake jar topped with Mexican spiced pecans and torched marshmallow cream.