An Outer Banks 2017 Vacay: Where We Ate
This is part 2 of a 3 part series on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, focusing specifically on our experiences from vacation 2017! Check out part one here!
I used to hate seafood.
The very thoughts of fish, shrimp and any other seafood just made my stomach turn. I attribute the avoidance to an episode of sickness with popcorn shrimp when I was really young, but however it happened, I shunned that entire food group for a long time!
Like most people, though, my palette has changed as I've gotten older. I'm slowly warming up to a few seafood items here and there - mainly fish and shrimp. What better place to exercise my new palette than at the Outer Banks, where the seafood is not only abundant, but especially fresh!
I have made it a point the last couple trips to the Outer Banks to specifically choose seafood dishes while dining out, and open up to trying new things. Sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn't. But the choices for seafood are endless - as are the places to eat all along OBX. Numerous and delicious!
During our trip a few weeks ago, we visited a few old favorite dives, and I visited a few old favorite dishes. But there were new experiences, new places and new dishes that occurred, too. Seafood was definitely on the menu! Our culinary adventures were a delightful experience, and, as good food always is, one of the highlights of our vacation!
Here are the few places we visited for eats and drinks, all up and down Hatteras Island and Nags Head. All these establishments are "privately owned" and are not typical chain restaurants [Duck Donuts is is a booming franchise, but still focuses a lot on it's home, which is OBX]. I've given these a "star system" for rating our experience - 5 being excellent,1 being terrible. These rating hold no actual value, they are just a reflection of my own opinions. And just for your information upfront - there are no 1 or 2 stars on this list. Everywhere that we visited I would gladly eat at again!
Honestly, this restaurant is not a "looker" from the outside. It doesn't give the impression of anything special. But looks can be totally deceiving, and I feel like that's the case here. "Don't knock it until you try it" is a good rule of thumb about restaurants on Hatteras Island!
It is newly renovated on the inside, and it does appear very updated in decor and furnishings from our trip last year. The service was friendly and accommodating to our large party of 8. The inside of the restaurant is not very large, and at about 6 pm there were quite a few people there, which means during peak season [we were there in May, which is not yet peak] you would probably have to wait for a table.
Everyone was served complementary homemade hush puppies upon arrival. They come out piping hot! They were absolutely delicious, with just enough sweetness to make them melt in your mouth. It is always my favorite part of eating there!
I decided to order the Fried & Broiled Platters Create A Combo. I picked the fried crab cake and the fish of the day - fried mahi mahi. They were well prepared and so fresh! For sides, I chose coleslaw and the vegetable of the day, which was an amazing twice baked potato casserole. The thoughts of it kind of makes me drool right now!
I really enjoyed my food here this time around, but I always do! I give this place 4 1/2 stars out of 5. I wish that their menu was less fried and more diverse - even though they have a couple great "unusual" dishes - like flounder stuffed with crab imperial and a Cajun-type dish called the Blackened Hatteras. Sonny's also serves breakfast, and although I haven't yet it tried, I am open for checking it out on a future trip! From what I understand, Sonny's is one of the only restaurants on Hatteras Island that serves full breakfast.
If you are staying or visiting in the Hatteras Village or Frisco area, I would highly recommend stopping by here for a meal!
I first found out that Duck Donuts existed from a pin that showed up on my Pinterest feed a few years ago. Just one glimpse of those gorgeous fried donuts was enough to seal the deal - I had to try them! It was love at first sight, and then later, love at first bite! [see what I did there?]
Duck Donuts is vindictive of a "gourmet" donut experience, without all of the frills and bougie that might come with a gourmet establishment. To put it lightly, it's very, VERY yummy fried cake donuts that you are allowed to customize with different toppings. You can select a glaze, a drizzle, and/or a topping.
You can play it safe with some vanilla glaze and colored sprinkles. You can even just get one simply dredged in delicious cinnamon sugar. Or, you can go a little rouge - bacon is not only available as a topping, it is a customer favorite!
The concept, as simple as it sounds, is kind of hard to graciously execute once you arrive. Picking out all those toppings can be tedious! But the workers are very accommodating, patient, and informative. They will give you suggestions. Or if it's just all too much, you can also just order an assorted amount, and they will randomly select the glazes, toppings and drizzles for you! Even better, there is a order form you can fill out ahead of time and just hand to the cashier.
Originating from Duck, NC [in the northern section of the OBX], they have branched out into several different stores throughout neighboring states. We went to their newly opened store in Nags Head. It was so fresh, clean, new - and packed! We stopped by twice when in the area [during our stay, and once right before we left], and both times it was very busy. But the service was like clockwork and as fast as I would suppose hot, individually topped donuts could be produced. Worth every second of wait!
We did decide to try the donut breakfast sandwich during one visit. It had bacon, cheese, fried egg and you guessed it - a donut for the bread. The most that we could equate it to was a McGriddle from McDonalds, with the taste being just a little superior. It was a great mix of sweet and savory! But we found the sandwiches to be very messy and the very hot donut disintegrated from the weight of the ingredients, so we will probably pass on that in the future. The donuts themselves are amazing enough to cover all our needs! :)
A side note - I had a dark roast coffee the day we tried the donut breakfast sandwiches, and it was really, really good!
I rate this place 5 stars. I can't really think of a way that it can be improved. Except maybe online ordering, but that would really detract from the experience...?
My very favorites, do you ask? Maple glaze with bacon., lemon glaze with coconut, and strawberry glaze with sprinkles!
This place is a family favorite! We have been frequenting this restaurant for many vacations - over 10 years now! It's always a must-go place to stop and have lunch whenever we are in or near Nags Head.
Miller's has very much expanded since we first started dining there, and now includes amazing things like a full, open-type dining area and bar over the top of the regular restaurant. So in a way, it's almost like two restaurants in one! It also has a nice deck dining outdoors and a large deck with a gazebo. It has one of the most beautiful views where it sits directly on the Pamlico Sound, looking out towards Manteo. The sunsets are gorgeous!
But really what keeps us coming back is the food! I am in LOVE with the fish tacos - they are always so good, and always what I order off the lunch menu. The cilantro cream sauce really sets them off. Of course this is what I got for lunch during our visit this year!
Another favorite that makes my mouth water is the fried green tomatoes, which are topped with corn, spinach, bacon and goat cheese, with a poblano ranch for dipping. I skipped them this year, and instead we got a loaded nachos appetizer, which wasn't my favorite, but everyone seemed satisfied!
I keep mentioning lunch because that's what we ate this year, and also Travis and I ate there for dinner a couple years ago, and we were so surprised about the price of the food. It was significantly higher, and we also felt like the quality was not as good. They didn't have fish tacos for dinner! :( The only thing that redeemed that particular experience was the view of the sunset from the dock and gazebo. Who could not love this view?
Rating this lovely restaurant as 4 out of 5.
I wrote about this coffee shop in my 9 Unique Things To Do in the Outer Banks. The coffee found up and down OBX has proved itself worthy of mentioning over and over. Travis doesn't find anything special about the Morning View coffee - he says it's just "ok" - but I really love it. I particularly like their froo-froo drinks, which are the espresso drinks, and they have a wide variety of other regular coffee types, pastries and snacks. The shop is eclectic and cozy, tucked at the end of a Forbes Candy Shop [which does have good candy, by the way]. I would enjoy just hanging out there, but it seems like we never have time to stay longer than a few minutes.
When we visited this year, I chose an iced sandbar froo-froo drink, which is a mocha with english toffee and a chocolate whipped cream. As expected, it was so good! I've never met a coffee there that I haven't liked.
Rated 4 1/2 stars out of 5 for the delicious coffee and great coffee house vibe.
I will just start by saying that I rate this coffee shop 5 stars! Over, and over, and over again!
It's no secret, evidenced by my many coffee mentions in all of my blog posts thus far, that I ADORE visiting coffee shops. I can't explain it, but it is a passion of mine. And this cute coffee place, located in Hatteras Village, holds the number one spot of all coffee shops in my heart.
The Dancing Turtle is located right in the heart of the village, is normally always busy, and is frequented by locals and visitors alike. [We even saw the owner of the Frisco Sandwich Company in there one morning!] The decor is eclectic, but not pretentious. There is a nice front porch, plenty of seating inside, and the owners and workers are friendly and efficient. Dogs are not only welcome, but the owners' two pups can often be found hanging out, waiting for someone to pet them!
And the coffee - oh my! All the different kinds I have tried, including their espresso, is so smooth and rich! I wrote extensively about my love for their Coconut Crunch coffee in my May favorites post, but I also loved the Southern Pecan coffee and all of the espresso drinks I've ever tried - which is a lot! Everything is so good, down to their pastries!
We went to The Dancing Turtle every morning that it was open [which, at that time, was everyday except Monday]. I wish I had documented every single thing that I tried that week, but I didn't - the things I can remember are an iced toasted marshmallow latte, frozen chocolate raspberry mocha, iced almond joy mocha, coconut crunch coffee, and southern pecan coffee. I also tried a couple different biscottis - turtle and chocolate almond. Everything was delicious, as it always is, year after year!
If there's one place that you NEED to visit, get up early on a sunny morning, and take yourself to The Dancing Turtle. It is so very worth it!
This was our first dining out experience during this year's vacay. We were on our way to Rusty's Surf and Turf in Buxton, but found out it was closed on Mondays [maybe next year!]. So we drove back down the road to the Sandbar & Grille, also in Buxton. It is located right off Hwy 12, and has the most beautiful view of the Pamlico sound. I really wish we had arrived right at sunset!
The service was friendly, the prices were as expected for the restaurants on Hatteras Island [about $20 per entree], and the atmosphere was very "bar" like, but comfortable. There was plenty of seating for our party of 8.
The food was a little skimpy for the price, and we seem to get a little more bang for our buck at Sonny's, later on in the week. But everything was really good! Not spectacular, but fresh and well prepared. They offer a variety of seafood, soups and salads, chicken, steaks, appetizers, sandwiches and of course a full bar of drinks.
We ordered coconut shrimp with thai dipping sauce for an appetizer, and it was delicious. I had the fried sea scallops for an entree, which was a total experiment, and I really wish I had tried something different or had them blackened. Slimy scallops is just not a good thing in my book.
I would eat here again, but it would not be a first choice. I would rate this 3 1/2 stars out of 5.
We ended up visiting this cafe in Buxton on the first morning we were in on Hatteras Island, because The Dancing Turtle was closed on Mondays. It was a good detour!
There was an entire case of fresh baked pastries available for sale, and they also had their own blends of coffee. We opted for large coffees [dark roast for me, medium roast for Travis], and then we decided to stick with the most famous of their bakery goods - apple uglies! They are MASSIVE apple fritters, fried golden until perfection. Worth every high caloric bite! The whole family ate breakfast that morning off just two fritters. I hear that they always sell out really fast, and we were there about 8 am on a late May morning, and there were only about 15 left. So while they may be hard to get - especially during peak season - they are definitely worth getting up early to get to them, at least once!
Even though it was a quick trip, I would rate our experience and food as 4 stars out of 5. I will be going back just one for one of those apple uglies!
I had passed this sandwich shop many times in Frisco, and had always wanted to try it. But due to their short open hours [11 am - 3 pm], it had never been in the cards. Luckily, this year it was! We stopped by right before they closed, after we had spent a long day at the beach. We weren't trying to be those people, but we were so hungry! The place was less than a mile from our vacation house, so we were able to grab and go.
The food was sooooooo good! All of our sandwiches were piled high with meat and toppings. Home fried potato chips were served with the entree - they were sprinkled with parsley, light, crispy, and so flavorful! Each order includes a pickle, like any good sandwich shop! The price for the amount of food received was great.
I had a Roast Beaster panini, piled high with roast beef, swiss, mushrooms, peppers, greens and horseradish sauce. It was huge and delicious! I opted for a side of their homemade potato salad, too, which was also very good. It was mayo based, not mustard based - so it wasn't my favorite type - but that is a personal preference! Everyone was very satisfied with their orders.
Pickles were also a big theme at the sandwich shop, all the way down to the pickle picture cutout on the front lawn! One of my sisters ordered the fried pickle spears, and they were perfectly cooked. Another sister ordered a very unique offering - a homemade picklesicle! That's right - a popsicle, made out of dill pickle juice. The concept sounds gross to some, amazing to others, and us pickle-loving sisters, it definitely fell into the amazing category. She let me taste it and oh. my. goodness - it was so good! I am thinking about trying to make them at home!
Everyone was super satisfied with their food and we all agreed - we will definitely eat here again! Rating this place 4 1/2 stars out of 5. It was one of the best finds of our vacation!
Located in Nags Head, it's unique name was something that we had to research - "Tortuga" means turtle in Spanish, and also is the name of a turtle shaped island in the Caribbean. "Lie" means the location thereof, and "lie to" is a nautical term for stopping a ship. So - the ship stops at this island. The turtle is on their sign. It all connects!
Anyway, this was Travis' favorite place to eat, and a place we were really excited to revisit!
Tortuga's Lie features a mix of fresh seafood and Caribbean flavors in a very laid-back atmosphere. They have everything from seafood steamer platters, to conch fritters, to sushi, to a meatless Garden Burger, all the way back around to baja fish tacos, with another thirty or so dishes in between. A huge variety! This restaurant would highly qualify as a "dive" - and has actually been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network channel! [as have several other restaurants along OBX].
We all ordered the Nachos Supreme as an appetizers for the table - it was so good, fresh and flavorful! We had nachos as an appetizer at Miller's Waterfront Restaurant on a separate day, and they didn't even begin to compare in deliciousness. Tortuga's was highly superior!
For an entree, most of us ordered the Coco Loco Chicken - a Tortuga's specialty. It is a coconut fried chicken breast and served with Caribbean-spiced rice and beans. But the best part is the curry lime sauce! I am still looking for a suitable recipe dupe to make this stuff at home!
If I had to take "points" off of our experience, it would be for the service and the atmosphere. First of all, the place is a little cramped. I remembered this from the first time Travis and I were there a couple years ago, but didn't think about it being a problem for our party of 8, until it was happening. We had to wait for a table for about 20 minutes, even though they did not seem to be overly full. We don't mind at all waiting - seating 8 people is hard - but they also seemed annoyed when we didn't all arrive at once, even though there were no other people waiting for a table. When they did sit us down, it was right under a air conditioning vent. It was hard to maneuver around because we were in the corner, we were quite tightly packed together, and the chairs, although on par for the Caribbean feel, were small and hard.
Despite all the logistic annoyances, we did love our food! I would suggest that you considering visiting in smaller groups, or ordering to-go. Rating Tortuga's Lie as 3 1/2 stars out of 5.
This is the cutest little place! I wish I had gotten a picture of the outside. It is tucked away in Hatteras Village, directly off Hwy 12, unassuming and small. At first, I thought it was closed for good, as sometimes businesses in the Outer Banks do. Turns out they were just really opening up for the tourist season. We were lucky enough to get in on the yumminess!
The Snackery opens very early [6 am!] and in the past when we visited, they were running very low or were out of their more popular pastries. This time, a lot of options were available - I'm guessing because it wasn't yet peak tourist season.
I really wanted to try the chocolate pecan pie bar [shown above], but instead I opted for a cherry chocolate scone. It was pretty good! Even better was the cinnamon roll that Travis chose. It was HUGE and had a nice citrus glaze, putting a twist on your "run of the mill" cinnamon roll.
While the things we got were good, they were not life-changing. It's a really nice, homemade place with very friendly proprietors, and I feel like it's a great addition to Hatteras Village. Still, I would probably only rate this place a 3 1/2 stars out of 5, just because it wasn't anything special. I would be ok with skipping it next visit in favor of just a biscotti from the Turtle.
We went beach driving one night, and then stopped by Happy Belly Ice Cream in Hatteras Village for an evening treat. It is a small place, in a small series of shops directly off Hwy 12. [notice a trend here with everything being off the main highway? everything is easily accessible!]
We had never been here before, and it was a very cute ice cream shop. You can tell it is not any sort of chain type eatery, and that makes it extra special! It offers many options for sundaes and cones, loads of toppings, and some unique ice cream flavors. Travis and I ordered the pirates treasure ice cream. While we still aren't sure exactly what was it in, it reminded me of something like a monster cookie - peanut butter, m&ms, etc.
I will probably go here again for a quick treat! Sometimes you just need ice cream at the beach! :) 4 out of 5 stars.
The Home Away From Home
This is where we ate the most - at the beach casa! We cooked some yummy meals in our full kitchen, with us all taking turns fixing this or that. We don't get to spend lot of together time with every family member present, so it was precious just sitting down at the large table in our rented vacation home, swapping stories and laughing. It was not only good on our bank accounts, it was also good food for our souls!
So there you have it, all the places that we ate and loved! As said, there are so many great places to visit for food and drinks all along Hatteras Island. Don't be afraid to branch out and try something new, and enjoy all the fresh seafood the restaurants have to offer! If you are a foodie, or at least enjoy some good food, the Outer Banks is definitely the place to be!