Just got back from a week in NC on the Outer Banks. Didn't do much eating out, but we did have a wonderful, simple meal at the Duck News Cafe on our first night. We had started at the Sunset Grille, which was a disaster (think watered down drinks, old oysters, and a rowdy unpleasant bar crowd), and just wanted a place to have some local seafood prepared simply. The Duck News was the first place we came to, luckily for us. We had spiced boiled shrimp to start - pristinely fresh, not overcooked or rubbery. We followed with fried flounder and scallops. Again, perfectly cooked and satisfying. The accompanying fries and slaw were just right, although the hush pups weren't great. The wine list is not long, but interesting and well thought out. Service was attentive and professional, and the sound side location made it great for watching the sunset.
The remaining evenings we stayed in, buying fresh fish from Austin Seafood in Nag's Head or Carawan Seafood in Kitty Hawk. Both had excellent selection, although Carawan's was possibly a tad better. Finding a decent wine store proved challenging, but we enjoyed the beers brewed by the local brewpubs - the Weeping Radish and Outer Banks Brewing. Outer Banks will sell you a 2-liter jug of any of their brews to take home and then bring back for refills. We enjoyed both their Olsch and Red brews. We were too late in the season to enjoy any local produce, and the Food Lions in Kitty Hawk and Corolla didn't offer much variety.
Lastly, I couldn't be within 200 miles of Ayden, NC, and not make the pilgrimage to Pete Jone's Skylight Inn for barbecue. My BF thought I was nuts, but it was well worth it! Took me over three hours each way, but Mr. Jones himself waited on me, thanked me for making the journey, and even gave me a free extra sandwich for the long trip back. Moist, tender meat, with wonderful crunchy skin bits. HEAVEN! I also have to admit to finding something oddly appealing about their oft abused cornbread. It's tough, it's chewy, but it has great cornmeal flavor tempered with porkfat. Since I was in the neighborhood, I also stopped in at Bum's (right around the corner from the Skylight on the town's main drag just before the railroad tracks). They also have traditional, wood-fired cue, but also fried chicken and a wide selection of sides. I got some cue to go, as well as greens, black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes, and banana pudding. The cue was delicious, a touch more vinegar and seasoning than the Skylight Inn. The greens and peas were yummy, but the sweets tasted only of cinnamon, and the pudding was not the best. An excellent way to spend a Saturday!
I wish we had seen some restaurants offering a more upscale environment than the seafood houses, without the overly complicated and fussy preparations that seem to be the norm in such places as Ocean Boulevard, Blue Point, Elizabeth's and the like. Also, few of these offered much beyond the local tuna and shellfish, focussing on "wild Alaskan salmon" or chilean sea bass. Meanwhile, there's fabulous local spanish and king mackerel, bluefish, black sea bass, grouper, and more. But you can't have everything, I guess!
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