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Shellfish Heaven: Dining in The Outer Banks

Fried shrimp and fried local (Kitty Hawk!) soft shell crabs from Steamers in Corolla, NC

The Outer Banks is shellfish heaven! I don’t think that I’ve ever eaten more shrimp and crabs over the course of a week than when I was there in August. It was kind of like how when you go to Maine, you have to eat lobster at every meal. We didn’t go to The Outer Banks for the food, but we ended up having a great culinary experience. And that’s when you appreciate good food the most.

We were expecting to mostly cook the basics at our rental at Corolla Light Resort, just steps from the beach. The first thing we did when we got onto the island at 10pm at night was to stop at a massive 24-hour Harris Teeter and stock up on exciting items like American cheese, strawberries and bread. With a five-month-old baby and three-and-a-half-year-old, we were thankful to have a kitchen that could save us from unnecessary meals out. I find meals to be the hardest part of traveling with kids. When you have very young children, the whole “where should we go for lunch or dinner” question is usually met with dread rather than eager anticipation.

But being New Yorkers we couldn’t go too long without wanting to eat out. There are tons of nice restaurants in Corolla and Duck — and we didn’t go to any of them. They all looked great though. So here’s a rundown of the casual eateries where we found delicious food. And the service was so friendly — gotta love the South!

Shrimp Wellington, Crab Cake and Mashed Potatoes at The Oceanfront Grille in Corolla, NC

Shrimp Wellington, Crab Cake and Mashed Potatoes at The Oceanfront Grille in Corolla, NC

Steamers is an easy place to take young kids because it’s essentially a  gourmet takeout place with picnic tables in the charming Timbuck II shopping center. While we waited for our fried shrimp, friend soft shell crabs (local from Kitty Hawk), chicken fingers (for my son) and Caesar salad (to counteract all of that friend food), we fed Saltines to the turtles in the pond. The food was delicious — not overfried so the fresh flavor still came through. Not surprised that it’s one of the most popular places in the area!

The Corolla Cantina was under totally new management when we were there, and we liked this California-style Mexican for fast takeout, not-too-heavy food and fresh ingredients. We loved the shrimp tacos and shrimp quesadillas — notice a trend here? It’s located in the Corolla Light Town Center, a little strip mall on the edge of Corolla Light Resort and across from Currituck Heritage Park.

Uncle Ike’s Sanbar and Grill is also in the Corolla Light Town Center. It’s basically a bar, and it should not be kid-friendly. But this is the South, and everyone is friendly. We went really early and it was all families. It’s hard to believe that this dive bar has good food but it does. We enjoyed the Firecracker Shrimp (lightly fried shrimp in a not-that-spicy mayo) and the fish tacos.

The Oceanfront Grille in Corolla Light Resort is the only oceanfront restaurant in the Currituck Outer Banks. It’s located in the pool area of the resort. Its slogan is “Crab Cake Heaven.” We got takeout here several times for lunch, but only managed to have dinner there once. It’s small so be sure to make reservations! It’s known for its crab cakes because they have almost no filler. If you are a crab fan, you want your cake to be all crab. Everything was delicious though — for my entree, I tried the Shrimp Wellington, which was a creative take on grilled shrimp (making it fried). Yum!

A fun evening at Oceanfront Grille at Corolla Light Resort in Corolla, NC

A fun evening at The Oceanfront Grille at Corolla Light Resort in Corolla, NC

 

Comped but never compromised: We received a free meal from Steamers but I am free to write whatever I want.

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