Calling all Foodie Beach Lovers: The annual Taste of the Beach weekend at the Outer Banks of North Carolina is a must-do for your culinary bucket list! Vacationers have been drawn to the relatively isolated beaches of these barrier islands for over 100 years. The fishing and surfing are some of the best on the Atlantic coast and the rich history of the area includes the Wright bothers’ first flights and lost colonists. But over time, an unparalleled concentration of unique owner-operated eateries has developed in the sparsely populated beach town of Nags Head, North Carolina. Thanks to the amazing bounty of fresh and locally sourced seafood, the hard work of generationally-owned restaurants, the creativity of new chefs drawn to the scene, and possibly due to the fierce competition of this highly seasonal area, the Outer Banks has become a world-class culinary heaven with a rich diversity of cuisine and cooking styles.
Each year in March, the restaurants of the Outer Banks showcase their mouthwatering temptations in a weekend of foodie adventure. Coinciding with spirited St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and before the summer rush, Taste of the Beach is a festival of food and drink fun. Events include tastings of native grape wines and locally brewed craft beers, classes and tapas tours, time-tested coastal favorites and original gastronomic creations.
This year was my first Taste of the Beach experience and I found the quality and value of the many events exceptional. Some of my favorites were
Oysters at the Creek – The flavor and freshness of NC local oysters this time of year is simply unmatched. Sugar Creek Seafood Restaurant served a special three-course meal of 6 “crab slough” steamed oysters, 6 oysters Rockefeller (baked on the half shell with a rich sauce, spinach and bread crumbs) and 6 Buffalo oysters (golden fried and tossed in Buffalo sauce). Travel Maestro tip: Oysters Rockefeller can have various chef’s interpretations, but these were quite possibly the best I’ve ever tasted!
A Six-Course Celebration of Northeast North Carolina – Kelly’s Outer Banks Restaurant & Tavern presented a remarkable meal with six courses of chef’s selections of seasonal specialties paired with distinct ale and wine at each course. Travel Maestro tip: Go hungry because the portions are quite generous and plan a minimum of two hours to enjoy the experience.
St. Patty’s Day Bloody Mary Brunch & Leprechaun Shindig – The locals of the Outer Banks seriously get into St. Patty’s Day and we were met at the door of the Black Pelican Oceanfront Café with beads and a sea of green to join in the spirit of the day. We chose the “Get Fatter Platter” and Eggs Benedict with asparagus and crabby hollandaise from the five brunch choices and mixed our own Bloody Marys from an extensive bar. Travel Maestro tip: If you don’t care for Bloody Marys, they also serve Green Mimosas.
St. Patty’s Day Oyster Roast & Orange Crush Festival – Roll from brunch straight to Mulligan’s Raw Bar & Grille for all you can eat steamed oysters and a low country boil. Live music played all afternoon to a packed deck and the Orange Crushes (a fresh-squeezed alcoholic beverage specialty of Mulligans) were flowing. Travel Maestro tip: Trays of steamed oysters are dumped on outdoor tables. Be prepared to shuck your own and get a little messy, but they are slurping good!
Ceviche & Tequila Tasting – Bad Bean Baja Grill brings a sophisticated taste to the beach-casual atmosphere with the Latin American style of cooking seafood with the acid of citrus fruit. A lunch of a Mexican version and a Peruvian approach, paired with a silver and an anjeo (vintage) tequila, along with delicious fresh salsas and house made corn chips brings a Latin flavor to the beach.
Taste of the Beach Grand Tasting – The grand finale event is always the hottest ticket for the weekend. This year, Pamlico Jack’s Pirate Hideaway hosted with over 20 area restaurants presenting tastings of their culinary prowess. Ticket price includes wine and beer, but a cash bar is also available. If you only choose one TOB event, this is the one! It is an adults-only event, so leave the children and strollers with a sitter and enjoy the finest the Outer Banks food all in one location. Travel Maestro tip: Arrive on time because it will take the full two hours to taste your way through the mouthwatering deliciousness!
Two additional restaurants that deserve mention are the Blue Moon Beach Grill with fresh local seafood and creative gourmet sandwiches and Lucky 12 Tavern with its “American Pickers” décor and scrumptious pizzas.
Some of the best travel moments come from sharing memorable meals with friends and loved ones. Let Covington make your reservations for this do-not-miss weekend event for next year! Until then, check out our Pinterest page of some of the delicious culinary treats the world has to offer.