A great aspect of Outer Banks life for visitors and residents is walking into most any restaurant, ordering a seafood platter and getting fresh local seafood that is quite good. Due to our location, it just makes sense. The town of Wanchese on Roanoke Island is a historic fishing village, and there are quite a number of fishermen who call the Outer Banks home.
It’s always a treat to have someone prepare a beautiful plate of shrimp or tuna, but often it’s equally enjoyable to prepare a fresh seafood meal at home with family and friends. If you’re unfamiliar with Outer Banks seafood markets, here’s a short list to help you along.
Austin Seafood Company – 3711 S. Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC
When Jimmy Austin started selling seafood back in the mid 1960s, he was the only game in town. Every visit to the counter reinforces the view that this is a family run business, and they know what they’re doing and do it well. Along with fresh seafood, Austin’s offers a take out menu geared toward the whole family.
Billy’s Seafood – 1341 Colington Rd, Kill Devil Hills, NC
Located on Colington Road, Billy’s Seafood is a little difficult to find, but it’s worth the effort. This is the place Guy Fieri came to when he visited the Outer Banks in search of fresh crabs. The store’s specialty is seafood, but there is a reasonably well stocked convenience section of the business as well.
Carawan Seafood Company – 5424 N Croatan Hwy, Kitty Hawk, NC
One of the first seafood stores on the Outer Banks, Carawan is located in a modest building at the turnoff into the Walmart shopping center in Kitty Hawk. Don’t let the appearance of the building put you off. A great selection of fresh seafood and a very knowledgeable staff make this market a favorite of locals and visitors. They also try to keep some local produce on hand.
Daniels’ Whalebone Seafood Market – 101 Grey Eagle St, Nags Head, NC
Located in Nags Head on the Bypass just a little north of the intersection of US 64 and the Bypass, this market is always clean with fresh-really fresh-seafood on display. The Daniels name is synonymous with Outer Banks and the family has a very rich history in our area.
Dockside N Duck Seafood Market – 1216 Duck Rd, Duck, NC
The Newbern family own one of the largest farms in Currituck County, and much of that produce ends up at Green Acres Farm Market in the same shopping plaza as Dockside. What many don’t know is that one of the brothers is a commercial fisherman, and much of what he lands ends up at the Market. His catch is supplemented by fresh seafood purchased from Wanchese. The store has a great selection of homemade and specialty items as well.
Types of Fish
We certainly can’t recommend a few local seafood markets without mentioning the types of fish they carry. Shrimp, scallops and crab are a regular part of the inventory, but beyond that there is some great seafood being landed locally, especially in the summer months. This is by no means a complete list, but it will get you started.
There are a number of different types of tuna caught off the Outer Banks, but yellowfin may be the absolute best! A dense and meaty fish, yellowfin can be prepared just like steak. For many, this is the seafood of choice.
Rockfish, aka Striped Bass
A mild fish, rockfish is surprisingly flavorful and has a slightly meaty texture. Smaller rockfish are ideal for pan searing or frying and larger rockfish can be roasted in the oven. This fish will change everything you ever thought seafood can be.
A prized game fish, wahoo has a white mild flesh that is dense enough to be grilled. Typical of white fish, it absorbs a lot of the flavor, so grilling is a great way to prepare it. Actually, any way is a great way to prepare it. Wahoo is more common on the Outer Banks than in fish markets not located near the beach.
Mahi Mahi, sometimes called dolphin
First, mahi mahi is a fish and is not related in any way to the playful bottlenose dolphins leaping just beyond the shore break. It is almost impossible to ruin mahi mahi when preparing it. A darker fleshed fish, grill it, fry it, sauté it-it doesn’t matter. Mahi mahi always turn out great!
Flounder and Sea Trout (either Grey Trout or Speckled Trout)
Flounder and sea trout may be the best fish for frying. Other than that, they have no similarities at all. Flounder is a very mild white fish that is thin and fries quickly, and trout has a little more color and a little more flavor. Both are best prepared with a little bit of dredge and a little bit of coating and fried in a hot pan of oil. Then serve up with a fresh squeeze of lemon and a side of homemade tarter or cocktail sauce.