There is nothing quite like the Outer Banks Taste of the Beach. It’s a combination culinary expedition and an exploration of the northern Outer Banks all rolled into one.
The “Taste of…” concept seems to be everywhere, but as far as we can tell the Outer Banks is the only place that seems to have turned it into a multi-day celebration of local chefs and hands on learning concepts.
For four days (Thursday-Sunday) from morning until late at night, there are events from Duck to Manteo and on to the Currituck mainland. There were many tapas crawls — we really enjoyed the Kitty Hawk adventure that featured tapas from Coastal Provisions, Ocean Boulevard and Russo’s Bistro.
There were also some stellar events at Sanctuary Vineyards next to the Cotton Gin on the mainland. Their wine and North Carolina cheese pairing was exceptional.
Every year there are two signature events that really bring in a few hundred people at one time, as well as 12 or 15 chefs, and wine and beer. The BBQ & Wings Showdown is Saturday every year, and the Grand Tasting & Bartenders Bubbly Bash is Sunday.
Both events were at the Nags Head Soundside Event Site under a big top tent this year which worked really well. Both are early afternoon events, so the key is to eat almost nothing for breakfast, because there is a lot of food—and some drink—at the events.
BBQ & Wings Showdown
After presenting your ticket and walking in the door, it was immediately apparently that this was going to be a great day. Jonny Waters and Company band were on stage, and they were rocking.
After sampling the fare from three or four restaurants, it became very clear very quickly that picking out a favorite sample is a lot like choosing a favorite son or daughter.
What is also apparent is Outer Banks chefs know how to prepare ribs. Melt-in-your-mouth tender ribs. Typically, no one can agree on what is the best, but in the case of ribs, the People’s Choice, the Judge’s Choice, and our personal favorite were all the same.
Aqua Restaurant knocked it out of the ballpark with St. Louis Ribs smothered in pomegranate and chive barbecue sauce. Wonderful smoky flavor with just enough fruit that it elevated ribs to a higher level.
There was a tie in the Judge’s Choice for ribs. Coastal Cravings did tie Aqua for the in the judging. It’s tough to argue that. When we wrote melt in your mouth earlier—that seemed to apply doubly to theirs.
An observation—with all the wings, ribs and barbecue, it’s a lot of meat. By the end of the event, a salad starts to sound better and better.
Grand Tasting & Bartenders Bubbly Bash
The Grand Tasting & Bartenders Bubbly Bash is the grand send off for the event.
In a way this is two events rolled into one. There is the food, and this is where the chefs pull out all the stops. And then there are the Champagne cocktails, which are wonderful and a lot of fun.
This is where the chef for the Jolly Roger demonstrates why the Kill Devil Hills restaurant keeps winning or placing in competitions. His triple smoked seafood mac and cheese featured three kinds of smoked cheeses. A very different and wonderful dish.
The chef’s from Duck really stood out in this one. Our neighbor Wes Stepp of Red Sky had a fantastic seafood taco that we loved. Coastal Cravings Carolina Crab Cocktail was marvelous. The presentation in a little cocktail glass was nice too. And the Honey Bean Bellini that Red Sky was serving for their Bubbly Bash cocktail would be ideal for a hot summer day.
Music by Soul One was perfect for the event. Brent Nultemeier’s band know what they’re doing.
The Outer Banks Taste of the Beach is an annual event and it is a great way to welcome spring on the Outer Banks. Be sure to check it out next year.
Winners: BBQ & Wings Showdown
Best BBQ – Pigman’s BBQ
Best Ribs – Aqua Restaurant & Spa
Best Wings – Pigman’s BBQ
Best In Show – Striper’s Bar & Grill
JUDGE’S CHOICE WINNERS
Best BBQ – Striper’s Bar & Grill
Best Wings – Jolly Roger Restaurant
Best Ribs – Aqua Restaurant & Spa and Coastal Cravings (We had a tie!)
Winners: Grand Tasting & Bartenders Bubbly Bash
1st Place – Striper’s Bar & Grill
2nd Place – Coastal Cravings
3rd Place – Jolly Roger
1st Place – Black Pelican
2nd Place – Coastal Cravings
3rd Place – Striper’s Bar & Grill
Striper’s Bar & Grill
1st Place – Outer Banks Brewing Station
2nd Place – Red Sky Cafe