Outer Banks Oyster Season

Oyster from Outer BanksGood news for oyster lovers—after years languishing near death, the North Carolina oyster is back. Sometimes salty, sometimes slightly sweet and almost buttery, the range of flavors is as varied as the places from which they are harvested.

The oysters are almost all farm raised now; at one time North Carolina was one of the leading states in oyster production, primarily landing wild oysters, but over-harvesting and loss of habitat devastated the industry. However, over the past 10 years, oyster production has more than doubled in the state.

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Outer Banks Thanksgiving Meals

Thanksgiving on the Outer BanksThe family is gathered, there’s kids and maybe some grandkids, perhaps even an uncle or brother or sister. A gathering of the clan is very much a part of holiday traditions. And it’s wonderful, because the truth is, family is what makes holiday memories.

Of course, that comes with a certain price to be paid—some of it financial, but there is also a very real feeling that with 12 people wandering through a house that normally holds four or five, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to get everything done—or to relax and just enjoy family.

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Mike Dianna

Mike Dianna Outer BanksMike Dianna figured out early on that he enjoyed seeing people smile and that entertainment is an important part of everyone’s life. This may account for why he opened a Corolla restaurant—Mike Dianna’s Grill Room—and is at the core of the reason that he has promoted the Mustang Music Festivals for the last five years.

His passion for hospitality came before he left his hometown in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “In high school I worked in a Friendly’s Restaurant every summer,” he recalled. “I liked the social atmosphere of it. I liked seeing a smile on someone’s face. I liked the fast pace of it I liked the unpredictability of it. I still do today.”

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Great Food: An Outer Banks Tradition

So many great Outer Banks restaurants, so little time. In researching long-standing Outer Banks restaurants it was surprising how many there are still serving locals and visitors alike. This feature is about five ranging from casual eateries to fine dining options that are sure to please.

Owens Restaurant
7114 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Milepost 16.5, Nags Head, NC
Family owned and operated, Owens Restaurant opened in 1946 when Bob and Clara Owens relocated here from Manteo, NC. Their roots in serving food goes back to a hot dog stand they originally ran in Manteo since 1933. Owens is no hot dog stand, instead they serve southern coastal cuisine including fresh seafood, aged Angus beef, pasta specialties and outrageous desserts. As good as the food is, be sure to check out the bar. Most night there’s a piano playing, the seating is ideal for intimate conversations and the bartenders know how to mix a quality drink.

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Max’s Pizza – Outer Banks

Maxs Pizza Kitty HawkPizza is one of those ubiquitous foods that many restaurants make but very few seem to master. In the master category, we bring you Grant Sharp at Max’s Pizza (3723 N. Croatan Highway), Ocean Plaza in Kitty Hawk.

Grant and his wife, Natalya, bought Max’s last March and the change in quality was immediately apparent. Grant—as it turns out—is a classically trained chef. How classically trained? Well, he studied for two years at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

He does not, however, let his training get in the way of what a good pizza is all about. “I believe in the KISS theory for pizza. Keep it simple,” he says. “Just find great ingredients and use them right.”

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Outer Banks Ice Cream Shops

OBX Ice Cream ShopLuckily the Outer Banks has a lot of places to indulge that summertime fantasy, so here’s our Carolina Designs’ list of ice cream parlors, yogurt stops and frozen custard stands. It’s by no means complete. No preferences. . . we just listed everything alphabetically.

Big Buck’s
Timbuck II Shopping Center, 794F Sunset Boulevard, Corolla, NC
Buccaneers Walk Shopping Center, 3810 N. Croatan Highway, Kitty Hawk
Offering up to 57 ice cream flavors (some are seasonal) made from scratch daily with premium ingredients. In addition to cones, specialties include milkshakes, sundaes, banana splits, ice cream cakes, fresh fruit smoothies, frozen tea lattes, espresso bar with hot, iced and frozen options, homemade chocolates and more!

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The Paper Canoe – Duck, NC

Paper Canoe DuckWhen you meet Tommy Karole, the owner of Paper Canoe in Duck, it’s obvious he’s not a laid back southerner. He never lost his New Jersey mannerisms, has strong opinions on most topics and he understands how to create an outstanding dining experience.

What might be most remarkable about the Paper Canoe is when Tommy admits that while he was pulling all the restaurant components together he wasn’t sure just what kind of dining experience he was going to create. Over the years he had owned and managed restaurants, and he had consulted with a number of successful Outer Banks restaurant owners, but while he was building the dining room he still wasn’t sure about the direction of his own restaurant. “I knew I had a beautiful location, which I built from the ground up,” he says. “I didn’t think of food until I saw how the restaurant was coming together.”

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Outer Banks Brewing Station

Brew Station Outer BanksMost everyone on the Outer Banks knows where the Outer Banks Brewing Station is located. It’s a very interesting building, designed by local architect Ben Cahoon, an architectural nod to the turn-of-the-century lifesaving stations including a 30 foot boat-shaped bar and brick inlays in the dining room floor that point to the ocean and were collected over the years from cottage debris that washed to shore. Located at Milepost 8.5 on the bypass in Kill Devil Hills, what makes it most noticeable is the wind turbine in the backyard, and yes, it is functional. But, what the Brewing Station is really known for is excellent beer and food and great live entertainment.

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Ladles Soups Outer Banks

ladles_KDHI was hooked the first time I went to Ladles in Kill Devil Hills and tasted their turkey chile. It’s just spicy enough to get your attention but not enough to kill the flavors of beans cooked to perfection and plenty of ground turkey. That bowl guaranteed a return visit.

When Laurie Harvin and Vicky Katona opened their doors in December of 2014, I remember remarking to a friend that it seemed like a dangerous, maybe even foolhardy strategy for an Outer Banks business.

OK, I must admit I was wrong and here’s why: The soups are created fresh everyday, sandwiches and salads are prepared when ordered and the prices are very reasonable. The result is tables filled with happy customers, occasional lines at the register and it’s become an instant new favorite place to meet for a delicious lunch or quick and nutritious dinner.

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Mr. Malco’s Strawberry Patch

Leah Britt Spring Outer BanksIf you’re on the Outer Banks during springtime, there’s one place that locals and visitors alike absolutely must visit. Just over the Wright Memorial Bridge on the mainland, there’s an inviting sign that reads “Strawberries,” and a smaller sign below that that reads “Open Today.”

Turn right after the sign. The road is called Pine Lane, although almost no one knows that. About 200 yards up, turn right again onto the dirt road with the strawberry banner to enter strawberry heaven.

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