The longevity of Outer Banks businesses and restaurants are a large part of this area’s charm. We wanted to highlight some of our favorite restaurants that have been OBX institutions for over 25 years – from burger bars to high end cuisine, these restaurants are loved by locals and visitors alike.
1) Art’s Place
When Art Gladden opened Art’s Place in Kitty Hawk in 1978, the Outer Banks was just coming into its own as a tourist mecca.
Art was never interested in gourmet food—and that is still the case under new owner Tammy Nichols (she bought the restaurant in 2008). From its inception until today, Art’s Place serves some of the best burgers on the beach. Breakfast is hearty and well-prepared, and everything is cooked to order. A new rooftop deck serves steamers, great drinks, and offers awesome views of the ocean and Beach Road.
Jimmy Ngeonjuklin – owner, chef and chief spokesman for the Thai Room in Kill Devil Hills – is originally from Thailand. Jimmy found a love for cooking from his brother, and when he had a chance to open his own restaurant in 1984 in Kill Devil Hills, he took it.
Jimmy tells some great stories about trying to explain what Thai food was when he first opened, but the evidence is clear he has been doing something right ever since he opened. The food is always well-prepared, often spicy with unique flavors. Ask just about anyone who has been to the restaurant and the answer will be the same—great food, great service, and a wonderful ambiance
JK’s in Kill Devil Hills keeps it simple—get the best cuts of meat, age them yourself and cook steaks the way they were meant to be prepared. They offer fresh seafood as well, and a fantastic wine selection brings it all together. That’s the way it was in 1984 when they opened, and that is the way it still is today. And the bread is sublime – slather on the butter, it’s worth the calories.
For out of town guests—something locals know about and worth looking into—every Thursday in the offseason, the kitchen staff takes the trimmings from the steaks and offers burger night. One of the best in town!
4) Colington Cafe
Tucked away along the twisting contours of Colington Road, the Colington Cafe has been creating true gourmet dining since 1986. Framed by massive live oak trees and housed in a beautiful old Victorian home, the setting could not be much more perfect for an elegant evening of dining.
It would be hard to imagine a better setting for a special gathering or a romantic meal.
5) John’s Drive-in
The classic American burger is a simple meal—a ground beef patty, a little bit of salt, some pepper perhaps and toss it on a bun. Cheese maybe. That seems to sum up the burgers at John’s Drive-in. Served with piping hot french fries, the combination is as nostalgic as it is delicious.
John’s has been doing it that way since they opened for business in 1987.
A couple of other things they have been doing well for almost 30 years. The dolphin boat is absolutely amazing and the milkshakes are so thick with ice-cream that the straw will invariably collapse.
There is often a wait during the summer. Be patient . . . it’s worth it.
6) Blue Point
When John Power and Sam McGann opened the Blue Point in 1989, the idea was to have a simple oyster bar on the sound. At the time, there wasn’t much in the Village of Duck, and Corolla was just beginning to be developed, so the partners had much of the restaurant business to themselves.
John, a very astute business man and Sam, a classically trained chef, realized fairly quickly that they could be much more successful if they expanded what they were offering.
Today, Blue Point is one of the finest and most respected restaurants on the Outer Banks. Sam continues to work his magic in the kitchen, and the restaurant is still located at the edge of the Currituck Sound offering what may be the most spectacular sunset dining around. A recently constructed backyard bar offers live music and some of the best views in town.