For artists, their creative side comes out in a number of different ways. Some paint. Some make pottery. Some write.
For Chef Wes Stepp, it’s in the food.
Wes has been a part of the Outer Banks restaurant scene for 25 or 30 years by his reckoning. His Red Sky Cafe next to the Carolina Designs office has garnered a well-deserved reputation for innovative cuisine prepared the way it is supposed to be prepared and excellent service.
His latest venture, NC Coast Grill & Bar, just a bit south of Red Sky on the Duck Boardwalk, takes his creativity to a new level.
Here is Wes describing the restaurant’s Tuna Patron.
“Most places when they do a seared tuna it’s sort of an Asian dish,” he said and he included Red Sky in that. “I didn’t do it that way here. We went totally Latino with it. What we did, we make a fresh avocado salsa everyday tossed with clementines. We fill a martini glass. We put the rare tuna across it. I made a Petron (tequila) and pickled brine. We cooked it down then added honey to it (the brine), so we have a Petron simple syrup. It’s different. I like to do things differently.”
That approach, to do things differently, to merge dissimilar flavors together is an important part of the menu at NC Coast.
There are the Sriracha Shanks, a roasted and quick fried pork shank make with a Sriracha kewpie.
“This was my answer to chicken wings,” Wes said.
For vegetarians check out the Gochujang Fried Cauliflower. Or better yet, just check it out whether or not your vegetarian.
Gochujang is a sweet Korean chili paste, The cauliflower is marinated in coconut milk—making it vegan, and the taste is slightly sweet with a little bit of spiciness with just a bit of chew from the cauliflower.
The tuna, the cauliflower, the pork shanks, they’re all designed to be shared or eaten as small dishes.
The shared dishes, the small plates, it’s all a part of the vision Wes had for NC Coast.
He wanted to create a place that was casual and a little bit upscale, but people would be comfortable sharing food over a drink. Certainly, the food is the draw, but with its soaring windows and spectacular view of Currituck Sound, there is a spacious, open feel to the restaurant that Wes planned for from the beginning.
“I designed the entire inside. You know it’s a chef-driven operation,” he said “The first thing you see besides the picturesque view of the water, is the open kitchen. No one has an open kitchen as that.”
It all adds to the feeling of a casual food and experience to be remembered.
Although Wes designed the feel of the interior, he’s quick to say the interior designer must be given credit.
“The interior design was done by a local designer who knows my style really well. Her name is Dianne Fisher,” he said. “She is excellent at coming in, hitting budgets and creating something out of nothing. A lot of the work on the inside, the buoys, the boats, the sound panels, not only does she design from her mind but she builds it herself.”
NC Coast is more than a bar, open kitchen, and small plates. There are some wonderful dinner entrees and lunch selections as well.
Almost everything is sourced locally or from small farm to fork producers. The seafood comes from Wanchese. The hamburger and steak from a small farm in the western part of the state.
“We’re using James Farms out of Asheville for our beef and our poultry,” Wes said.
There’s real room outside the restaurant where Wes pictures spreading his creative wings.
“We have two series of decks and then we have a large grassy area. In the summer we’re going to have live entertainment outside,” he said.
There will be a floating herb garden and…
“We’re going to have our own soft-shell shedder, which is going to make people equate it to fresh seafood to when people see it,” he explained.
It all seems to be part of a vision that Wes has for NC Coast, a place where people can come, relax, have a drink, perhaps share some food or maybe order an entree from the dinner menu. All of it done in a place that is relaxing and friendly.
“I didn’t want to do fine dining, up here in Duck and especially on the northern Banks, because it’s so visitor-oriented, everyone is trying to charge a premium price. We’re going to create food that’s going to satisfy all sorts of different visitors,” Wes said. “From the people who are looking for a fine dining experience, because we’ve got food on there that is going to blow your sox off, To people who are just looking for more casual ambiance.”
PS. Get the beignets. Made fresh every day. It’s like a small slice of New Orleans on the Currituck Sound waterfront.