The past year and a half that COVID had us adjusting our lives were pretty tough on the restaurant business. That was true nationwide and just as true here on the Outer Banks. Yet although they struggled and scrambled for every sale, somehow, in spite of what happened nationally, we lost very few of our restaurants.
They all made adjustments—upgraded carry out service, put in outdoor dining areas. And it’s those outdoor areas where some of the best changes have happened.
There is nothing quite as nice as listening to live music outside on a pleasant Outer Banks evening. There were always restaurants that included outdoor music in what they offered the public, but there are a few of them that have taken the opportunity to upgrade what they were doing.
It’s worth a mention to call some of them out.
Beach Road, Kitty Hawk
Ocean Boulevard, with its amazing wine list, perfect martinis, and wonderful food, has been a local favorite for years. Live music was featured indoors for some time late Friday nights.
It’s a relatively small dining and bar area, though, and with brick walls, the sound would bounce around off those walls, and it got pretty loud.
A couple of years ago, owner Donny King started featuring musicians on the side deck between the building and the Beach Road. Always acoustic, with individual musicians or small bands performing, it was quite pleasant.
During COVID, restaurants could still serve outside so Donny put up small tents to cover the tables and give some protection from the elements. Early evening when the sun is still out, it gives some shielding from the heat, and it helps to break up the wind.
Mostly, though, it creates a wonderful atmosphere to enjoy fine food and wine while listening to some great music.
Outer Banks Brewing Station
Bypass, Under the Wind Turbine, Kill Devil Hills
Five or six years ago, the Brewing Station upgraded the area behind the building with picnic tables and a bar. Mostly it handled spillover from the restaurant when things got really busy. It was also a nice place to meet a friend for a beer while sitting outside.
There was often live music in the late afternoon, but it was a little bit hit and miss.
Then came the shutdown and restrictions on how many people could be indoors.
So they upgraded the outdoor area. Wow, did they ever upgrade the outdoor area.
Additional seating was added; heat stations were put in so even on a cool spring or autumn night, it was still pleasant to be outside.
And they built a real stage for the musicians. It’s pretty small, but according to the local musicians who have played there, the sound system is very nice.
The result is there is live music out back behind the Brewing Station six nights a week—which is every day they are open. The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.
Beach Road, Kill Devil Hills
Jack Brown’s has always kept it simple—burgers, beer, fries…and music. Usually outside, the music that is, although if it’s raining it can be moved inside.
Inside, though, it’s a little bit cramped.
Outside, however, it’s a different story. It’s not a large area, but a surprising number of people can fit into it.
Because they already had an outdoor area, the burger joint—that’s what it is, only with some great music—was one of the few venues that could still offer live music.
And then they upgraded, putting in what is arguably the best-designed stage for live music on the Outer Banks. That, of course, is for a smaller setting, but a noticeable upgrade.
The stage went from a barely raised area off the ground to a well-constructed stage that is big enough to accommodate a five or six piece band. Originally the stage area was open then covered by a small tent. That has been replaced by a swooping wooden roof that helps to project the sound.
Honorable Mention—Sanctuary Vineyards
The Cotton Gin, Jarvisburg
Sanctuary Vineyards gets an honorable mention because the setting is so nice and vineyard manager, John Wright, books some really interesting talent.
There really hasn’t been much in the way of improvement, although as the Cotton Gin gets closer and closer to coming back after the devastating fire that destroyed the building, the music is moving back to the north lawn. Which is as beautiful a setting as could be imagined—towering pines, flowers, grass, and picnic tables make it perfect for the whole family.
The music is only one day a week—Acoustic Sunset on Thursdays. But for anyone looking for something special to do while staying on the Outer Banks, take the 11-mile journey north to Sanctuary Vineyards.