Press Kit: Dining
Most visitors to the Crystal Coast prefer seafood that is “fresh from the docks.” Seafood that has been personally wrangled from the ocean with nothing but a rod and reel and a little bit of sweat equity. With one of the longest and most diverse fishing seasons on the Atlantic Coast, visitors to the Crystal Coast have the freedom to get fresh seafood just about anytime of year. From down home, delicious seafood shacks to more refined settings at one of the many waterfront restaurants and bistros, the Crystal Coast has the ideal mixture of eateries tailored to satisfy a hungry vacationer’s every eating whim. Whether blackened, seared, fried or sautéed, area sea specialties from red drum to snapper and wahoo to yellow fin tuna are fresh from the Atlantic and straight to the plate. More than 100 relaxed restaurants, mostly woven throughout the towns of Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle, Salter Path, Morehead City, Beaufort and Harkers Island, offer a casually refined atmosphere yet “kicked up a notch” with colorful characters and menu options.
This counter culture bistro set in the historic heart of downtown Beaufort boasts exclusive cuisine concoctions from “au poivre” seared scallops to “mille-feuille” roasted potatoes. Acclaimed as one the “Top 25 Great Restaurants from the Triangle to the Coast” in Raleigh Metro magazine’s Gourmet Food & Wine Guide, the quirky café offers an upscale dining experience with a twist.
Reflecting the preference for maintaining historical landmarks, Clawson’s, a Beaufort establishment since 1905, serves up southern favorites from spicy shrimp and grits and tender “Shackleford Scallops” to the famed Clawson’s “Dirigibles,” a large potato stuffed with broccoli, red peppers, onions and mushrooms topped with cheese and sour cream. Clawson’s is the recipient of five Coaster Magazine -- Crystal Coast’s vacation guide -- awards for best beer selection ranging from imported specialties such as Jamaican Red Stripe and American delights including Abita Turbo Dog to rare, down home Carolina brews like Duck Rabbitt and Mash House. Also known for their signature chocolate dessert, the Clawson's Mud Pie with stacks of rocky road ice cream and drizzled milk chocolate, the hometown restaurant is recommended by Frommer’s and Fodor’s travel guides.
This coastal waterfront bistro in the heart of the Beaufort Historic District serves hearty food with rural roots and an urban twist with fresh regional ingredients and an emphasis on seafood native to the Crystal Coast. The panorama of Taylor's Creek and Carrot Island, with picture perfect views of the native wild horses roaming free, is an intriguing backdrop for the upscale but comfortable dining room, waterfront decks and distinct menu items, from sweet potato raviolis with Backfin crab to their sensational grilled Jamaican spiced pork rib chop. The extensive wine list with more than 90 spirits has earned them the prestigious “Award of Excellence" from Wine Spectator for the last three years.
With a motto like “small plates, BIG Wines” Aqua serves dishes inspired by Spanish tapas fare -- small savory plates of food served with or between drinks. Taking the concept to a different level, Aqua embellishes the menu monthly with an exciting array of taste in "just right" portions, from Japanese bento sushi boxes to pan seared lumb crabmeat adorned with sautéed soybeans.
Providing guests with the hometown feel of a local grocery store, Beaufort Grocery Company comes complete with a cozy, captivating environment. Guests rave over their delicately sautéed Carolina Crab Cakes served with spicy
remoulade sauce and Thai Rubbed Roast Duckling served on a bed of Korean rice with pineapple-soy glaze. Located in Beaufort's Historic District on Queen Street, the Beaufort Grocery Company brings subtle grace and charm reminiscent of a French country eatery and adds a special southern touch by using dishrags in place of napkins.
With a colorful name brings colorful dining, offering an eclectic selection of delicious seafood dishes and "flavors from the far reaches" daily for lunch and dinner, with the house specialty being “fish for two” with an assortment of Thai dipping sauces. The marsh-like décor gives guests the feeling of essentially being in the swamp and is perfectly situated to catch a glimpse of a glorious North Carolina sunset.
Guests immediately realize that whoever made the statement “less is more” is absolutely wrong. Loughry’s Landing offers steamed seafood favorites such as, clams, oysters, crab legs and shrimp (by the pound!). Other tempting tastes include savory Almond Crusted Trigger Fish, topped with almond crumbs and shrimp cream sauce and Charcoal Grilled Wahoo covered with a pepper mélange. Loughry’s was recognized by Coaster Magazine for having the best seafood, best sunset view and best creative dishes.
The quintessential seafood shack, with delicious golden-brown hushpuppies, fried shrimp and fish sandwiches, serves visitors in a laid-back, casual dining atmosphere. Jordan’s offers guests the chance to choose how their seafood is prepared. Specializing in deep-fried seafood, the option for grilling or sautéing is also available. Restaurant proprietor, Donald Jordan, is on hand each night to attend to restaurant company’s needs and to personally test the night’s creations.
“Food with flare” is Kathryn’s motto as all dishes are perfectly paired with mouthwatering martinis with names from “The Dirty” and the “Chocolate Kiss” to “The French” and the “007 Martini.” Non-liquid meals are just as scrumptious with dishes including seafare with a twist such as “Seafood Coquina” offering a selection of seafood drenched in a rich cream sauce sprinkled with Panko breadcrumbs. The atmosphere is quiet and intimate with dark leather, woods and mellow lighting adorning the interior.
Touted as the best seafood restaurant on Harkers Island with the best hushpuppies, Captain’s (pronounced Cap’ns) Choice specializes in serving seafood caught by local fisheries on the Crystal Coast. This “Down East” favorite is home to Chef Faye Moore, who has been cookin’ up the same secret recipes for more than three generations. Chef Faye fries, bakes, boils and roasts everything herself as if guests were sitting down to her own dining room table. Visitors claim that her coconut cake is one of the best desserts they’ve ever tasted!
An unusual name for an out of the ordinary eatery, Sanitary Fish Market and Restaurant, the first seafood restaurant in Morehead City, was bestowed the name in 1938 when the original owners promised to not sell alcohol on the premises. With times changing through the years, the restaurant now serves beer and wine, but is still know for the family friendly atmosphere it fosters and the famous “deluxe shore dinner” featuring tossed salad, clam chowder, cold cocktail sampler including boiled shrimp, shrimp salad and tuna salad and a fried seafood platter loaded with fish, shrimp, oysters, scallops and soft shell crab (Whew!). Known for their infamous Sanitary t-shirts, visitors can’t leave without one for themselves as well as bearing them as gifts for others.
No trip to the Crystal Coast is complete without a visit to this Morehead City establishment. The drive-in serves various sandwiches and dinner platters, including their "Superburger," a quarter pound burger with chili, slaw, mustard, and chopped onions and "Shrimpburger." Visitors to the Crystal Coast have made the pilgrimage each year, some for 40 years or more, to get a taste of this down home yet delicious tribute to fast food.
This chic New York-style bistro menu includes everything from exotic stir-fry and bistro style shrimp and grits to succulent she crab bisque and a classic bistro burger. Defying culinary definition, Bistro By the Sea features fresh fare as it is in season. The décor encompasses undeniable elegant Mediterranean flair with a warm gold and deep red color palette radiating a vibrant feeling for those dining at the establishment.
Carlton’s offers appetizing lunches and dinners served in elegant nautical themed atmosphere with crisp white linens and serene, blue green walls. Specializing in exceptional Maryland jumbo lump crab cakes and for those with a sweet tooth, the chocolate flourless cake. Other entrees include filets, lamb and local seafood favorites, from succulent shrimp scampi to pan seared tuna.