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Tag Archives: Outer Banks

Shipwreck Grill | Buxton, NC

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Shipwreck Grill (Facebook)
46618 NC Highway 12 (map it!)
Buxton, NC 27920
(252) 995-5548
Open Sun-Thurs, 7a-3p; Fri & Sat, 7a-9p
Accepts cash & debit/credit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 9:00 a.m.

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One morning on our Outer Banks trip, Mrs. Breakfast w/Nick and I headed out for breakfast together. After stopping at the Gingerbread House Bakery for a quick celebration (it’s the site of the first BwN review), we traveled back up north to Buxton for a full breakfast at the newer Shipwreck Grill. Shipwreck Grill is ideally positioned right at the bend of Highway 12 on the Outer Banks, where the island takes a 90 degree turn to the west, thus creating The Point, an interesting spot where both southern and eastern waves collide. Shipwreck’s location was previously occupied by the Island Perks Diner, and it’s easily visible to catch passing islanders.

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Like many buildings on the OBX, it features a weathered wooden siding.

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The interior is split into several different rooms. Counter service is offered in the entry room. Shipwreck provides coffee, tea, snacks, and to-go meals, a must for busy visitors traveling up and down the Banks.

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In a side room to the right is a small bar with stools.

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To the left is their enclosed patio, a popular commodity on OBX restaurants.

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The breakfast menu is full of seafaring terms: The Landlubber, the Torpedo Burrito, you get the picture. It leans more toward the meat-eaters side of things, although it’s adaptable.

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We started with an iced chai, which was a little heavy on the ice.

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I’m a sucker for a benedict, especially when there’s seafood involved, so I went straight to the crabcake benedict. Unfortunately, this is how it looked when it first arrived, with ham instead of crabcakes. Our server was apologetic and hurried some crabcakes over to us, although judging by the tables around us, that wasn’t the only mistaken ingredient.

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Overall, it was a fine example of a benedict, although not stellar. The poached eggs were overdone, so no runny yolks, and the hollandaise leaned more to the foamy and buttery side that I preferred.

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We also gave the shrimp and grits a try. The grits needed more butter or cheese (or both), but the shrimp were cooked and seasoned properly, and it comes in a fairly generous portion.

I think Shipwreck Grill is another worthy addition to the island’s breakfast scene, even if it’s not completely mind-blowing. Some seafood dishes and the big screened in porch make it a handy stop if you’re exploring the OBX.

Shipwreck Grill on Urbanspoon

Revisit: The Flying Melon Cafe

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During our recent Outer Banks trip (you can read part 1 and part 2 of the culinary highlights), we spent a day on Ocracoke Island. Mrs. Bfast w/Nick and I refer to it as one of our happy places. It’s a small village on the southern end of a long island that’s mostly National Seashore, which means a casual vibe, small town feel, and unspoiled beaches. Last year, we discovered the newly-relocated Flying Melon Cafe on the day of its re-opening, and on our return trip this year, we were eager to bring the rest of the family along to experience their brunch.

On arriving, I noticed the above framed note on the wall. Very cool!

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Overall, we had another superb brunch. They were able to accommodate our large group, and food came out quickly. The brunch menu highlights southern flavors and seafood. Here, for instance, we see a shrimp po-boy with hand-cut fries.

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Or my grillade and grits. Grillade is a New Orleans preparation of seasoned and seared (usually) beef, often ladled with a rich gravy on a bed of cheesy grits.

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New Orleans-style French toast, aka battered and fried French toast. More like a donut, and therefore awesome.

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Even Flying Melon’s take on a NYC specialty is well done, with house-smoked salmon and bagels.

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Or what about these dense sweet potato pancakes?

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Flying Melon gets high marks for their plating, too. Take a look at the shrimp mash, with potatoes, shrimp, sausage, poached eggs, and hollandaise.

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Even their basic breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, and toast was well done!

photo 3And finally, the fried green tomato BLT. Just beautiful.

I guess this ranks as a “Sorry, just had to share!” post, but no apologies here. We’ve enjoyed our visits to Flying Melon (as well as nearby Dajio Restaurant). It’s a colorful and welcoming breakfast that utilizes the best ingredients they have around. If you’re traveling the Banks and visit Ocracoke (which you should!), make Flying Melon a brunch stop!

 

Travel: Dining on the Outer Banks – Part 2

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And we’re on to Part 2 of our Outer Banks culinary adventures! (Read Part 1 here.) One morning Mrs. Breakfast With Nick and I ventured south for breakfast, just the two of us. After our first pick wasn’t open during their stated hours (boo), we crept along Highway 12 and found ourselves at the Gingerbread House Bakery. It’s a distinctly-shaped structure in Frisco, serving lots of baked goods and some excellent pizza. It’s also the site of the VERY FIRST Breakfast With Nick review, over seven years ago. (You’re welcome to follow the link to the review, but be kind. I really didn’t know what I was doing then.)

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The Gingerbread House fully embraces their name. To the point that the fences (which are brown) are topped with gingerbread men cut-outs, and the building itself (which is also brown) is dotted with colorful candy.

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We considered this our breakfast pre-game, so we simply ordered some espresso and a couple donuts. (We stopped later for a full breakfast elsewhere – post to come soon!)

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The crew at Gingerbread must run long hours, if they’re working early enough to serve fresh baked goods, while staying open late enough for the dinner crowd.

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If the lines for apple uglies at the Orange Blossom are too long, you’ve got some great donuts one village over at Gingerbread. These are really hard to beat.

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Happy Seventh Anniversary to Breakfast With Nick! Here’s to many more years of good meals and great fun.

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At home, another annual family favorite is a simple crab dip, with cream cheese, lots of fresh crab, and cocktail sauce. Mrs. Breakfast With Nick’s grandmother doesn’t trust the store-bought sauce, so she makes her own.

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Part of the fun of staying in a big house with the family is getting to cook for each other. A couple mornings we made crepes for the fam.

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We learned an easy recipe from our friend Andy at Wild Goose years ago, and it’s served us well.

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Even though we don’t have fancy crepe pans, we’ve learned to use ours just fine.

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For fun, we plated up a couple crepes and iced coffee in the style of Symmetry Breakfast. Symmetry Breakfast is an instagram kindred spirit in London; he plates and photographs his breakfast every morning in a beautiful symmetrical manner. I tagged him in the photo, and he approved.

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This year for the first time we ordered steamed crabs. One of the local shops uses their own spice mix (the guy there scoffs when you mention Old Bay). I had to recall my last trip to Maryland, to be sure I was dismembering the crabs for maximum crab meat.

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For our last dinner on vacation, we ordered out from the Dolphin Den in Avon. I can never stay away from fried seafood platters, and theirs is top notch: fresh fish, clams, oysters, crabcake, scallops.

All in all, another good year of eating on the OBX! Who else has been? Where or what do you like to eat?

 

Travel: Dining on the Outer Banks – Part 1

In June our family made the annual trek to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Those of you who have followed the blog for a while may know it’s a long-standing family tradition, and we look forward to it every year. In addition to all the beachy fun, we enjoy the food the islands have to offer, as we visit old favorites and see what’s new each year. So without further ado, here are some of the culinary highlights of OBX 2014!

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On a tip from a reader last year, we finally discovered Duck Donuts, a relatively new donut chain originating in Duck on the northern Outer Banks. Over the past year Duck Donuts has expanded into nearby Virginia, too, and they seem to be holding steady on the OBX. They use the brilliant model of selling one base, a slightly sweet and spongy cake donut, then dressing that up with frostings and toppings.

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This lets them easily assemble larger orders for the visitors coming and going around the island.

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Frostings include everything from strawberry, lemon, vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter, and beyond.

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They even have an excellent maple bacon donut, with a sweet maple frosting and bacon bits that aren’t too soggy or too crunchy.

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We discovered this year that they offer a little kid’s meal, with a single donut + a drink served on a Duck Donuts frisbee. It even comes with a wet nap!

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But enough about donuts. (I never thought I’d say that.) On the islands we’re really in the mood for seafood. A string of rustic seafood markets dot the islands, hawking the day’s fresh catches. We make regular stops for crab, scallops, clams, shrimp, and fish. My mother-in-law has perfected a crab cake recipe. Because they’re homemade there’s very little filler and the seasoning is spot-on.

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We also crowded the scallops into a pan for a quick sauteed before they were devoured by the masses.

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Besides Duck Donuts, our favorite island pastries are the ridiculously giant apple uglies from Orange Blossom Bakery in Buxton, NC. I swear, these glorified, calorie-ridden apple fritters get larger each year.

Over the past years, the service and organization at Orange Blossom had been declining. Customers were frustrated by long waits, the service was a little surly, and they never seemed to have enough product. This year, however, things seem to be improving – maybe there was a change of ownership?

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Because there’s such a large group of us, we take turns making dinner each night. Mrs. Breakfast With Nick and I made a perennial favorite: shrimp and grits, with lots of tangy cheese mixed in with the grits, a rich topping of sauteed veggies (and a little bacon), and fresh shrimp.

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There’s great coffee on the islands, too. We regularly visit The Dancing Turtle in Hatteras, Uglie Mugs in Avon, and both Live Oak Coffee and Ocracoke Coffee Co. on Ocracoke. Here’s an artistic shot of my espresso on a post with some dead leaves in the background.

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Most restaurants offer lots of fried seafood, and we regularly take them up on the offer.

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One of our favorite stops for fried seafood are the volunteer firefighter’s fish fries. Many of the little island villages host them on a weekly or monthly basis. We especially like the fish fry down in Hatteras Village. The meals usually come with hush puppies, cole slaw, and maybe baked beans or potato salad. Some of these events have been going on for decades. The little old ladies in Hatteras have been doing it for over 50 years, and they’ll wink and tell you theirs is the best on the Outer Banks. Hard to argue when they’re unloading freshly caught fish straight into the fryers.

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As a craft beer aficionado and beer tour guide, I’m always on the lookout for local brews, so we were especially happy to discover the new Pangea Tavern a block from our house in Avon. The little pub has a large screened-in dining room, so you can enjoy the ocean breezes free of mosquitos (which generally aren’t too bad anyway). The real star of their drink menu is the list of 15 North Carolina beers on tap.

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Even better is that they offer beer samplers, so we tasted North Carolina’s takes on pale ales, saisons, amber ales, milk stouts, IPAs, wits, porters, and more. In summary: North Carolina is doing it right.

That’s all for now! Stay tuned for Part 2 shortly.

Photos: eating our way around the Outer Banks

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[ADDITION: If you want to read about the restaurants we've visited on OBX, look up North Carolina in my List of Reviews.]

Warning: gratuitous photos of seafood ahead.

Okay, you’ve been warned. Welcome to my brief culinary travelogue of our recent visit to the North Carolina Outer Banks. It’s an annual trip we make with our family, and over recent years it’s become an opportunity to try new restaurants and dishes that we don’t normally get in Ohio (or that we don’t get as fresh). Mainly I’m talking about seafood.

The picture up top is a basic platter of fried fish. During the summer months, a number of groups on the Outer Banks hold fish fries as fundraisers. In Avon the volunteer fire department holds one every Friday, so we pick up some meals to go. The firefighters gather out front of the building and fry up fresh fish (in this case Spanish mackerel) and serve it with hush puppies, cole slaw, baked beans, and tartar sauce.

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One of our family traditions is making crab cakes. We stop by one of the small seafood stores to pick up a few pounds of fresh crab; my mother-in-law has found a tried-and-true recipe for crab cakes, and we look forward to the meal every year.

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The nice thing about making your own crab cakes is that you control the amount of crab. Some restaurants over stuff their cakes with filler. But not so here. It’s pure crab cake heaven.

On a side note, we were saddened this year to discover the closure of one of our regular seafood stops, Daniel’s Crab House. Daniel’s was located in a ramshackle building on the side of the highway between Nags Head and Manteo. The business was family-run for over 50 years, so to suddenly see it closed was very sad indeed. I did a little digging and found that their building was damaged badly by Hurricane Irene in late 2011, so I’m guessing that contributed to the closure. There are very few places like Daniel’s on the Outer Banks now.

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Despite Daniel’s closing, our seafood quest continued. We ate pounds and pounds of shrimp, too. They’re great when boiled and served with homemade cocktail sauce, or in a seafood linguini. Or keep reading for one of our family preparations…

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Our trip also includes one or two runs to the Orange Blossom Bakery for their famed apple uglies. The uglies are really just glorified apple fritters, but they’re giant, crispy on the outside, squishy on the inside, and heavily glazed. Long-time customers have learned to either cope with an extended wait in line or to place large orders the day before. Over the years, we’ve been frustrated by the seeming lack of preparation on the part of the crew, as if it’s a surprise that carloads of customers show up at 6:30 a.m. You’d think by now they would have perfected the art of cranking these out more quickly. They’d probably make more money and tick off fewer customers if they did.

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This time around we resigned ourselves to waiting in line. Fortunately, you can order a hot breakfast at Orange Blossom, too. While the Mrs. and I waited, she enjoyed a bagel with salmon and cream cheese.

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And I feasted on a basic but likeable breakfast burrito.

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Aside from crab cakes, our favorite crab preparation is a simple dip of cream cheese, crab, and homemade cocktail sauce. My wife’s grandma rightfully doesn’t trust any store brand sauce, so she makes her own and it’s terrific.

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Mrs. Bfast w/Nick and I enjoyed an overnight getaway down to Ocracoke Island. Ocracoke is one of our favorite places to be; it feels like a little bit of our souls lives there. Being sans kids allowed us to explore the small village more thoroughly, and to enjoy some meals with actual adult conversation. For dinner we stopped by our favorite restaurant Dajio. The meal began with fresh rolls and dense, moist cornbread.

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We split two plates between us. First was the local smoked fish platter. Oysters and fresh mackerel, both smoked in-house, are served with manchego, pickled peppers and onions, olives, and crostinis. The fish was amazingly fresh and smoked very delicately.

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We also split the grilled shrimp and blue corn nachos. Also excellent and loaded with flavor. Overall, it was exciting to be there for dinner; usually we visit in the early hours for one of the best breakfasts on the islands.

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Back at the beach house we were cooking up a seafood storm. We typically take one night to make a massive bowl of seafood linguini. Here’s just the seafood, all pan seared and ready to go: shrimp, scallops, shark, and tuna.

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Oh, speaking of house favorites, here’s one of the best things you can do to shrimp: serve it over grits. Mrs. Bfast w/Nick and I made this dish (well, more so her), and really knocked it out of the park. Cheesy grits (cheddar and parmesan), bacon, vegetables sauteed in the bacon fat, and fresh shrimp that’s lightly floured, seasoned, and pan fried. Garnished with cilantro. A small bowl like this is incredibly rich and filling.

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On an excursion north to Manteo, we sought out a lunch spot called Ortega’z Southwestern Grill, smack dab in the heart of historic Manteo. Ortega’z was on our map because of a recent feature on Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives. They were worth the attention, from their solid fish tacos (above)…

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…to the dense and delicious Cuban sandwich…

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…to the cobb salad with fresh tuna. When asked how she wanted the tuna cooked, my wife replied, “Barely.” That’s the only way to cook tuna, if you’re going to cook it at all.

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Finally, our last stop. We jokingly created our own amuse bouche out of a tortilla chip, fried shrimp, and fresh pico de gallo.

Looking back over these pictures, I’m amazed I didn’t gain twenty pounds on vacation. Believe it or not, we did do other things than just eat. The fun thing about the Outer Banks is that you can spend a lot of time running around on the beach, swimming, flying kites, and building sandcastles, so you work up a genuine appetite for the local fare.

Uglie Mugs Coffee | Avon, NC

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Uglie Mugs Coffee House (Facebook)

40534 NC Highway 12 (map it!)
Avon, NC 27915
(252) 995-5590
Open daily 7a-2p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 7:00 a.m.

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As you can see from previous OBX posts, the North Carolina Outer Banks are awash in coffee shops. Locals need them for caffeination and a quiet reading space. Tourists need them to fuel up while traveling the banks. The great thing about the Banks’ coffee scene is that, especially the further south you go, it consists mainly of small, locally-owned shops. Every small town on the islands will boast at least one good shop. In Avon, it’s Uglie Mugs.

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Uglie Mugs multitasks as a bead shop as well, so don’t be surprised to find trays of beads and craft supplies scattered around the store, too. All the same, Uglie Mugs fulfills its coffee shop duties well, with a large menu of hot and cold drinks. You’ll see some with creative local names, too, like the Hatteras Jack latte or the Lighthouse Lift smoothie.

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About what about the ugly mugs themselves? They’re present, although most of them are for display only. They’re lined up along wooden shelves high up out of reach.

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Look at them. They’re ugly, all right. I mean that in a nice way.

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The shop itself has two rooms with a mish-mash of chairs and tables, plus a small deck outside. Other reviewers have said the shop feels like a non-touristy because of the “whatever” attitude. I’ve seen some of that myself, and I’ll gladly take it in exchange for supporting a local shop. A shop that makes very good coffee, by the way.

Ugly Mug Coffee on Urbanspoon

Duck Donuts | Kill Devil Hills, NC

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Duck Donuts
(Facebook)

710 S. Croatan Hwy (map it!)
Kill Devil Kills, NC 29748
(252) 480-3320
Open daily 6:30a-9p
Accepts cash & debit/credit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 3:00 p.m.

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I owe a big thanks to reader John for suggesting Duck Donuts to us while vacationing on the Outer Banks. I had noticed one or two of the locations as we drove down the islands toward our destination, but given that we stay about 45 minutes south from the nearest location, it never quite popped on the radar. However, John suggested it at just the right time, as we were making a day trip up to Manteo (which is an incredibly cute little town with a lot of history). On our way back to the house we detoured north to visit the Kill Devil Hills location of Duck Donuts. And, oh, we’re glad we did.

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Duck Donuts is a chain of four (soon to be six) small donut shops spread out along the northern reaches of the Outer Banks. As the name implies, they got their start in the town of Duck, but have expanded to Corolla, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills (with locations in Virginia Beach and Williamsburg coming this fall). When you really think of it, Duck Donuts is a brilliant business model. Much of the islands’ economy is based on seasonal visitors, so for restaurants to succeed you need something that is an easy draw, is memorable, and can produce quality food quickly. Duck Donuts does all of these things.

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In essence they’re just a donut shop, plain and simple. It’s the preparation and serving – and an excellent final product – that make it work. They serve one type of donut: a spongy, not-too-dense cake donut. It tastes great on its own, but a customer can order a variety of glazes and toppings, and the donuts are assembled to order. A basic donut maker (see above) slowly pumps out the fried goodness. At busier times two machines will be working away while the employees rack finished donuts on trays.

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When you place your order, the donuts are boxed and then taken over to the glazing and topping station. Each donut – still warm – is dipped in the glaze of your choosing: chocolate, vanilla, lemon, peanut butter, strawberry, powdered sugars, maple, and so on.

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You can also order them topped with sprinkles, peanuts, and the like.

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What’s smart about this is that the donuts are always fresh, it’s easy to customize orders, and you don’t have to worry about running out. Customers don’t need to line up a 6 am to get a taste of a certain donut, because it can be made at any time, and it will have just rolled off the line.

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It’s fun to watch the crew at work while waiting for your donuts. Even at its busiest moments, the shop had customers in and out the door within ten minutes.

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This was our selection for our first dozen. The top row is peanut butter, lemon, and chocolate. The second row is chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. The bottom row is more vanilla and two plain glazed. The donuts are a perfect balance between a heavy cake donut and a melty yeast donut (a la Krispy Kreme). They’re the right size, too, so it’s easy to snack on a few of them. And all of the glazes were excellent. As you might guess, we made more than one visit on this trip.

My only regret? We didn’t get any maple bacon donuts. Next year…

Duck Donuts on Urbanspoon

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