One of the best aspects of any vacation away from the real world is not having to cook, and Hatteras Island offers a fine selection of restaurants in all seven villages to cater to visitors. From fine dining establishments for a cultured palette, to your basic local hangout for steamed shrimp and a cold one, there are a variety of eateries for every taste.
But before you unfold your napkin and get ready to chow down, there are a few local tips and regional guidelines you should know for island dining.Because many premier homes are built for large families, local restaurants can accommodate large groups fairly easily. While most restaurants do not recommend or allow reservations, they do encourage larger parties of 10 people or more to call ahead with a quick head’s up of the party’s arrival and estimated time.
Bordering 70 miles of national seashore has its perks, and one of them is the abundance of fresh seafood. Ask your server what’s fresh on the menu, and as a rule of thumb, ask about the daily specials. In most local restaurants, the fish special is fresh off the docks and varies daily, determined solely by what has been caught that afternoon. Local specialties include North Carolina shrimp and scallops, Spanish mackerel, mahi mahi, and grilled or stuffed flounder. For just a taste of North Carolina’s fresh seafood, start off your meal with an appetizer of steamed mussels or clams, which are abundant in the Pamlico Sound waters.
The island has its own unique spin on nationally known specialties, like crabcakes and clam chowder. Hatteras Style chowder is unlike Manhattan and New England in that it’s a clear based broth with lots of clams, potatoes, green or white onions, and a collection of spices. Hatteras style crabcakes are generally grilled with lots of crab and little filler. Sampling these local dishes is a must, but be sure your palette is ready for something different, and not the typical interpretation of these dishes that you may be used to.
Remember when planning to go out to dinner, that life is simply a little quieter on Hatteras Island and many establishments close at 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. A selection of restaurants have limited bar menus after hours, but for a full menu, it’s best to plan to dine a little early, or at least call ahead to see what time the restaurant of your choice closes.