Updated: Sep 13
Nags Head, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, is one of our favorite beach towns. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Albemarle Sound, it boasts soft sand and beautiful views of both sunrise and sunset. There’s no boardwalk, so it’s less crowded than some beach vacation spots. You can indulge in plenty of activities – or simply sit and listen to the ocean.
However, the food scene is a bit of a mixed bag. While there are plenty of restaurants to choose from in Nags Head, the quality of the food varies tremendously. Many of the places to get food in Nags Head right on the water (ocean and sound side) have terrific views but may leave a patron disappointed in the food itself. Go to those places for a drink. We have four places to get food in Nags Head not on the water that we recommend instead.
Owens’ Restaurant is a Nag’s Head institution. This traditional restaurant has been in the same location and operated by the same family since it opened in 1946. It specializes in the cuisine of the Coastal South, with seafood specialties such as shrimp and grits, crab cakes, and filet of the local fish. There are also six types of prime beef, nightly takeout family menus, and a fabulous low county shrimp boil for four.
Even takeout orders come with Owens’ signature cheese crock and brownies. Those who dine in can view the memorabilia of the U.S. Lifesaving Service, precursor of the U.S. Coast Guard, an important facet of the Outer Banks, where the many shipwrecks there earned it the nickname “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” The restaurant is accessible from either the Highway Bypass (Route 158) or the parallel Beach Road, the South Virginia Dare Trail (Hwy 12) at Milepost 16½.
Blue Moon Beach Grill
In comparison, the quirky Blue Moon Beach Grill provides updated Southern comfort food with a more creative flair. This tiny (64 seat) family-owned restaurant, established in 2009, features delicious, innovative food such as fried green tomatoes with shrimp Napoleon, Caribbean pulled pork, and a Mahi Mahi BLT, as well as daily specials, such as blackened local yellowfin tuna tostadas. It is a great place to get food in Nags Head, with many different unique options.
My personal favorites are the bouillabaisse, the fried oysters, and the seaside bucatini. The restaurant will accept takeout orders if there’s no wait for a table. If you want to take advantage of this option, then we suggest ordering at off-peak times. It's tucked inside a strip mall; if you’re not careful you’ll go right by it. Find the Blue Moon Beach Grill off the Beach Road, at milepost 13.
Whalebone Seafood Market
For a change of pace when it comes to food in Nags Head, go to Whalebone Seafood Market.
Established in 1985. This tiny market offers a daily selection of the freshest seafood.
The options change daily with the local catch; the market also offers non-local seafood favorites, like Dungeness crab. It’s not a restaurant, so there’s no in-house dining. You can take the seafood back to steam yourself or let the market do it for you.
We’re big fans of its wonderful takeout steam dinners, which you can customize.
It also sells seafood salads and “Crabby Mary” mix for your beach Bloody Mary needs. The market is on a side street between the Beach Road and the Bypass, at Milepost 16 ½.
The can’t-miss spot for dessert is Fatboyz, serving ice cream and other sweet treats for more than 20 years. This is one of our favorite spots to get food in Nags Head. A small outside-only sit-down operation, it sells great milkshakes, ice cream sandwiches, sundaes, made-to-order Italian sodas, and homemade ice cream cakes. There’s nothing like a frozen dessert after a hot day on the beach. Don’t be surprised to wait in line. It’s on the Beach Road, at Milepost 16.
Choosing what and where to eat while on vacation can be difficult; you want your experiences to be memorable. We hope you find these suggestions helpful when you’re looking for places to get food in Nags Head.
If you have additional tips about places to eat in Nags Head or any questions, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Share your favorite beach food destinations!
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