While planning our trip to the Outer Banks, NC we received lots of advice and tips from a few of our friends who had been there before on what to see and where to go.   Attractions are pretty easy to figure out on your own but getting a personal recommendation on a restaurant proved very helpful, especially when there are many to choose from and you are traveling with kids.  We parents really shouldn’t have to sacrifice taste when looking for a family friendly restaurant!  Luckily, our friend Bruce Figler of 107.1 The Peak (check him out Saturday afternoons between 12 and 4 p.m.) hooked us up with a couple of good places.  So I’m sharing the wealth.  If you find yourself in the Outer Banks (and you really should at some point; it’s amazingly beautiful), I hope these reviews help you out.  Also, if you’ve been out there and have a good place to recommend, or an awful place you think we should steer clear of, let me know!

Shun Xing Chinese Restaurant, N. Croatan Highway in Southern Shores

After sitting in traffic for quite a bit on our way to our rental home in the town of Southern Shores, we decided to get a quick dinner then do some food shopping for the week.  The Shun Xing Chinese Restaurant was located in The Market Place that also housed the supermarket, a very short distance from our house.  I have to say, as far as last minute/quick dinner choices go, the food here was pretty good.  Steamed shrimp with mixed vegetables, sweet and sour chicken for the kids was not overly greasy as is so often the case, veggie lo mein, chicken chow mein – all delicious.  Or maybe we were all just hungry and tired at that point?   Nah, it really was good.

Big Al’s Soda Fountain and Grill,100 Patty Lane in Manteo

This is one of those places where we sacrificed quality for kid-friendly.  We were trying to avoid a McDonald’s visit (hate those!) and really didn’t know what else was in the area – we were at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island – so we gave Big Al a shot.  The theme is 50’s full service soda fountain shop.  It’s got every Coca Cola collectible you can think of, checkered floor, game room, gift shop.  At this point, I’m a little skeptical about the quality of the food we’re going to receive but the kids were excited.  The kids’ meals were very typical – chicken fingers and french fries and hamburgers and french fries.  The fries, and we found this to be true EVERYWHERE last week, were frozen fast-food style.  By the end of the week, we were wondering if anyone out there still knows how to peel/cut a potato!  The menu and the website touted “fresh, local seafood” and the waitress said that the crab cakes were very good.    The crab cakes I ordered may have been fresh and local at some point, but were now  flat, over-fried, tasteless discs.  Same with the hush puppies that came with the dish – once frozen, they were now dark brown, greasy and just awful.  My husband stayed away from the fried food and instead ordered grilled scallops.  The scallops were rubbery and over-seasoned to compensate for the fact that they were not fresh.  Overall, a very bad lunch experience for the adults, an unhealthy but edible experience for the kids.

Sandbar and Grille, Highway 12 in Buxton

On this day, we drove just over an hour to get from Southern Shores to Cape Hatteras/Buxton.  Not knowing the area, nor having any restaurant guides for this area, we stopped for lunch at the Sandbar and Grille, which was right off the main road.  A casual, family-friendly restaurant, Sandbar had a game room on the lower floor, the main dining area on the top floor and a deck that offered this view.

Still trying to find that perfect crab cake, I ordered a crab cake sandwich.  While it was better than Big Al’s (it was obviously freshly made and not over-fried) it still wasn’t great.  More of the same for the kids and my husband had a grilled tuna sandwich, which was decent.  I guess I’m torn on this restaurant; not knowing anything else in the area, it wasn’t a bad find but certainly not great and I’m sure there are better choices.

More OBX restaurants in my second post.   Cookie Mama

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