High Cotton Barbeque
5230 N. Virginia Dare Trail, Kitty Hawk, 252-255-2275, highcottonbbq.com
$, L, D
High Cotton serves authentic Eastern North Carolina barbecue. The eatery serves up single plates as well as larger platters, with meat options ranging from barbecue pork to smoked or fried chicken. Each dish comes with hush puppies and sides including baked beans, fried okra, green beans and Brunswick stew.
Corolla Beer Garden
1148 Ocean Trail, Corolla, 252-597-1500, corollabeergarden.com
$, L, D
This outdoor venue is part of the Shack Coffee Shop & Beer and Wine Garden. It pours more than 50 rotating beers, with 17 on tap. There's also a mobile tap truck, and live music.
Stack 'Em High Pancakes & So Forth
3801 N. Croatan Highway, Kitty Hawk, 252-261-8221, stackemhigh.com
$, B, L
As its name suggests, Stack 'Em High doesn't skimp on pancakes — but you'll find waffles, omelets and other breakfast fare. Look for specialty pancakes such as Island Delight (made with coconut, chocolate chips, bananas and pecans), Blue Crunch (made with blueberries and pecans) and Banana Split (made with bananas, chocolate chips and pecans).
The Buxton Munch Co.
Osprey Shopping Center, 47359 Highway 12, Buxton, 252-995-5502, buxtonmunch.com
Buxton Munch Co. on Hatteras Island calls itself "a groovy little place with a whole lot of taste." The small lunch spot serves up casual American fare such as sandwiches, burgers and salads in a colorful space. Most dishes are less than $10.
Morning View Coffee House & Roaster
707 S. Croatan Highway, Nags Head, 252-441-4474, morningviewcoffee.com
Morning View Coffee House is true to its name: The Nags Head coffee shop opens at 6 a.m. daily serving hot coffee, tea and baked goods. Morning View's roastery pours about 20 different types of coffee sourced from individual farms around the world.
I Got Your Crabs
3809 N. Croatan Highway, Kitty Hawk, 252-449-2483, igotyourcrabs.com
$$, L, D
This seafood market and steam bar focuses on blue crabs but doesn't neglect oysters, mussels, clams and king crab legs for dine-in and take-out. The restaurant suggests calling a day ahead for bushel orders.
Waves Market & Deli
26006 N.C. Highway 12, Waves, 252-987-2352, facebook.com/wavesmarket
$, B, L, D
Waves Market & Deli piles its sandwiches high. You can also get fresh deli meats, late-night eats, beer and wine, and grocery staples. The deli bakes its own bread. Signature sandwiches include the Italian Stallion (ham, salami, mortadella, lettuce, tomato and dressing), the Big Stanley (roast beef, turkey, bacon, provolone, pepper jack, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise) and the Ron Swanson (roast beef, cheddar and horseradish mayonnaise).
Atlantic Coast Cafe
25150 Highway 12, Waves, 252-987-1200, atlanticcoastcafe.com
$$, B, L, D
Bring your pup along to Atlantic Coast Cafe, which offers extensive deck seating and doesn't mind canine companions. The restaurant serves casual American cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
5230 N. Virginia Dare Trail, Kitty Hawk, N.C. (and others), 252-261-3312, duckdonuts.com
Top your doughnuts any way you like at Duck Donuts. Now an East Coast chain with locations from Florida to New York, Duck Donuts got its start in Kitty Hawk. The shop has four locations throughout the Outer Banks, in Corolla, Duck, Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills.
The Colington Cafe
1029 Colington Road, Kill Devil Hills, 252-480-1123, colingtoncafe.com
$$$, D, R
An eclectic restaurant offering cuisine with French and Southern influences, the Colington Cafe has been serving the Outer Banks for nearly 30 years. It's housed in a Victorian-style cottage surrounded by towering oak trees.
Eduardo's Taco Stand
950 Irvin Garrish Highway, Ocracoke, 252-928-0234, facebook.com/amadowoch
$, B, L, D
This food truck serves tacos, burritos and other Mexican fare on Ocracoke Island. The casual stand has outdoor seating.
South Beach Grille
6806 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, 252-449-9313, obxsouthbeachgrille.com
$$, L, D
South Beach Grille has extensive gluten-free menus for dinner and lunch, with dishes ranging from sandwiches to seafood. Its gluten-free items are prepared in a separate area from the restaurant's main kitchen.
Sundogs Raw Bar and Grill
807 Ocean Trail, Corolla, 252-453-4263, sundogsrawbargrill.com
$$, L, D
Guests can sing karaoke with a live band several nights a week. The Corolla bar and restaurant hosts live band karaoke on Mondays and Thursdays, and regular karaoke on Wednesdays.
Goombays Grille & Raw Bar
1608 N. Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills, 252-441-6001, goombays.com
$$, L, D
Alongside Caribbean-inspired eats, Goombays serves non-alcoholic kids' cocktails — complete with toys — such as "Crocodile Punch" (an orange, cranberry and pineapple juice blend), the "Freaky Frog" (pink lemonade, 7-Up and raspberry syrup) and the "Shirley Shark" (a take on a Shirley Temple).
1200 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills, 252-480-1010, bonzershack.com
$$, L, D
The Bonzer Shack hosts live music every Saturday night in a surf-shack-style atmosphere. The bar and grill also serves comfort food such as jerk pork, crab macaroni and cheese and bacon-wrapped barbecue shrimp.
7114 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, 252-441-7309, owensrestaurant.com
Now in its 71st year, Owens' Restaurant is one of the longest-running restaurants on the island. The white-tablecloth establishment, which is still owned by its founding family, offers seafood, steaks, pasta and more.
Fish Heads Bar & Grill
8901 S. Old Oregon Inlet Road, Nags Head, 252-441-5740, fishheadsobx.com
$, B, L, D
Raised above the sand dunes, Fish Heads sits on the oceanfront at the base of the Outer Banks Fishing Pier. The deck is a prime spot for chowing on casual fare while watching the waves from a tiki bar atmosphere.
Gidget's Pizza & Pasta
41934 Highway 12, Avon, 252-995-3109, gidgetspizza.com
$$, L, D
Gidget's dishes out traditional and gourmet pies, as well as pastas and salads for dine-in and carry-out. The restaurant also offers more than 70 wines by the glass and more than 20 beers.
Blue Water Grill & Raw Bar
2000 Sailfish Drive, Manteo, 252-473-1955, bluewatergrillobx.com
$$, L, BR, D, R
Blue Water Grill & Raw Bar offers a variety of oysters, shellfish and shooters at its raw bar. The restaurant is located at the Pirates' Cove Marina and also incorporates an outdoor tiki bar that frequently hosts live music.
Miller's Waterfront Restaurant
6916 S. Croatan Highway, Nags Head, 252-441-6151, millerswaterfront.com
$$, L, D
A family-owned mainstay since 1982, Miller's Waterfront Restaurant offers seafood and steaks with water views. The restaurant also houses the Waterfront Sunset Bar & Grill, a steamer bar upstairs that opened in 2016.
1106 S. Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hills, 252-441-955, jksrestaurant.com
JK's has been serving steaks in the Outer Banks since 1984. The Kill Devil Hills restaurant offers a daily rotating menu with a variety of beef cuts, as well as seafood and salads.
Orange Blossom Bakery & Cafe
47206 Highway 12, Buxton, 252-995-4109, orangeblossombakery.com
Known for its "uglies" — baked goods similar to apple fritters that are deep-fried and often coated in chocolate — Orange Blossom Bakery & Cafe has been dishing out early-morning sweets in Buxton for several decades. The cafe also offers breakfast sandwiches, doughnuts and pastries, in addition to homemade cakes for special occasions.
Outer Bean Juice & Java
3701 N. Croatan Hwy, Kitty Hawk, 252-261-6000, outerbean.com
$, B, L, D
Outer Bean Juice & Java offers a range of vegetarian and vegan eats throughout the day, including granola bowls, smoothies, zucchini pancakes, wraps and salads. The cafe also serves coffee fair trade, organic coffee.
3708 N. Croatan Highway, Kitty Hawk, 252-261-0277, triowinebeercheese.com
$, L, BR, D
Trio offers wine, beer and cheese in both its bistro and its retail section. The shop sells thousands of wine labels for retail and dozens by the glass, and frequently hosts wine tasting events. The restaurant also boasts a strong selection of beer and small plates.
New developments in OBX
H2OBX Waterpark, 8526 Caratoke Highway, Powells Point, 252-491-3000, h2obxwaterpark.com, $44.99-$49.99, season passes available. Featuring more than 30 water rides and attractions, the park is expected to be open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. It's just across the Wright Memorial Bridge from the Outer Banks.
Mini golf, 1159 Austin St., Corolla, N.C. A new course is under construction at the Corolla Light Town Center, replacing a skate park at the shopping center. The 18-hole, pirate-themed course is expected to open this spring.
Will You Escape the OBX?, 8845 Caratoke Highway, Suite 10, Harbinger, 252-491-5656 or 252-207-3612, willyouescapetheobx.com. This new attraction challenges guests to get out of rooms with themes ranging from a murder mystery to a witch's lair. The space, just a couple of miles across the Wright Memorial Bridge from the Outer Banks, has rooms suitable for groups as large 10 people. Reservations are recommeded.
More beach to love. Towns throughout Outer Banks, including Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills, are planning beach nourishment efforts for 2017, pumping sand onto eroding areas to widen the beaches and protect the shoreline. Schedule updates are available at darenc.com/departments/public-relations/beach-nourishment.
Grandstaff & Stein Book Sellers, 2003 S. Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hills, 252-441-6894, grandstaffandstein.com. This speakeasy-style bar opened in January. Guests must provide a password to enter the venue, hidden behind a bookstore front.
Big events in OBX
Dare Day Festival: The free waterfront festival in Manteo returns for a 42nd year, incorporating plenty of food, arts and crafts and live music on two stages. Some of the more than 15 performers this year include the Original Rhondels, On Edge and North Tower. June 3. townofmanteo.com/events
Wright Kite Festival: Attendees can fly kites at the home of the first flight, the Wright Brothers National Memorial. The festival incorporates a kite-making station for kids, stunt and power kite flying lessons and 30- to 100-foot kites flying high over Kill Devil Hills. July 15-16. Park admission is $7., but the event is free. kittyhawk.com/event/wright-kite-festival
Outer Banks Watermelon Festival: Build a watermelon tower, spit watermelon seeds and eat your fill of the juicy summer fruit at the annual Nags Head fest. Admission is free, but tickets are required for each of the games and other activities, such as tie-dying shirts, face painting and sliding down an inflatable water slide. The event supports the Outer Banks Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Coalition. Aug. 4. kittyhawk.com/event/outer-banks-watermelon-festival
Eastern Surfing Association Championship: AKA the "Easterns." Top amateur surfers from the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast face off in the Eastern Surfing Association's annual competition in Nags Head. Sept. 17-23. surfesa.org
B = breakfast
L = lunch
BR = brunch
D = dinner
R = reservations suggested
$ = entrees under $15
$$ = $15-$24
$$$ = $25 and up