Food and drink are often the highlight of – if not the reason for – many getaways. If you’re looking at where to eat on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina, you’re in for a real treat. With direct access to the local catches of the day, it’s easy to find fresh seafood in the region. But The Crystal Coast offers even more, beyond seafood, for foodies nosh to on. I’m sharing our favorite can’t miss restaurants from Atlantic Beach to Morehead City and Beaufort!
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m all about sightseeing when I’m traveling (and there’s so many things to do on The Crystal Coast). Food typically takes a backseat for me, as I’m traveling with kids. That quickly shifted during our trip to the Crystal Coast. The locals are passionate about food and it really shows wherever you dine.
They understand that restaurants are a huge part of their coastal living and livelihoods. They’ll be the first to tell you the inspiration behind a dish, the source of their local ingredients and favorite cuisine that you have to try on your vacation. If you don’t come to the Crystal Coast as a foodie, you might leave feeling like one!
Where To Eat In North Carolina’s Crystal Coast
Most of these restaurants are easy going and laid back – like any typical beach destination. These restaurants are used to families and we brought our three kids (including a toddler) to every one of these local favorites. Check them out, based upon which city that they’re in! Plus, I’ve included whether they’ve got a coastal view or if you’ll want to wake up early to beat the brunch crowds.
Best Beaufort North Carolina Restaurants
Go for: Dinner and Cocktails With A View
Moonrakers brings fresh coastal flavors to life in unique chef-prepared dishes. They’ve got daily specials, including a catch of the day, and they’re one of the only places in the Crystal Coast to serve a Frozen Painkiller cocktail. Don’t miss out on the flatbreads for an appetizer – they’re amazing with unique flavor blends.
They’re located in the heart of historic Beaufort and have a beautiful waterfront view. Watch the hustle from the open-air kitchen or relax with breathtaking views of the water.
Clawson’s Restaurant and Pub
Go for: A Great Lunch and Ambiance
My first impression when I walked into Clawson’s was like I stepped back in time. Beaufort is the fourth oldest town in North Carolina and Clawson’s has been serving up great dishes since 1905. The original building provides ambiance and – if walls could talk – I’d want to hear all the pub stories from over the years!
The fresh Mahi Salad is phenomenal at Clawson’s – almost too pretty to eat. They make their own in-house salad dressings and homemade kettle chips. Their burger and BBQ menu is quite impressive and you won’t leave hungry with the large portion sizes. I suggest Clawson’s for the perfect lunch after shopping on Front Street.
Best Morehead City Restaurants
Go for: Breakfast and Brunch
I’ve never walked into a restaurant, and felt like family, as much as we did when we walked into Banks Grill. The couple who owns the restaurant pours their hard work and passion into their business – waking up to make fresh cinnamon rolls and unforgettable donuts.
Wake up early for a table at Banks Grill or understand that the wait is hands-down worth it. I recommend the Island French Toast that’s dipped in a vanilla batter then topped with rum-fried bananas.
Banks Grill is also very family-friendly and kids are welcome. Look for the hidden teddy bears, painted on the wall, throughout the restaurant – it’s like a little scavenger hunt for the kids.
Ruddy Duck Tavern
Go for: Lunch, Dinner or Cocktails
Beautiful waterfront views meet delicious casual food at Ruddy Duck Tavern. They pride themselves on using locally sourced ingredients in dishes that have larger portions – without the high price. Seafoods are breaded to order, breads are homemade and dressing are made daily.
I loved my crab cake sandwich and ate it open-faced, but I couldn’t resist asking about their Painkiller cocktail. They can’t come out fast enough from the bar to keep up with the demand – everyone orders cocktails at Ruddy Duck.
Don’t miss ordering a Painkiller that’s made with pineapple juice, OJ, light rum and Pina colada mix. It’s topped with a dark rum floater and fresh nutmeg. It’s seriously delicious and a must-order at Ruddy’s!
Best Atlantic Beach Restaurants
The Bite At The Box
Go for: Quick To Go Good For The Beach or Breakfast
Perfectly situated in the heart of Atlantic Beach, The Bite At The Box serves fresh food fast. They’ve got a beautiful rooftop dining area, with ocean views, and an indoor casual dining room adjacent to the open kitchen. Plus, they offer a to-go window if you want to grab food to take back to the beach.
The Bite At The Box is casual and family-friendly. They’re serving American classics for breakfast that are are unmistakingly good. Don’t miss their original Hoop Cheese Biscuits, which have several ounces of gooey cheese baked into a buttery biscuit. It’s heaven on earth, if you’re a big cheese lover.
Go for: Dinner and cocktails
If there was one restaurant, on our trip, that everyone said we can’t miss, it’s Amos Mosquito’s! Everyone says “you have to go to Amos if you’re going to eat on The Crystal Coast of North Carolina.” It’s one of the most well-known restaurants in the area and for good reason.
The restaurant is situated on the marshlands, so be sure to ask for a table on the patio, to enjoy the view. They serve coastal favorites with fresh flavors. I love Shrimp-and-Grits and Amos Mosquito’s blew me away. I ordered Shrimp-and-Grits at two different restaurants on the Crystal Coast, and Amos has the far superior dish.
The menu variety ranges from sushi to seafood and pastas. The portions are large, so you’ll enjoy it for several meals. As soon as they put a brown paper “drop cloth” under my child’s highchair, I knew we were in a family-friendly restaurant. Their large kids menu is even creative with little “extras” like candy worms – to continue the swamp theme.
No matter where you decided where to eat on Crystal Coast of North Carolina, you’re going to find fresh seafood and a big possibility of great views. The local restaurants owners know good food and they love serving guests great dishes, along with stories of the area’s history. Come to the Crystal Coast hungry because you’re going to fall in love with the local food scene.
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