8 Oldest Restaurants Outer Banks NC
Owning and operating a small business isn't easy, especially if that small business is a restaurant. On average, most small businesses, unfortunately, fail within the first year, and the ones that do make it often have a difficult time staying in the black over a course of 5, 10, 20 years and beyond.
That being said, there are select small business owners that are able to withstand the test of time, and operate a profitable business for decades. Below is a list of the eight oldest restaurants on the Outer Banks that are still open at the time of writing this post.
These places have been operating for so long that they have become deeply rooted in the towns and communities that surround them. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of people have likely eaten at each of these establishments, which you can see in the restaurant's booths, the pictures of satisfied customers from over the years hanging on the walls, and the wrinkles under the eyes and thinned grey hair on the executive chef's head.
If you ever get a chance to eat at any of these eight places, do it; there's a reason they've been open for so long!
Sam & Omie’s (Est. 1937)
Founded in the early 1940s by Sambo Tillet, the restaurant was originally called "Sambo's," and was a favorite among local commercial fisherman who would frequent the establishment for a hearty early morning breakfast before heading to the docks for their long and often tiresome day on the open water.
In the 1950s, the restaurant added the word Omie to the end, as this was the name of Sambo's newborn son.
Shortly thereafter, Sambo decided to vacate the restaurant business and pursue a career as a full-time charter fisherman. He sold the successful business to Outer Banks local Tom McKimmy, who later sold Sam & Omie's to the Waits' sisters in 1971.
The two siblings have owned and operated the business since then, and have grown the once small shack into one of the most successful businesses on the Outer Banks.
Open about nine months out of the year for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Sam & Omie’s is known for having some of the best tastings, always seafood on the Outer Banks.
There’s typically a wait for dinner during the spring, summer, and fall seasons, and it’s always worth the wait if you’re in the mood for an authentic seafood dish or North Carolina barbeque sandwich or platter.
7228 S Virginia Dare Trail
Nags Head, NC 27959
Owens’ Restaurant (Est. 1946)
The only restaurant on the Outer Banks that’s been owned and operated by the same family after all of these years, Owens’ Restaurant is frequented by many out of town visitors who return for a special dining experience with friends and family year-after-year.
Dress shirts and slacks are the typical arrive for a gentleman who dines here. Although t-shirts and shorts are okay too.
Museum-quality artifacts line the walls and tell the story of the area's rich maritime history. Owens’ menu consists of anything from fresh - always local - seafood and shellfish and Maine lobster, to Angus beef, ribs, and pasta. Pair your meal with something off of the expansive wine menu, and you’ve got the makings of a truly memorable Outer Banks dining experience. Open for dinner nightly from March through December.
7114 S Virginia Dare Trail
Nags Head, NC 27959
Pony Island Restaurant (Est. 1959)
The Pony, as the locals call this restaurant, was opened in 1959 as the Ocracoke Restaurant and is the island's oldest eating establishment. It is casual, family-friendly, and serves breakfast daily.
Enjoy your meal in the original dining room surrounded by vintage period pictures or on the back patio nestled under beautiful crape myrtles. The big Southern breakfast also includes local seafood and healthy choice options to start your day off right.
51 Ocean View Road
Ocracoke, NC 27960
Darrell’s Restaurant (Est. 1960)
If you find a restaurant on the Outer Banks that's frequented by locals, then you know you're in the right spot - Darrell's is just that restaurant. Expansive breakfast menu with all of your current and new hearty favorites to choose from.
Friendly service, local fishing photos, and catches on the walls. Many excellent seafood options to choose from on the lunch and dinner menus. Most everything is reasonably priced in comparison to many other restaurants on the Banks.
Open year-round for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Closed on Sundays.
521 US-64 #264
Manteo, NC 27954
The Jolly Roger (Est. 1972)
Anything but your ordinary restaurant experience!
We mean that in the best way possible.
Eating here is an experience. As you may have guessed from the name, the Jolly Roger restaurant is a pirate-themed eatery that's beloved by locals and visitors alike.
Most of the building at milepost 6 3/4 on the beach road in Kill Devil Hills dates back to 1936, about the same time as the Roosevelt administration put men to work building the dune line from Virginia to Ocracoke that held back the ocean and flooding that had prevented commerce from flourishing.
The building’s first life took the form of Dean’s Gas Station.
Dean’s eventually gave way to a pizza restaurant with pool tables when a local real estate agent purchased it in 1972. It was called the Jolly Roger. A few years later, the Jolly Roger was purchased by Tommy Gardner, who established the Italian theme that persists today.
Jolly Roger's seafood lasagna and crab bisque are perhaps the most popular menu items - both of which have been made using the same exact recipe for decades.
The breakfast menu is highlighted by a pair of dishes you won’t find anywhere else on the Outer Banks: E.M. Pier Style Eggs Stolen Special and The Trash Plate.
Christmas ornaments adorn the ceiling in most rooms of the establishment and the waitstaff which consists of mostly women are wearing a pirate-themed outfit that is subtle and not over-the-top.
Their doors open early for breakfast and remain open until the last call post-midnight. Live music most nights and karaoke on select days of the week.
1836 N Virginia Dare Trail
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
Gingerbread House Bakery (Est. 1975)
Pizzas, baked goods, and specialty coffees are available at Gingerbread House Bakery, a staple eatery located on Hatteras Island. Pair your cappuccino with a freshly-baked bear claw or gingerbread cake for optimal deliciousness.
Headquartered just five miles south of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in the quaint town of Frisco, NC. Touted as serving Hatteras Island's best pizza and pastries. Try for yourself - according to the hundreds of online reviews, you won't be disappointed.
Frisco, NC 27953
Tale of the Whale (Est. 1980)
In 1980, Don and his wife Carole opened their own restaurant dedicated to a simple principle — "To serve good food in ample portions with superior service in a comfortable setting."
The two entrepreneurs have no question succeeded in their goal by creating an upscale dinner-only steak and seafood restaurant that's located right along the Roanoke Island.
Choose from an array of tantalizing options on the dinner menu including our favorite - shrimp and grits. After dinner, stick around for live music during the summer with a cold drink in-hand.
7575 S Virginia Dare Trail
Nags Head, NC 27959
Quarterdeck Restaurant (Est. 1978)
A tourist favorite since the late-1970s, Quarterdeck Restaurant boasts a menu offering diners plenty of seafood and steak entrees to choose from.
An unpretentious eatery with padded booths and a full bar, you'll feel very comfortable in this laid-back atmosphere. Dine-in or take-out. Closed on Wednesdays and open from March until November.
Frisco, NC 27936