The Best Places to Dine to Find Fresh Local Seafood on the Crystal Coast


The annual North Carolina Seafood Festival has us thinking about our local seafood. Where can you find it? How do you know it's locally harvested? What are the best places in town to satisfy your seafood craving? We can help with you that.

First a little background before we start naming restaurants. The maritime heritage of the Crystal Coast goes back about 400 years with the whaling industry of the 18th century. From there, mullet and oyster trade were prominent in the 19th century. The modern day seafood industry of this region supplies fresh fish, shellfish, crabs, shrimp and more to our area residents, vacationers and chefs, as well as across larger cities on the East Coast.

With competitive pricing from commercial seafood importers, our local fishermen took a hit in the last ten years, though. Now about 80 percent of the seafood we eat in the United States is imported, sadly.

Sometimes it's hard to know if you're getting a taste of the local bounty or if you're eating imported seafood from across the world. That's where Carteret Catch comes in. This local program has a mission to sustain the livelihood and heritage of the fishing industry on the Crystal Coast. In short, they guarantee that you're getting local seafood directly from our local fishermen in Carteret County whenever possible.

With that said, the Crystal Coast restaurants that we recommend are all Carteret Catch members. (If you're wondering if any of your other favorite local restaurants support Carteret Catch, look for the logo on the establishment's window and menu.) And never ever be afraid to ask: Is it local?

Okay, back to the restaurant recommendations. Here we go.

Sushi

Akai Hana Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar in Morehead City

North Carolina meets traditional Japanese fare at Akai Hana. With one location in the Piedmont and one on the coast (Carrboro and downtown Morehead City), the restaurant gives a local touch to a worldwide favorite cuisine.

Akai Hana recently opened in 2013 and has quickly established quite a fan base. Tempuras, sushis and teriyakis are all on the menu. Be sure to ask what was just brought in from the docks. Akai Hana offers lunch and dinner menus, live music, and has something to satisfy every sushi craving.

Shrimp and Grits

Amos Mosquito's Restaurant & Bar, Atlantic Beach

Knock, knock. Who's there? Amos. Amos who? A mosquito! (Yes, they actually did get their name from this corny joke. It's actually a pretty cute story. You should read it.)

Amos Mosquito's
, locally known as Skeeter's, is situated on the lovely Bogue Sound in Atlantic Beach. Here you'll find an eclectic dinner menu touched with made-from-scratch modern southern flair. Beginning with sustainable local ingredients from produce to seafood, the end result is a real palate pleaser.

You should also know that Skeeter's is a happening place for karaoke on a Thursday night. Check it out.

Crab Cakes

Aqua Restaurant, Beaufort

Tapas, small plates, big plates, you'll find it all here. Located in historic Beaufort-by-the-Sea, Aqua offers exquisite cuisine with jaw-dropping presentation. Aqua prides itself on its commitment to local produce and fresh seafood whenever possible, along with a solid commitment to supporting our local farmers and fishermen. Salter Path shrimp? Yes, please.

The wine and spirits selection is quite extensive. Martinis on a Thursday night are a good choice (they're only 5 bucks), and Fridays and Saturdays are great nights for wine lovers.

Fried Flounder

Ruddy Duck Tavern, Morehead City

You can't go wrong in a place where the owner has a boat and a commercial fishing license. What he doesn't pluck right from the ocean himself is supplemented by local fishermen. Can't beat that.

The Ruddy Duck Tavern provides casual dining on the Morehead City waterfront. It's a fun place to gather with family and friends to enjoy spectacular views along with a great meal. Don't be surprised to find daily specials like a smoked mackerel Reuben, Hawaiian BBQ stingray sandwich, and conch ceviche. You never know what you might find on the menu.

Sammy's Seafood House & Oyster Bar, Morehead City

This place is all about seafood. Blackened, fried or broiled, you can have it however you please. Seafood combos and platters abound along with the raw/steamed bar, seafood pastas, stuffed and seared fishes, and just about any kind of "burger" you can think of: oyster, scallop, flounder and shrimp.

Sammy's Seafood House & Oyster Bar is locally owned and operated and serves up locally caught seafood in a relaxing atmosphere. The staff is friendly and welcoming, and they know their stuff.

The owner has been a commercial fisherman all his life, so you can rest assured knowing that you have fresh, locally caught seafood. You may even want to ask him if he caught it himself that day.

And More...

Even though these are some of our favorites, there are plenty more that could be added to our list. It's hard to decide!

Help us expand our list. Where is your favorite place to go for fresh local seafood on the Crystal Coast?