N.C. Crystal Coast Dining Guide #OutAboutNC

Dining guides are not the easiest guides to do for a travel destination because I believe a journalist really needs to get to know the area and its dining options before suggesting places to dine. Sure, we can list the restaurants a PR firm gives us on an area, but what really sets a blog apart from a magazine or news story is opinion and experience. I'm proud to say that I've been in every single restaurant that I'm including in this guide, and since it is online, I can make changes as needed. In other words, if I frequent a new restaurant that I like, I'll add it and if I visit one of these again and it's not up to my standards then I can delete it from the list.

Since my father-in-law lives on the Crystal Coast, I frequent Beaufort often. I've been eating in some of these restaurants listed here for years. Some of the others I dined in for the very first time when my family went on a 3-day press trip to the area.

Crystal Coast Dining Guide: Family-friendly options

The area: The Crystal Coast consists of the beaches of Emerald Isle, Indian Beach, Salter Path, Pine Knoll Shores, Atlantic Beach, Morehead City, Beaufort and Harker's Island.

Things to Keep In Mind About My Dining Guides. I am not a foodie by profession nor do I have the skill set to be one. I dine in some great restaurants at home and on my travels, but I don't always dine farm-to-table nor do I always dine high-end.  If I do dine high-end, I like to keep my kids at home unless I'm on a press trip where they have me dining high-end on my agenda then I have no choice, but to bring them.

I always ask my contact, "Are you sure this is the best fit for us." And I'm not shy about having travel destinations change the press agenda if I feel something is too formal for what I would normally do with my children.

Travel writer Leigh Hines has been working on this restaurant list for years. She vacations on the Crystal Coast often.

My meals are not always enjoyable with my children, and Will and I want to enjoy our $35 filet mignon without hearing "He's gross. He pooted," or better yet, "Can we go now? I'm bored. I'm done eating. Why aren't you? Mama, I want to leave." If you have children then you know exactly what I'm talking about here. Let's be real. I want to savor my $12 glass of wine and there is a really good chance that my husband is still eating, and savoring every single bite of his $35 fillet. We work too hard for our money to not enjoy the ambiance and have a relaxing dining experience when you're paying over $25 for entrees.

Twisted Spoon Yogurt Bar in Morehead City, N,C.

Our life is pretty simple except for my lodging choices, and I try to make it even more simple with kids in tow when it comes to our dining choices. I do like to eat local, and support local restaurants in the destination I travel. This guide will reflect that 100 percent. I will, however, dine in a Jersey Mike's or a Moe's (all are franchised, but locally owned) when we're quickly trying to get out of town and need to grab a quick bite before heading home. I named those two franchised restaurants because they are well known and are my children's favorite places to eat in the world. And just so you know, both of those restaurants can be found in Morehead City.

But now, for my local Crystal Coast dining guide. I've divided this guide into two parts. Restaurants where I would dine with my own children, and restaurants where I think I would rather dine alone with my husband.

#OutAboutNC Crystal Coast Dining Travel Guide 

Tableside S'mores at Amos Mosquito's in Atlantic Beach, N.C.

Amos Mosquito's in Atlantic Beach: This eclectic restaurant's no-reservation policy will make you wait for your food, but that wait is SO worth it. Before our press trip in March, I had never dined here and I have a feeling that I will never NOT dine here again. I loved the atmosphere, and its' kid-friendly vibe. It's casual enough that you feel comfortable bringing the kids, but yet foodies will like the experience, too. And that is a win-win in my book. The lump crab cake appetizer is really good as is the scalloped scallops entree. The tableside s'mores will make your kids smile and the restaurant has a solid kid's menu with lots of options. Many entrees are over $20, but the restaurant's whimsical feel makes it the perfect dining establishment to dine with children. Executive Chef Luke McGuire specializes in modern American cuisine with a southern flair using local, sustainable ingredients. Open daily during the summer season.

Queen Anne's Revenge in Beaufort: I like to dine at this casual/upscale eatery on the Beaufort waterfront for lunch. They have salads, burgers, pizza, and great sandwiches/subs. Occasionally, they will have a tomato basil soup as the soup of the day and I could eat it by the bucket. It's delicious. The restaurant has craft beer and an extensive wine list. Sitting outside makes it seem a little less formal, which is perfect when you have kids. I've not dined in the restaurant for dinner, and the menu is slightly more formal with entrees, but a good bet for dining with kids with entrees under $20, which is where I like to keep a price-point when dining with my own kids for most of our travels.

Dock House Restaurant in Beaufort:  This is a great spot for live music and casual food overlooking the water. It's been awhile since I dined here, but I have always enjoyed their burgers with a nice, cold beer. This is a popular destination on live music nights so getting an outside table may be difficult.

Spouter Inn in Beafuort, N.C.

Spouter Inn Restaurant and Bakery in Beaufort:  This is another solid Beaufort dining option overlooking the water. It's one of Beaufort's older restaurants, and I dined here with Will and the kids for lunch in late March for the first time. It's atmosphere is a little more formal in style than Dock House or some of the others I have named here, but they welcome kids with crayons and a special menu. I loved the lunch menu with its gourmet twist. The crabcakes are fantastic. I think if your children are quiet and well-mannered at the table then I would say this would be a good family, dining bet, too. Tables are close together. The restaurant also serves brunch on Sunday. Entrees in the evening start around $23.

Clawson's 1905 Restaurant and Pub in Beaufort: This restaurant reminds me of something out of yesteryear.  It's 100-percent kid-friendly, and serves up fresh seafood and comfort food using local produce. It's the type of restaurant where most anyone would be able to find something on the menu to appeal. Other than some blackboard specials, most prices hover under $20 for entrees, and here, you can even find fried seafood on the menu. It's a great place to discover some of North Carolina's best craft brews, too.

No Name Pizza and Subs in Beaufort: It's hard to imagine that a restaurant has survived since 1982 without a name, but it has. No Name Pizza serves up Greek and Italian fare. I don't really love to dine inside the restaurant, but we get take-out a lot when we are in town. They have good pizza, stromboli, calzones,, and Greek salad. It's just an ordinary neighborhood restaurant in terms of atmosphere, and it's small inside.  If I'm dining out while vacationing on the Crystal Coast,  I prefer to dine in the historic area of Beaufort and have my father-in-law babysit and then I take in a more foodie destination, but you cannot beat getting take-out when everyone is tired and you just want to eat at home.

Sanitary Restaurant and Fish Market in Morehead City:  You can't come to Morehead City and not dine at Sanitary Restaurant. It's a legend in this part of Eastern North Carolina. It was established in 1938, and serves up traditional, fresh, fried seafood and prepares some of the best fried seafood in the state, if "Calabash-style" is your thing. My son thinks Sanitary serves the best fried shrimp in the area next to Calabash and it is absolute favorite restaurant in this area.  The restaurant has done an outstanding job of keeping tradition, but also moving forward with today's culinary trends, too.  You can find fried shrimp burgers, chowders, and seafood dishes of the day. We also love that the kid's menu features seafood. It sounds a little silly to say that, but you would be surprised of the number of seafood restaurants that do not include shrimp or fish on the kid's menu. We give a thumbs up anytime we find seafood on a kid's menu because my kids love shrimp and fish so much.  It's also great to dine on the water and watch the fishing boats come in with the fresh catch. Entree prices range between $15 and $22.

Front Street Grill at Stillwater in Beaufort: It's been awhile since I dined here, and I ate here way before I had kids in my life.  It was a fabulous culinary experience then with crabcakes that I fondly remember, and it continues to be a top-rated restaurant in Beaufort. Would I take my kids there now? Probably. The restaurant serves lunch, brunch and dinner. The emphasis is on local, organic sustainable ingredients. I haven't dined in the restaurant recently so not sure if they have special kid's menu like some of the other restaurants I have named on this list, but they do have a burger on a menu. It's a gourmet burger with pimento cheese, etc, but my kids would eat it plain and they have fancy fries on called "pomme frites". We are good to go here just with those items alone. It also has outside dining which is another reason that I think it would be OK for children  Entree prices are $17 and up. I think foodies would enjoy dining here as well.

Floyd's 1921 in Morehead City: I dined here several years ago, and at the time, it seemed to be as a  high end restaurant suited for couples. The food was very good, but since that time, Floyd's has added patio dining, live music, and more casual dining options on the menu. The menu will appeal to all tastes with small plates to sandwiches to hearty entrees. They also have a special kids menu for children under the age of 12. Floyd's is open for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.

Circa 81 in Morehead City, NC

Circa 81 in Morehead City: Foodies will enjoy Circa 81, and it's the type of place that you can experience farm-to-table cuisine, but still bring the kids in tow in a tapas style restaurant.They do have a kid's menu, and will work with you to make any of the items on the menu kid-friendly, too, For example, my son wanted something besides a burger or fried chicken fingers that night so the chef prepared a lunch-size crabcake sandwich, and left off the bun for us. The restaurant makes craft cocktails, and owner/chef ClarkeMerrell impresses with his shrimp and grits. I think this is the type of restaurant that makes a great date night, but if you are on vacation and need to dine with the kids then you will feel right at home, too. Circa 81 has some great desserts on the menu, but the kids will love going to Clark Merrell's Twisted Spoon Yogurt Bar any night of the week, which is about a mile away from Circa 81 in another strip mall. Twisted Spoon offers dairy-free, non-fat, low-fat and no sugar added frozen yogurt options with lots of great options. You can tell it is owned by a gourmet chef because he also offers yogurt  served with a homemade brownie at the bottom of the bowl and he suggests topping it with a Balsamic Vinegar from his own Beaufort Olive Oil Company. Twisted Spoon is not your average yogurt bar. We highly recommend it. 


I'm definitely not telling you to leave your kids at home to dine in these restaurants, but I've only dined in the following restaurants sans kids except for one on the list.  Based on the atmosphere and price point, I think these are better suited for diners 10 and up unless brunch or lunch is served. That's just my opinion, but sitters are not always an option when you are on vacation so I'm sure any restaurant would welcome diners of all ages.  You could always call to see what dining options would be available for your child. 

Beaufort Grocery Company in Beaufort: This gourmet restaurant serves lunch, brunch, and dinner. I would take my kids for brunch or lunch, but with prices hovering over $25 for entrees in the evening, I consider this more of a special foodie destination at night. It is considered a very fine dining experience in the town and has received many accolades. 

AQUA Restaurant in Beaufort: This is a sister restaurant to Clawson's and it's the type of restaurant where presentation is as important as taste. It's been awhile since I've dined here, but reservations are certainly recommended. It started in 2003 as a tapas-style restaurant  and the menu changes seasonally. Local flavors are a priority on the menu, and it has a very lively bar-scene with half-price wine nights and signature martinis every Thursday. 

Blue Moon Bistro Bistro in Beaufort: Have you ever had a meal where you can remember it as one of the best meals you've experienced? That's how I feel about Blue Moon Bistro, and it's been years since I've dined there. It is located in the historic Dill House in Beaufort. The cuisine is farm-to-fork, and absolutely delicious. It's a casual restaurant, (no jacket required), but entrees are worthy of a fine dining experience. Prices reflect that, too. 

Crystal Coast NC Dining Guide, Carteret Catch program to support fishermen.

Bistro-By-The-Sea in Morehead City: This is a lively restaurant specializing in steaks and seafood. It has a piano bar on weekends. The night we dined on the press trip, there was a belly dancer. The food is very good, and I do recommend the dining experience. Bistro-By-The-Sea has a good wine and cocktail list, but not a large craft beer selection. The restaurant will work with you to help feed your kids. They do have a gourmet mac and cheese entree, but my kids just aren't big fans of that dish, even when it is plain. My two ended up splitting a filet mignon that evening, which they loved, but that is an incredibly expensive dining option so this is why I believe this is a better "couple's pick" restaurant and is listed under the date-night option in my dining guide. 

Many restaurants on this list support Carteret Catch. 

Plan Your Trip:

Crystal Coast Tourism Website
5 Things You Must Experience on the Crystal Coast (Skimbaco Lifestyle)

Beaufort, N.C. Travel Guide

A Traveler's Look at Beaufort, N.C. 

Crystal Coast, NC Beach Guide

Wild Horses, A LightHouse, and Emerald Isle: A Quick Look at N.C's Crystal Coast 

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