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Oyster Bars Make a Comeback on the Outer Banks

Photos by K. Chik Photography Story by Kip Tabb

Oysters... those wonderful, succulent, salty treats are taking center stage in Outer Banks dining, especially as summer 2013 rolls to a close.

Awful Arthur’s on the Beach Road in Kill Devil Hills has been an Outer Banks oyster-lovers staple for decades. “It’s been 29 years,” Jo Whitehead, Awful Arthur’s owner, says. “May of 1984. That’s when we opened.”

Now there are some new kids on the block to go along with the long-standing favorites like Awful Arthur’s and Kelly’s in Nags Head.

Dan Lewis at Coastal Provisions recently added




an oyster tasting bar to his Southern Shores location. He converted the produce cooler on the south wall. It gives patrons a chance to try different oysters from different places side by side, and it’s remarkable how different the flavors are.

The James River oysters from up in Virginia, which

are pretty much the standard during the summer, have a wonderful sea salt taste. That contrasts beautifully with the mild, almost sweet flavor or a Malpeque oyster from Prince Edward Island, Canada. There are a couple of beers and wines that go great with oysters as well, but that’s an article for another time.

Ronnie Merrell and Lee Hux just opened BK Shuckers in May. “It’s got to be fresh with a local flair,” Ronnie says. “They’re local or Chesapeake Bay,” he says. “And we shuck them for you.”

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really well at the restaurant, and Ronnie is already thinking about next year. “We’re thinking about going on up the East Coast and offering different


of oysters,” he says.

Coastal Provisions (top), I Got Your Crabs (middle), and BK Shuckers (bottom)

When Hunter Stuart opened I Got Your Crabs, he had a simple concept—it must be fresh. Hunter is a commercial fisherman and has been crabbing just about his entire life, so he knows fresh, which is why—“We shuck our own.”

Raw, steamed or fried, it all starts in the shell. “You get a gallon of oysters, they’re all washed out,” Hunter says. “When they’re still in the shell, they have all that salt in them. That’s what makes them so good.”

We’re writing this article at the end of summer, and right now local oysters aren’t available, but about the time this edition hits the streets the Outer Banks oysters will be ready for harvest. “They’re a good oyster,” Jo Whitehead says. “I definitely get local (oysters) when I can.”

And since we’re talking about oysters in the summer and a local fall harvest about to begin, we’ll let those with experience speak to the issue of oysters only in a month ending in “R”. “It’s a myth,” Jo says. “When they’re harvested depends on the water temperature at harvest time.”

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