For local seafood and more in a history-filled building with an oceanfront setting, it would be hard to find a more perfect place to dine than the Black Pelican in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
Location: Black Pelican, Milepost 4 on the Beach Road, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
Menu: The very freshest seafood coming from nearby waters is the natural headliner on Black Pelican’s menu. The fish of the day can be ordered a la Oscar, a la OBX (short for Outer Banks), a la Maui, or a la Amandine. The night I was there the day’s choices were tuna, salmon, Mahi, or swordfish. I chose Mahi a la Oscar, and it was amazing. The crab was sweet, and the asparagus was tender. Scallops, crabcakes, and shrimp can also be ordered as entrees.
A wide range of appetizers is available from Steamed Edamame Beans to Hummus or Shrimp prepared three ways. Hatteras Clam Chowder is popular, but for the non-seafood lovers, you’ll find Pelican (chicken) Wings, Onion Rings, Baked Brie, and Wood-Fired Flat Bread. I chose the Grilled Gulfstream Tuna Bites and loved the flavor of the tuna. Pizza is a surprising item on the menu, but seafood from the steamer seems natural. The lunch menu features more than a dozen sandwiches and entrees such as Seafood Baskets and Shrimp and Grits. Those visiting with families will be happy to find the Kids’ Menu with their favorites of pizza, pasta, and chicken alongside the fish choices.
Thoughts: Black Pelican is an extremely popular restaurant with estimates of 100,000 guests served during the high summer months. I was there on a random, Monday night in October and still had a 30-minute wait. This was caused, in part, by the restrictions for occupancy during the coronavirus pandemic. My husband and I drove up to an outside stand where our names and cellphone number were taken. Then we were instructed to find a parking space and wait in our car until we were called. Once we received our call and entered the restaurant, we were seated right away by a masked server. No condiments were on the tables, and tables were appropriately distanced. Since Black Pelican has an oceanfront location, we were anxious to get a good view. However, it was already dark. We’ll definitely need to return during daylight hours to sample more great food in the future and take in those ocean waves.
The wood planks, room configuration, and overall feel and appearance of the interior suggests a building that has been around for a while. In this case, the building was constructed in 1874 to serve as Lifesaving Station #6, helping crew members from boats stranded or wrecked on a stretch of Atlanta Ocean beach in the vicinity. The Lifesaving Stations of the Outer Banks were the forerunners of today’s Coast Guard, and this one in particular was also an active weather bureau. No doubt its biggest claim to fame is the fact the Orville and Wilbur Wright came here to place the telegraph announcing their first successful flight to the world in 1903.
Another boost to the restaurant’s fame occurred when Guy Fieri, of the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives,” came to film a segment showing the preparation of Wanchese Fisherman’s Risotto (with scallops from nearby Wanchese, of course). The dish received Guy’s ringing endorsement.
A purple seahorse decal inside connotes Black Pelican’s designation as a Dementia-Friendly Restaurant. This means that the restaurant, along with 11 others on the Outer Banks, have been certified by having their waitstaff members trained in helping dementia patients. Two aspects in particular involve maintaining eye contact and limiting choices to avoid confusion. I’m sure this is a valuable service, both for the patients and for their family members.
Visit a place made famous by the Wright Brothers and enjoy wonderfully-prepared fruits of the sea at Black Pelican when you’re on the Outer Banks.
Price range: Appetizers range from $4-11. Sandwiches are $9-12. Pizzas are $7.25 for lunch portions to $15.50 for dinner portions. Dinner entrees are $21-28, and kids’ menu items are $6-17.
Disclosure: The reviewer received a complimentary meal as part of a press trip sponsored by the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau..