Illustrator Matt Caserta
Eb & Flo’s Steam Bar, Bald Head Island
What to expect: Eb & Flo’s gets everything right, including the screened-in deck, the relaxed ambience, and especially the steamed seafood. The wine list may not be native to the seaside-shack genre, but it's a welcome touch nonetheless.
Check it out: 17 Keelson Row; 910/457-7217
Calabash Seafood Hut, Calabash
What to expect: In a legendary seafood town, this modest building hardly stands out, but the food―shrimp, scallops, fish, and clam chowder―does. (“Calabash-style” generally means fried food lightly battered.)
Check it out: 1125 River Road; 910/579-6723
Jordan’s House of Seafood and Oyster Bar, Emerald Isle
What to expect: This plain concrete-block building turns out delicious broiled seafood, especially shrimp and scallops.
Check it out: 8106 Emerald Drive; 252/354-5722
The Giggling Mackerel Seafood Grille, Ocean Isle Beach
What to expect: It’s everything you’d expect in a seafood dive―boisterous atmosphere and loads of menu choices featuring the ubiquitous fried-with-fries basket. For healthier fare, try a local fish, lightly seasoned and grilled, and substitute a baked potato
Check it out: 65 Causeway Drive (under the bridge); 910/575-0902 or gigglingmackerel.com
Big Oak Drive-In and Bar-B-Q, Salter Path
What to expect: Strictly carry-out. Get the shrimp burger: fried shrimp, tartar sauce, coleslaw, and ketchup.
Check it out: 1167 Salter Path Road; 252/247-2588 or bigoakdrivein.com
Yacht Basin Provision Company, Southport
What to expect: Dockside dining without walls. Great steamed shrimp, friendly atmosphere.
Check it out: 130 Yacht Basin Drive; 910/457-0654 or provisioncompany.com
The Raw Bar, Wrightsville Beach
What to expect: Sample fried fish, clams, crab, oysters, shrimp, and more, all so lightly battered they’re often mistaken for broiled.
Check it out: 13 East Salisbury Street; 910/256-2974