Red Drum Grille and Tap House
2412 S. Virginia Dare Trl (The Beach Road, Mile Post 10.5)
Nags Head, NC 27959
While Karl and I were on the Outer Banks last week with my entire family, we managed to slip out for lunch one more time (after the Outer Banks Brewing Station). Karl was really craving some good local seafood, which is surprisingly hard to find on the Outer Banks. Most of the restaurants' supply of crab, at least, is imported from places like Alaska (Snow crab, King crab legs), despite the abundance of delectable blue crab on the Outer Banks.
After scouring a few OBX restaurant guides and finding out that seafood lunch buffets are hard to come by, we settled on the Red Drum Tap House, which turned to be a fortuitous choice. Not only does this place have about 18 beers on tap (most of which are craft beers instead of the usual array of Anheuser-Busch selections), but they also were featuring a soft shell crab sandwich special.
I must admit, though, that the menu at first seemed a bit disappointing. Most of the seafood selections were fried, and the non-fried (i.e., steamed) seafood choices were non-local (i.e., from Alaska). I chose the most local thing I could find for my lunch, a "Game Fish Burrito" ($10.95) with the Monterrey Jack Cheese on the side (I don't think that most fish is improved by cheese...). I'm still not sure what kind of fish it was, but it might have been blue fish. The burrito was delicious! Packed with grilled fish, it was well-balanced by the refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and sufficiently spicy salsa.
Karl fared even better. He had originally considered getting the Combination Seafood Platter ($21.95) (we would have split that), which would have included three of his choice of steamed spicy shrimp, snow crab legs, middleneck claims, and oysters. Then, feeling disappointed by the lack of local seafood, he considered risking the crab cake sandwich ($10.95), but was dissuaded when the waitress informed him that the cakes contained breading and green peppers. She recommended he try the special, a soft shell crab sandwich ($9.95), though it took some convincing. She insisted that the batter they fried the crabs in was a light one, and that the crabs were fresh off the boats on the Outer Banks.
If you have ever had soft shell crabs, you probably know that the crabs tend to be less than six inches long and are not so tasty unless fresh. You generally eat the entire thing (because the shell is edible). When the waitress brought Karl's sandwich out, I thought there must be some mistake: the crab sitting on the bun was much, much bigger than any soft shell I had ever seen! At least 8 or 9 inches across and 2 or 3 inches thick, this crab was more than substantial enough for a full meal. Karl didn't even bother with the sandwich roll. The waitress had been right about the batter, too: it was light and crispy, and the crab was perfectly cooked. Karl let me have a few bites. Yum!
Karl enjoyed it so much that, even though he was stuffed, he seriously contemplated purchasing another for takeout so he could eat it later. The waitress informed him kindly that he could simply buy his own raw soft shells down the street at local seafood market (Austin Fish Company). We stopped there on the way back and discovered those humongous soft shells were only $3! We didn't buy any, though, and I am sad that we didn't.
If you are going to the Outer Banks for vacation this year, and you enjoy crab, please do yourself a favor and seek out some of the local soft shell crabs! They are simply out of this world.