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Jockey’s Ribs: Great food, no bones about it

I should probably be embarrassed about how many times I’ve mentioned barbecue on this blog — it’s certainly not intentional — it just happened that I went through a barbecue phase a couple of years ago. Every outing was a mission to find good pulled-pork barbecue. I’m happy to report that we didn’t often fail.

A favorite on the Outer Banks is is Jockey’s Ribs in Nags Head at Mile Post 13, near the famed Jockey’s Ridge State Park. The smiling service and cold beer make for a nice treat after a hot day of hiking the dunes, but the menu is most important when I’m tired of seafood and want something else. I will always recommend the barbecue sandwich, Eastern N.C. style, with extra sauce on the side. While you’re at it, also order a side of the house rib sauce. I’m usually not a fan of the really thick sauces because 1) I’m from Eastern North Carolina, not Memphis and 2) the thick sauces often taste too much like ketchup, but this one has a distinct smoky-sweet flavor I loved but couldn’t quite place. (A touch of bourbon, perhaps?) The sauce complements the pork nicely, and because I’m a 7-year-old boy at heart, it’s also good on the fries, the onion rings, the awesome fried dill pickle chips — and whatever else is handy to dip. Ditto for the tartar sauce. (Not that I eat that on my barbecue.)

The tartar sauce was actually served up with the crab cake sandwich during our last visit. Good crab cake sandwiches are everywhere in our area, and although yummy, they’re not terribly distinctive. What sold us on this sandwich was the added fried green tomato. The sandwich didn’t disappoint — it was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had, and it’s because of the fried green tomato, which was a wonderful substitute for the lemon. I did add a little of the tartar sauce, but not much — the sandwich didn’t need it. The broiled cake itself was nearly all crab, little filler, and not dry at all. The sandwich was a terrific $10 deal.

Traveler’s Advisory: The gumbo is rumored to be fantastic. I cannot confirm this, however.

Where: 3948 S Virginia Dare Trail
Nags Head, NC 27959

Phone: 252.441.1141


Sam & Omie’s: I’d rather be there

I can’t write about food on the Outer Banks without writing about Sam & Omie’s at Mile Post 16 1/2. Sam & Omie’s is the only good thing that came out of a college romance with a dim-witted vacuum cleaner salesman, and thanks to that jackass, I’ve enjoyed it for 20 years. Mile Post 16 in Nags HeadI hope to enjoy it for 20 more with my smarter half.

What draws me and hundreds of other beachgoers to Sam & Omie’s is the cold beer, the hot food, and a laid-back atmosphere that welcomes the sandy and suntanned. Sam & Omie’s is where I want to go when my most formal attire is the shorts without the paint stains on them.

The food isn’t super fancy: If you’re looking for snooty fine dining, go somewhere else. The pulled pork sandwich and the hot dogs are my favorites, and my husband enjoys the chicken salad sandwich. In the vegetable basket, they make cauliflower the only way I’ll eat it — fried. If I feel like eating light, I’ll get a beer and the basket of fried onion rings.

Traveler’s Advisory: Closed December through February.

Where: 7228 South Virginia Dare Trail
Nags Head, NC 27959

Phone: 252.441.7366


Review Interrupted

I was going to review two of my favorite Outer Banks restaurants today, but one has gone out of business and one has changed management — and not for the better. The upside is I heard that the former chef for the latter has moved up to the D.C. area; I’m not above tracking down a good chef — and the D.C. food scene isn’t exactly unfamiliar territory to me.

While I’m at it, I need to note that I won’t write bad reviews here. If I go somewhere with bad food or poor service, I might mention the restaurant, but I won’t elaborate. I’m doing this mostly as a record of my comings and goings. If I help out a misguided googler along the way, great. But I’m not a food critic, just a very willing consumer who enjoys a good meal, and I’m not going to get into any prissy debates about this hot restaurant or that campy dive. If I note a place of business here, it’s because I had a satisfying exchange of goods or services. And in this day and age, that’s a beautiful thing.


Wood Chicks: A pit stop in Chesapeake

A couple of years ago while vacationing down at the Outer Banks, my husband and I ended up stuck in Chesapeake, Va., for an entire day.Wood Chicks BBQ in Chesapeake, Virginia We would say the day was a waste, but we stumbled on Wood Chicks BBQ and are mighty glad we did.

I’m not one for breezy, breathy descriptions of food, so I’ll just say that Wood Chicks served us some of the best pork barbecue I’ve ever had and ever will have.  Lee Ann Whippen — who is featured on TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters — cooks up a meat that is juicy, tender, flavorful, and although the sauces are delightful, you don’t need them because the pork is so well-seasoned with the signature dry rub, which you can buy here.

My favorite on the menu: the pulled-pork sandwich and fries.

Where: 1025 N. Battlefield Blvd
Chesapeake, VA 23320

Phone: 757.549.9290


Placing bets

Not too long ago, I spent a good part of a spring morning writing to a friend who was in Vegas and needed some dining suggestions. As I ticked off one restaurant recommendation after another, as well as offering a few precautions, I realized that I was doing one of the things I love most: writing about Vegas and food.Taking notes

I also realized that this blog has been slow to take off because I’ve been overthinking the posts, the content. That’s not to say I should record every thought that enters my head (that’s what my Tumblr page is for), but I do need to be more spontaneous, not as prissy. I think over the years I’ve come to believe — for better or worse — that blogs should be very disciplined. And while that is true to point, one of the things that makes me an interesting writer is my spontaneity and irreverence, which were some of the key principles that blogs were founded on in the first place.

This isn’t to say that I’ll post as often as I would like to  — life doesn’t allow me such luxuries — but I’m not going to not write because I don’t think the place or that restaurant doesn’t fit into this week’s “theme.” I’m also not going to “write nice” all the time. That’s just not me. I try to write nice, I try to “be good,” and frankly, it doesn’t work. I feel censored, and the posts are stale. But that’s not to say I’m going to snark all the time. (That’s what my Twitter feed is for.) I’m not 100 percent sure how this blog will take shape, so I’m just going to write, rewrite, and rewrite some more.  And somewhere along the line, maybe somebody somewhere will learn a thing or two about North Carolina travel and Northern Virginia restaurants.

And, of course, Vegas.