Disclosure: While I was offered complimentary meals to some of the following restaurants, I have also paid for meals at all of them, either on this trip or previous Ocracoke vacations since 2008. These are my family’s favorites.
Ocracoke Island’s Village may be only a little over a square mile, but it’s full of wonderful restaurants for families who love to eat out on vacation. If you rent a house or condo, it’s quite easy to make food at your rental, of course, but even budget-minded travelers will want to explore the island’s best eateries. It’s easy to think — well, you’re in a beach town, how good can the food be besides the regular surf & tuft, and the answer is — amazing. So you’re not going to find something super high concept ala Heston Blumenthal in Ocracoke, but you will eat very, very well — so well, in fact, you might decide to redo the budget and spend a few more meals at restaurants.
Dajio: You can’t plan a trip to Ocracoke without going to Dajio, or Doug And Judy In Ocracoke, a wonderful bistro that offers seasonal options for discerning palates, all with Ocracoke’s signature laid-back flair. Whether you’re going on an appetizer-to-dessert date night or taking the kids out for a quick bite, Dajio will always hit the spot.
One of the things I love about Dajio is that you can have everything from a super-casual outdoor meal accompanied by live music; a take-out pizza/flatbread for the nights you’d rather eat at your home away from home; or a lovely, upscale date night. Since we went to Ocracoke without any extended family, we took our kids for a dinner out halfway through our Spring Break vacation. We had a LOT of food, and we loved everything, particularly the crab dip, the Angus burger, the clam chowder, the fish tacos, and the steak. But we’ve also gone to Dajio and all had sandwiches and were perfectly happy with the casual/kid-friendly options.
Dajio is located at 305 Irvin Garrish Highway
Pony Island Restaurant: No one really has to tell you about the Pony Island Restaurant, it’s just a place any visitor to Ocracoke ends up, and that’s what happened to us the first time we visited six year ago. We weren’t sure where to go for breakfast, happened to ride by on our bikes and thought — “let’s stop in!” It’s got a traditional diner feel inside, but the food is exceptional. Again, the place doesn’t necessarily look like the food is amazing, but isn’t that often the case? We’ve only been for breakfast, so we can’t comment on the lunch or dinner offerings.
Being creatures of habit, my family tends to order the same dishes when we go to the Pony. I get the “salsa eggs” (huevos rancheros of sorts), the boys both get bacon, egg and cheese biscuit sandwiches, my daughter orders eggs and a biscuit, and my husband orders an egg and meat platter with a side of grits. The portions are so generous you can save some leftovers for elevensies; my kids suggest you order an extra side of biscuits, which are such buttery and flaky goodness my husband even attempted to make biscuits from scratch when we returned from vacation. My only (mild) caveat is that the coffee isn’t as strong as I’d prefer, so I tend to get another cuppa later in the day at Ocracoke Coffee. If you’re looking for an unforgettable breakfast, walk/ride/golf cart it to Pony Island!
Pony Island is located at 51 Ocean View Road.
Back Porch: Like Dajio, Back Porch is one of the island’s most beloved restaurants and bars. We happened to go the first day it was open for the season last April, so the restaurant was full of locals inaugurating one of their favorites for the high tourist season with a round of drinks or a first meal. We had been to the Back Porch twice before: once on a double date with my sister and her husband and once for a quick burger and small plates dinner with the kids when they were little.
This last time we were lucky enough to have three courses. We started with the crab beignets, which my husband reacted to with the zeal of Homer Simpson eating a box of donuts (“Mmmmmm. Beignets”). I’m embarrassed to say how quickly we ate the beignets. The kids were afraid their dad was going to scoop it out of their barely closed mouths to eat their portions as well!
For our entrees, my daughter, a vegetarian, had a Dragon Bowl with tempeh, brown rice, black eyed peas, pan sauteed seasonal vegetables, sunflower seeds, sprouted almonds, and house sesame ginger dressing. She hadn’t had anything like it before, but she absolutely loved it and asked if we could start making tempeh at home for her. My oldest son was content to eat yet another gourmet burger; my husband loves seafood, so he had the crab cakes (and as Marylanders, we’re quite picky about crab cakes, but these were prepared with enough lump crab to make him happy), and I had the seafood fettuccine. My youngest, age 6, wasn’t feeling in the mood to be adventurous, so he had chicken tenders. My daughter and I had leftovers, while the boys all gobbled everything up so quickly we were surprised they still had room for dessert.
Speaking of dessert, they were ridiculous. We tried a sampling for a few, and at the end were fighting spoons to get the last bite (especially of the creme brulee!).
The Back Porch is located at 110 Back Rd. Please note, it doesn’t take reservations.