At the beach, our standards of a “good restaurant” tend to morph downward. You don’t expect much in the way of fine food, but then you can also wear flip-flops, baggy shorts and a faded teeshirt to dinner. My expectations usually center around more fun than food.
Most Outer Banks restaurants tend to have some common menu items: Hushpuppies, hard little balls of cornmeal fried to a crisp (okay, truth is, I love those little fat-bombs and usually corral a mess on my plate). Fried fish, fried shrimp, fried oysters, fried scallops (yeah, I love those too, except for the scallops). Iceberg lettuce salads with ranch dressing. Romaine lettuce flooded with Caesar dressing.
So it was quite a surprise when our group discovered Mack Daddy’s in Avon on Hatteras Island. Housed in a small yellow clapboard building with no discernable style, and with a very silly sign out on Highway 12, it looks pretty typical for beach food. But inside…we feasted on shrimp and grits reminiscent of the best I’ve had in Charleston, and sautéed softshells and thick perfectly cooked filet mignon that didn’t break the bank. For starters, we liked the calamari and went nuts over the fried artichoke hearts.
At dessert, the key lime pie was made with real limes, pale yellow with a not-too-sweet meringue topping. Even those of us who usually skip dessert put more than a few forkfuls of that down their gullets.
The secret of Mack Daddy’s food? There’s actually a chef in the kitchen.
Seth Foutz has worked more places than you’d think he’d have had years for, and he’s brought his varied experience here where you can see his attention to detail and fresh ingredients. He’s a smart manager too; Mack Daddy’s prices were comparable to everyplace else on the island – only the food was just so much better. We went back three times in two weeks.