Peace Corps alumni Aubrey Davis and Eric Reece’s Outer Banks Brewing Station celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2011. As it was in the beginning, the Brewing Station’s food philosophy is to offer “high quality and esoteric menu items, without reaching … stratospheric menu prices.” Chef Pok’s culinary contributions are a bit over sold but he does manage to make standard bar food flavorful. Lunch offers fried okra with a ranch dipping sauce ($4.99), brewer’s chicken wings with blue cheese ($8.99) and skin-on fries ($3.99). All are more than passable and hinted that there might be culinary skill hiding under the uninspired menu items.
North Carolina ranks number two in the United States in raising hog. Hogs mean BBQ and Eastern-NC-BBQ is known for painfully slow cooked whole pork with just a touch of vinegar/pepper based "sauce." Hushpuppies and coleslaw are a must to balance the acid and the slight picante flavor of the moistening agent. The Brewing Station carries on the tradition by offering a North Carolina BBQ pork sandwich (from the local institution of Hardison’s Barbecue in Jamesville, North Carolina) served with hushpuppies, sweet baked beans and coleslaw ($8.99). This melt-in-your-mouth mouthful is worth the price. If BBQ isn’t your thing, forgot the $100 hamburger cliché ($8.99) and choose from the in-depth sandwich list. Selections range from, brats, chicken breast and Blue crab to a decent Reuben and an acceptable vegetarian grilled portabella ($7.99 – $11.99).
Still, this is a brew pub. At its heart and soul the Brewing Station is about the beer ($4.75 pint, $7.50 for a flight of four, 6-ounce tastes). An ever-rotating beer list both comforts and surprises, and includes a fantastic non-alcoholic house-brewed cream soda and root beer. Winter provides thirst quenching brews and refreshing, decadent beverages made to be enjoyed with food and on their own. Aviators will gravitate to the Conquest IPA brewed to commemorate Wilbur and Orville’s accomplishments. This is one “hoppy brew” that lives up to its billing as “not for the faint of heart.” Continuing the trend is the Irie Tropic Stout. This creamy, smooth, rich and chewy jet-black stout is brewed extra strong. Perfect for those Outer Bank chilly nights or for someone who needs a kick start to an adventure packed weekend.
Dessert shows that Chef Pok’s culinary team can shine. A miniature, warm apple galette ($5.99) is tasty on its own but decadent when served with the white chocolate and ginger mousse. Don’t overlook the carrot cake ($5.99). This moist quick bread is accompanied by an insanely rich orange-caramel sauce and sweet and crisp candied pecans. Add a glass of Quady Essensia, Orange Muscat dessert wine ($6.00) and be prepared for a foodgasm.
Six nautical miles south of First Flight (a mere 18 statute miles by car) is Dare County Regional Airport (KMQI). Call the airport ahead of time (252-475-5570) to reserve the courtesy car and head down US 64 to Brine and Bottle. Chef Andrew Donovan and co-owner Ashley Whitfield offer a limited yet innovative, local, seasonal, small-plate menu and an eclectic, handpicked tiny beverage list. Brine and Bottle may seem pricey compared to the mediocre, fast-service restaurants found all over the Outer Banks. Not so much when you take in consideration the quality of ingredients, their passion and the support Andrew provides to local purveyors.
This chef-and-sommelier-driven barely one-year-old restaurant is the perfect establishment for that relaxing adult night out. They have fashioned a casually elegant haven overlooking the waves. Water comes to the table in wide-mouth mason jars while Ashley’s wine selections are served in polished crystal wine glasses. The 200 strong LP record collection rotates throughout the night, giving the intimate, contemporary, casual space an urban metropolis feel.
The food is reminiscent of the Carolina Low Country. Chef Donovan’s offerings aren’t exactly a lighter version of southern cuisine but during the winter months, the body and soul crave more substantial fare. When a restaurant is named Brine and Bottle, the fried house-made pickles with buttermilk-chive dressing ($8.00) matched with a glass of Dibon Cava NV sparkling wine from Spain ($8.50) is a must. The greaseless, thin and amazingly crisp, sour wafers are the perfect balance to the creamy dipping sauce and the light-bodied, tiny little bubbles. The Falls Mill grit cakes with tomato-chutney ($5.00) are a vegetarian delight. They’re crisp and moist and the perfect foil for the sweet and sour tomatoes. Even carnivores who are hominy challenged will be converted.