Every year, I travel with my wife’s family to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We look forward to the vacation all year long: it involves days of sitting on the beach of a narrow strip of barrier islands. We do a bulk of the driving in one day, but we stay overnight in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, a couple hours away from our destination. That’s usually about twelve hours of driving, including stops, all the way from Columbus through the Virginias and into North Carolina. And at the end of that trip, like a shining, golden promise, a symbol that we’ve arrived on vacation, is Quality Seafood.
When you ask the people at the hotel desk where to get good seafood, they all and always say Quality Seafood. It’s one of those places that looks completely nondescript from the outside. You might ignore it entirely if it wasn’t for the parking lot jammed with cars. Inside is crowded with a diverse mix of locals – and almost only locals, we always feel secretly in-the-know and a little bit out of place. Quality Seafood is about a simple as you can get: an unchanging menu above the counter, plastic silverware, styrofoam plates, pre-packaged condiments. You could almost mistake it for a generic fast food restaurant… if it wasn’t for the seafood counter in the next room, loaded with fresh-caught goods.
All throughout the twelve-hour drive, we dream and drool over a plate like this. Fries, a dollop of cole slaw, hush puppies, and a pile of fried seafood. Complemented by a big, styrofoam cup of sweet tea.
Sure, you can include some peel-and-eat shrimp steamed with Old Bay.
But what you really want is the fried seafood. I love the the mixed platter: shrimp, scallops, oysters, and the fish of the day. It’s really a superb dish of food. Everything’s breaded and fried just right – not greasy at all. The seasoning is rich without being salty. The seafood is tender and flavorful. If you like seafood at all, this place is a dream. Obviously, we love this place partly because it signifies we’ve arrived on vacation. But even without that, it’s one of those treasures that features the regional specialty and is populated by locals.
If you want to visit:
309 E. Ehringhaus St.
Elizabeth City, NC 27909