The first time my husband and I visited the Outer Banks we knew it was special. We experienced white-sand beaches, crystal-blue waters, islands, ferry rides (the only mode of transportation to and from some islands), lighthouses, historic landmarks, and famous beach towns.
As we headed home, west on Hwy 64, we crossed the bridge from Nags Head and discovered the seaside town of Manteo (pronounced Maneo by the locals).
It’s a quaint, picturesque town on historic Roanoke Island, and yes, part of the Outer Banks. Just two hours from Norfolk, Virginia, and three from Raleigh or Jacksonville, North Carolina, it’s an easy trip, and there will be some great restaurants in Manteo just waiting for your arrival.
Some say Manteo is enchanting. We agree. We could not wait to return to explore and see all that she had to offer. Recently, we finally made the trip back and stayed for almost a week. We fell in love with the little harbor town, its history, its people, and being foodies, the amazing Manteo restaurants.
Here is my list of 11 Must-Try Restaurants in Manteo, North Carolina.
The 11 Best Restaurants in Manteo, NC
207 Queen Elizabeth Avenue // 252-437-4800
Located at the Waterfront Shoppes, Avenue Grille is a casual, family-friendly restaurant. Overlooking Shallowbag Bay and Manteo Harbor, you can walk in or arrive by boat.
Fresh, locally caught fish and seafood dishes are their specialties, but their menu also includes dishes for the meat-eaters, vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free eaters.
I was impressed with the selection on the kids’ menu and the key-lime cheesecake on the dessert menu was tempting.
Some popular dishes include Seared Tuna Sushi, Bayou Shrimp and Grits, and Fish Tacos.
I enjoyed a beautiful dinner salad, slow-smoked beef brisket with mashed red potatoes and fresh green beans. Did I mention the key-lime cheesecake for dessert?
The spacious dining room is walled with windows for a fantastic water view from every table. You can also dine outside on the patio while enjoying a great view and a cool breeze. The full-service bar serves craft cocktails, locally-crafted beer, and wine. For a casual, relaxed restaurant in Manteo, visit the Avenue.
207 Queen Elizabeth Avenue // 252-423-3322
Your senses come alive the moment you walk through the door at Olives. The aroma, a tantalizing mixture of spices like rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, kalmata olives, meat, fresh-baked bread, cheese, and coffee greets you immediately.
Next, your eyes feast on a large, glass case filled with Greek delicacies. Gazing further into the room you see a wall of windows overlooking the waterfront with tables at each one. You hear traditional Greek music softly playing as you are seated, most likely by Gayle, the owner.
Your mouth waters as you read the menu full of authentic Greek cuisine – gyros, moussaka, spanakopita, chicken karas, baklava, and more.
The pizzas are amazing, all made with a cauliflower crust.
You can’t go wrong with the Mezede (appetizer) platter – dolmades, olive salad, roasted garlic, feta cheese, tzatziki, hummus, and bread. You’ll feel like you are in the Greek Islands while at this Manteo restaurant.
716 US Hwy 64 // 252-473-5570
Featured on The Food Network’s Diner’s, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Big Al’s is a classic, all-American diner with a Coca-Cola theme. The family-owned Outer Banks landmark has been serving locals and tourists alike for over twenty years.
Great food and fun for the whole family, from black and white checkered floors, booths with vintage red-vinyl seats, a long soda fountain bar complete with a neon clock, and Coca-Cola memorabilia on every wall, even a Coke bicycle!
The menu is classic diner food with burgers, sandwiches, and such. The soda fountain serves up hand-dipped milkshakes, banana splits, soda floats, and homemade pie.
Hungry after a long drive, I enjoyed a dinner salad and Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich while my husband had the Route 64 Burger – bacon and cheddar cheese – with fries.
One can’t go to a real soda fountain and not have a treat. We decided on another classic, a hot-fudge sundae with two spoons. It may not be Arnold’s with Richie and the Fonz here, but you will be visiting a classic Manteo diner.
201 Sir Walter Raleigh Street // 252-473-5911
In the historic downtown area of Manteo, housed in a completely restored and renovated 70-year-old building, Ortega’z brings a relaxed, casual atmosphere with a southwestern flair.
Using the finest local seafood and produce, they offer everything from house-made chips and salsa and street tacos to Wasabi Shrimp and Carne Asada.
You can try a Cubano Press Sandwich, Sizzling Fajitas, a mouthwatering meatloaf, and of course, the local catch of the day.
With two large dining rooms, an outdoor patio, and bar seating, there is always room at Ortega’z. Bring the whole family for lunch or dinner, or stop by for a glass of wine. For a Southwestern and Mexican flair, you can’t beat Ortega’z restaurant in Manteo.
305 Queen Elizabeth Avenue // 252-473-3333
After arriving, while looking for a restaurant in Manteo, we asked several locals where to eat downtown. Poor Richard’s was at the top of everyone’s list.
A Manteo favorite since 1984, Poor Richard’s uses only the finest Boar’s Head meats and cheeses. They say their Rueben is the best, but you’d have to convince me with all the great sandwiches, burgers, and wraps on the menu. They also have soups and salads.
Ordering from the chalkboard menu on the wall, I selected the daily special – lump meat crabcake sandwich and cucumber salad. The best crabmeat sandwich ever! The bun was so fresh and tasty with crisp lettuce, red-ripe tomato, and house-made tartar sauce. The cucumber salad was fresh and tangy.
You can enter from the street side or from the boardwalk on the harbor side. There is ample seating inside as well as outside on the “back porch” where watching the passerby’s on the boardwalk and the boats come and go in the marina adds a nice addition to your meal. For casual seaside dining in Manteo, you’ll love this place.
521 US Hwy 64 // 252-473-5366
Darrell’s has been a favorite family-owned Manteo restaurant since 1960. Conveniently located on Old US Hwy 64 (Manteo’s only major road), visitors driving into town can’t miss it.
They serve classic Outer Banks fare such as fried oysters, wood-fired barbecue, and Hatteras clam chowder. Portions are plentiful and the prices are modest.
Seafood is Darrell’s specialty but they also offer “land food” plus daily dinner specials like meatloaf, chicken pot pie, and their legendary boiled drum (fish). The daily lunch specials always include options for under $10.
As many restaurants in Manteo open for lunch and dinner only, we opted to go to Darrell’s for an early breakfast. I stuffed myself on amazing sweet-potato hotcakes while my husband ordered a bacon-cheddar omelet with home fries and biscuits and gravy. Needless to say, neither of us could finish our meals.
The two dining rooms were spacious, the staff friendly, and even the owner, Ali, granddaughter of the original owner, came over for a quick hello.
908 US Hwy 64 // 252-305-8844
If you want traditional North Carolina bar-b-que, look no further than Carolina Bar-B-Que Company. The owner, Mike Weaver, has a passion for BBQ (and people) and it shows.
The menu is simple — delicious pork and brisket bbq plates and seafood baskets along with hamburgers, hotdogs, and sandwiches with all the country fixin’s (sides) and apple, pecan, or sweet potato pie for dessert.
Pulling up you might see smoke billowing from the adjacent smokehouse. Once you get a whiff of what’s smokin’, you can’t wait to get inside. The large dining room with its mix of maritime and country décor is fun and inviting right down to the red-and-white checkered tablecloths.
Ordering is simple too. Order at the walk-up order window, get your food from the pick-up window. Don’t forget your sweet tea or fresh-squeezed lemonade. Want barbecue in Manteo? This is the place.
2000 Sailfish Drive // 252-473-1955
The Blue Water Grill is the sister restaurant of Blue Moon Beach Grill, a Nag’s Head favorite. It has a warm and friendly atmosphere with wooden floors, teak wood seats, and Ball-jar candles atop each table. The open, vaulted ceiling is crisscrossed with long wooden beams and trophy sailfish sit above the full-wall bar. Every table has an impressive view of the sound and marina.
The menu rotates seasonally, and always including fresh, local fish and seafood and crops. The lunch and dinner menus slightly differ and there are always daily specials on both. The raw oyster bar is a must-try experience, as are the yummy signature cocktails.
Located outside on the deck, next to the marina, is Mimi’s Tiki Hut. It has a super casual, laid-back atmosphere with all outdoor seating. Have a drink and watch the boats come and go. If the fresh air makes you hungry, they offer the same menu as the Grill.
For a top-shelf seafood restaurant in Manteo, look for the Blue Water.
112 US Hwy 64 // 252-423-3013
The Outer Banks’ first Peruvian and Mexican restaurant, Shaadai’s quickly became a local favorite.
Their signature dish is Peruvian rotisserie chicken, Pollo-A-La-Brava. Other offerings include authentic Peruvian dishes such as Mahi ceviche, Sauteed Lomo Steak, and Jalea Mixta – mixed seafood, deep-fried with cassava and salsa criolla.
Mexican favorites include mojarra, carne asada, fajitas, tacos, and nachos – all authentic and made with the freshest ingredients.
The large dining area is casual and comfortable offering both tables with chairs and booths. Portions are plentiful and prices reasonable. The staff is friendly and helpful in explaining some of the maybe-not-so-familiar dishes on the menu.
For a south of the border experience, visit this Manteo restaurant.
1100A S Bay Club Drive // 252-475-1021
From the moment you walk through the doors at Stripers Bar and Grille, you know you’re in the right place. The first thing that catches your eye, just beyond the large three-sided wooden bar, is the wall of windows offering a spectacular view of Shallowbag Bay.
Stripers is a unique, three-story restaurant so there is always plenty of seating and great water views from every table. Sit at the bar and socialize while dining or relax with a signature cocktail. The outdoor deck is pleasant with views of the bay and marina.
Stripers has an extensive menu, including an amazing Sunday brunch, with their specialty being steamed and fried seafood, all locally sourced when possible.
Other items on the menu range from burgers and sandwiches to pasta, meatloaf, and prime rib. We spent the afternoon sipping specialty cocktails out on the deck while snacking on a plate of steamed crab legs.
Striper’s is a fun and friendly place with a casual, relaxed environment, like most Manteo restaurants. The kind that keeps you going back.
208 Queen Elizabeth Street // 252-473-6666
You know that my list would not be complete without a brewpub (brewery and eatery). The Lost Colony Brewery and Café does not disappoint.
Starting out as the Full Moon Cafe in 1995, the owners, Sharon Enoch and Paul Charron, added a brewery in 2011. In keeping with the rich local history, their aptly named brews quickly became an Outer Banks hit, prompting the business name change to The Lost Colony.
The food is diverse, delicious, and incredibly fresh. They are known for their Angus steaks and fresh, local seafood. The menu includes something for everyone, including vegetarians and kids.
My taste buds were delighted by the fresh local-caught Mahi tacos that were perfectly seasoned and seared.
The brewery specializes in British and Irish style beers with names like Kitty Hawk Blonde, Nags Head IPA, Kill Devil Scotch Ale, and my favorite, Raleigh Buxton Brown, all award winners.
Located in the heart of downtown, this Manteo restaurant has a lively, happening vibe. The atmosphere is fun, casual, and relaxed, with friendly service. There is ample seating indoors and even more outside on the tiered patios strung with lights.
Which of these restaurants in Manteo do you most want to try? Let us know in the comments section below!
Loretta Berry is a freelance travel writer and photographer. She loves discovering new places, soaking up the culture, and experiencing the local food and drink.
Loretta has traveled extensively throughout the United States. She is a wife, mother of four, and grandmother of five. She loves traveling with her kids and grandkids, sharing with them her passion for fun and adventure. She is a member of ITWPA. You can find her on both Facebook and Instagram to follow her travels.