Sam & Omie’s has been serving up steaming plates since 1937 – The Virginian-Pilot

It’s a Saturday night, and outside one of the Outer Banks’ legendary restaurants, folks are making their way through the screened in porch at Sam & Omie’s and into the bright, boisterous dining room.

Heady aromas fill the air from the bowls of Hatteras-style clam chowder, platters of broiled and fried seafood, and steaming plates of North Carolina pulled pork barbecue. It’s all a delicious preview of what’s to come.

In the meantime, the interior of the cottage is a feast for the eyes. The wooden floor is time-worn in heavily trafficked areas from decades of folks traversing back and forth. Wood-paneled walls hand countless framed articles, art work, and photos chronicling the venerable eatery and the surrounding community. Folks gather around the bar and laugh.

“Sam & Omie’s is a rustic cottage style building located in Whalebone Junction, within the township of Nags Head,” says owner Carole Sykes. “Inside you will find the walls covered with pictures of friends and fishing from many years ago until now. We are a comfortable, family friendly eatery with a large menu to suit every taste.

“Visitors are likely to sit next to locals and hear tales of the Outer Banks. The atmosphere is very casual and relaxed. Folks may dress up to come by, or just come off the beach.”

Like many things on the Outer Banks, the restaurant’s beginnings revolve around the surrounding waters. Sykes says Sam & Omie’s originally opened in 1937 by watermen as a pre-fishing breakfast stop.

Over time the rambling beachy building expanded, not just in size, but with menu offerings.

“We are well known for our Hatteras clam chowder, homemade as well as delicious seafood, and desserts,” says Sykes. “Our broiled and fried seafood dinners are very much in demand for dinner fare, as well as our fresh-cut ribeye.”

She notes that crab benedict, fish cakes, and homemade sausage gravy are breakfast favorites. The six-ounce Best Burger is very popular at lunch, as is the Shrimp Burger, along with flounder sandwiches and fresh tuna salad.

“She-crab soup and crab cakes are a few of the dishes that have been passed down for generations with closely guarded recipes that have remained true to the original,” Sykes says. “I do believe that our visitors appreciate fresh local ingredients. It just makes for a better dining experience.”

Another thing that makes for a better dining experience is good service.

“Many of our employees have been here for 30 years or more, so there is a sense of family amongst the crew. People have told me that coming here was like going to a friend’s house for dinner,” says Sykes.

This year Sam & Omie’s celebrates 85 years of opening their doors and inviting folks in for a meal. Look for celebrations including trivia games on the restaurant’s social media, a party, and merchandise that denotes the anniversary for sale online and in the restaurant.

Sykes says businesses like Sam & Omie’s are the backbone of the Outer Banks.

“All locally owned businesses on the Outer Banks provide employment for people who live here,” she says. “Local business owners give back to the community, and the profits and payroll stay in the community. Without our local businesses, the charm and culture of the Outer Banks would fade.”

Summer will come and go, and the restaurant will enter its 86th year of operation. But, Sykes says, there’s no rest.

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“There doesn’t seem to be much of a shoulder season anymore,” she says. “We are busy up until the time we close in the winter to update equipment and make repairs and improvements, and as soon as we open, it just seems to start out with a bang and stay that way for the most part.”

But in the end, Sykes says the hard work is worth it when the customers walk through the door.

“It’s always great to see all of the locals and visit with them, but it means a great deal to see visitors return here year after year,” she says.

“Often, someone will come in and tell us that his or her grandparents brought them here many years ago, and that they continue to come back year after year.”

Sam & Omie’s Restaurant is at 7228 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head. Call 252-441-7366 or visit www.SamAndOmies.net

Patrick Evans-Hylton, [email protected]

Patrick Evans-Hylton is a chef, food writer and food educator in Hampton Roads.

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