Four places in the Crystal Coast area (where my wife and I spend a lot of time) did not make it into print, for various reasons, but they are personal favorites just the same.
White Oak River Bistro (206 W Corbett Ave, Swansboro, NC 28584, (910) 326-1696, whiteoakriverbistro.com) serves casual Italian food in a space characterized by wood floors and walls, with open porch dining overlooking an expanse of the White Oak River.
Riverside (506 W Corbett Ave, Swansboro, NC 28584, (910) 326-8847, the-riverside-swansboro.com) occupies a large home, perched on a hill overlooking the White Oak River. The house was originally constructed over 100 years ago. Riverside is especially strong on quality wines at reasonable prices. Familiar coastal specialties are given a fine dining twist, rendering a cuisine that is more interesting than most other places on the coast, but accessible, nonetheless. A fried shrimp starter, for example, gets a light beer batter treatment, augmented with buerre blanc sauce.
Chef Patrick Hogan has found a home at Caribsea (8921 Crew Drive, Emerald Isle, NC, (252) 424-8400, caribsearestaurant.com), an upscale, upstairs creation that features a rooftop, open air bar, in addition to conventional seating. His crabcakes are among the best I’ve ever had. He formerly held forth at Carlton’s (RIP) and the Ocean Club. Before that, he was an opening chef for Legal Seafoods. A lot of creativity and expertise shows on every plate.
Pescara (208 West Dr, Atlantic Beach, NC 28512, (252) 499-9300, pescararestaurant.com) seeks to recreate the sense of an Italian seaside café. Executive Chef Creighton McNeil relocated to the Crystal Coast from Greensboro, where he was co-Executive Chef at the popular Liberty Oak restaurant downtown.