Salt Box Café: where culinary pleasure is always on the menu

Chefs Amanda and Randolph Sprinkle in the Salt Box Café kitchen.

Amy Gaw

Make a plan to eat dinner, lunch or Sunday brunch, on Little Colington Island. Yes, the bodies of land generally known as Colington Island are really Big Colington Island and Little Colington Island. That is right, there are two islands connected by two bridges to the mainland just to the west of the town of Kill Devil Hills.

If you cross just the first picturesque little bridge, you will travel over Colington Creek, which is adjacent to Kitty Hawk Bay and flows into the Albemarle Sound. Only a minute or two later, you will come across a charming little saltbox tucked under a canopy of pines. This is The SaltBox Café and this is where Chefs Amanda and Randolph Sprinkle make their magic happen.

Tucked off the road, next to a slash in Colington Creek, The SaltBox Café offers lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and they host a particularly tasty Sunday brunch. They also regularly feature themed dinners; watch for them, they sell out quickly.

When the weather is good, you can choose to eat inside or outside on the screened porch, overlooking the little creek. Depending on the season, you can hear a variety of nature’s chirps and spot several forms of small to tiny wildlife.

If you decide to go for Sunday brunch, remember, they are a popular choice and are worth the wait, should you find a line. One of my favorite dishes on the brunch menu is their corn beef hash topped with poached eggs and rosemary hollandaise. The Southern-style shrimp and grits is also delicious, if you’re looking for a savory option — their recipe is a slightly spicy combination of local shrimp, Andouille sausage, onions, peppers and mushrooms.

The smoked salmon sandwich with basil aioli, tomatoes and baby arugula on toasted ciabatta is a clever presentation for a breakfast protein usually found on a bagel.

For the fans of sweet, try the berry-stuffed French toast with a smidge of cinnamon, cream cheese and assorted berries, finished with crème anglaise. Decadent.

If you visit during the week at lunch time, the Cuban sandwich is always delicious. Roasted pork loin, sliced ham, spiced mayo, fontina cheese and dill pickles are pressed between split ciabatta bread.

The most flavor packed sandwich on the menu just might be their roasted vegetable and pesto sandwich with fontina cheese, roasted veggies and a house-made pecan pesto on grilled Italian bread. The pesto makes the sandwich, it is umami packed and completely cravable.

The local fish fry, made with the day’s fresh catch, is both nostalgic and modern. Hot, crispy fried fish is served with a side of cool and refreshing coriander cole slaw, a bit of lemon caper aioli and a generous portion of French fries. It is hard to decide what to order.

Dinner at SaltBox is a bit romantic and a bit whatever you want it to be. It is not unusual to find date-night dress seated next to overtly Outer Banks casual attire. It all works.

If you like to try lots of small plates, they have some fun ones. They also offer old favorites, like their classic Waldorf salad with grapes, apples and walnuts and their version of sweet potato fries with cinnamon, sugar and a touch of local honey. The New Orleans style BBQ shrimp with lemon, cracked black pepper, sweet butter and a chunk of crusty bread are addictive as are the crispy sriracha and honey-glazed Brussel sprouts.

Entrées are as varied as a soba noodle bowl with crispy tofu, sesame, teriyaki and pickled bok choy and their fork-tender Osso Bucco made with white wine, beef broth and braised veggies. Specials are always worth checking out and often feature fresh, locally sourced seafood.

Do save room for dessert. This is Chef Amanda’s wheel house. Even if you have to take it home, don’t leave without trying whatever is on the menu. Good news, if you miss a slice of the lemon coconut cake with lemon mascarpone cheese icing, the chocolate fudge cake with coconut almond chocolate icing or the peanut butter and fudge pie, you can order a whole one to pick up and take home. Amy Gaw is a food entrepreneur who has eaten, cooked and written about food on the Outer Banks and surrounding areas for more than three decades. A clean food advocate with a focus on local seafood, Gaw is also a salt maker and the founder of Outer Banks SeaSalt.

Amy Gaw is a food entrepreneur who has eaten, cooked and written about food on the Outer Banks and surrounding areas for more than three decades. A clean food advocate with a focus on local seafood, Gaw is also a salt maker and the founder of Outer Banks SeaSalt.

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