TRiO, if you don’t already know, is the gorgeously modern market and restaurant in Kitty Hawk that feels like its own little neighborhood inside.

There are people you know, and those you don’t. Lots of activity, and good smells everywhere. Drinks being shared, and plenty of pretty (and delicious) things to look at and pick up.

It’s also the go-to source for things that will make a get-together or, for me, a fall game night with friends, way more special.

The secret ingredient: TRiO’s cheese. Specifically, a stunning and diverse cheese board I ordered in the afternoon and picked up a couple hours later, arriving to game night like a champ with my fancy, shareable snacks for everyone to enjoy.

I didn’t have any special requests for the cheese board, just that it would feed four people and I casually mentioned to Scotty, who works in the kitchen and behind the cheese counter, “The funkier the better.”

A little while later, I wondered if I shouldn’t have thrown that comment out there so haphazardly… maybe not everyone in my group loves the overripe, moldy cheeses that I’m so smitten with?

Turns out, my worries were all for nothing. Scotty seems to have a sixth sense for how to please a crowd. He’d curated a wonderful mix of stinky, creamy, salty, and crumbly cheeses — all with distinct, unique flavors that paired perfectly with the dried apricots, fresh strawberries, and grapes scattered about, and the spicy chutney spooned into a small cup in the center.

The clusters of cheese and fruit were punctuated by TRiO’s special blend of seasoned, mixed nuts — a recipe my family has been trying to crack for years, it’s so good.

Jennifer Minnich is the cheesemonger at TRiO, having grown up with a love of cheese that further developed when she worked around the corner from Di Bruno Bros. in Philadelphia where she’d pick up new and interesting cheese finds every Friday on her way home. Jennifer and her husband John are co-owners of TRiO with Kenny and Melissa Hyman. John is TRiO’s beermonger and Kenny’s the wine enthusiast, making for an appetizing combination of passions, giving the OBX and its visitors access to some of the best wine, beer, and cheese we’ll ever taste.

Wine, beer, and cheese have been the focus since TRiO opened over eight years ago. Last winter, the spot underwent a kitchen renovation and a menu revamp, emerging as TRiO Restaurant and Market. Beyond their salads, small plates, and other favorites we all love (hello, Caramelized Onion Dip), Chef Jodi Bernhardt is now preparing large plates full of robust offerings to please any and everyone.

Dinner at TRiO feels like a chill and inviting neighborhood party. On a recent Saturday night, when my mom and I ventured out for a dinner date, the party was turned up a notch in honor of Octoberfest. TRiO holds this annual celebration in September (remember that for next year), which is when Octoberfest traditionally kicks off in Germany. The fun in the dining room was palpable and the menu had some special additions of Schnitzel, pretzels, and potato pancakes.

We stuck to the classics, though, and ordered the Prosciutto Chicken. The flavors on this plate were familiar and comforting- chicken and a rich marsala sauce, with crisp snow peas on the side-but it was all bumped up by the scandalously generous slices of prosciutto. Not to mention the bed of smoked cheddar grits underneath, all creamy and golden — a nice southern touch to round out this hearty plate. Chef Jodi is clearly fluent in the language of delicious home cooking, having learned her skills early from her grandmother.

I’d heard rumors around town about the roasted cauliflower appetizer we’d also ordered and it did not disappoint- something about the super-savory cheddar cheese showered over top and the bright zip of the chimichurri sauce made simple cauliflower a whole new experience for me.

My mom shared a taste of her jerk shrimp tacos, a dish that sounds fine just on its own but TRiO adds pickled shishito peppers for a tart bite, sweet roasted corn, and a creamy smear of tangy goat cheese. That might have been my favorite bite of food all night.

All of this tastiness is made even better by TRiO’s thoughtful collection of rotating craft beers on tap and wines by the bottle, glass, or even “by the taste” from the self-service tasting machines. But don’t overlook the wine and beer cocktails, the new craft mocktails, and the yummy alcohol-free options like vignette sodas made from wine grapes but without the alcohol.

True to the “gathering place” vibe TRiO is so well known for, they offer wine tastings on Thursdays and Saturdays, led by one of the few certified sommeliers on the beach, Sharon Hutteman. November brings their annual Harvestfest, which is a ticketed event offering tastings of the best wines, beers, and cheeses for fall. \At the Holiday Market in December, local artisans and vendors set up shop in TRiO’s cozy upper level, allowing guests to browse for unique finds while they enjoy their food and drinks.

On the market side, you’ll always find lots of local, handmade goods like honey, jams, and cookies, as well as plenty of accessories for your favorite beverages. The retail selection of wine and beer is endless and the staff can help you navigate it with ease, offering pairing suggestions along the way.

All of this is to say, there’s almost nothing you can’t find at TRiO — a great drink, yummy food, and a good time are always being served here.

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