There are plenty of reasons to visit the Outer Banks, and one of them is the incredible just-caught seafood served at area restaurants. Any seafood-lover will tell you that it’s very easy to taste the difference between previously frozen fish and something fresh from the boat — regardless of how a chef prepares the dish.
Not to worry: At Basnight’s Lone Cedar Café, 7623 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head on the Manteo Causeway, the seafood is fresh, and Chef Bud Gruninger — a graduate of the celebrated Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York — and his team certainly know how to prepare it to bring out its full flavor.
Caroline Basnight, daughter of the restaurant’s owner, former state Sen. Marc Basnight, says since the restaurant opened its doors 22 years ago, it has been dedicated to serving 100 percent local seafood.
“We do not serve any seafood that has been imported; it must be caught by our local fishermen for us to serve it on our menu,” says Basnight, who is in charge of the restaurant’s daily operations, along with her sister, Vicki Basnight. “We believe what makes us unique is that we are dedicated to serving what North Carolina and our Coast is known for. We are a green restaurant who cares about our environment. Our vegetables are grown on local North Carolina farms, and our seafood is caught by our local fishermen. We even note on our specials of the night the name of the person who caught the fish.”
In addition, they grow their own herbs and select veggies on site, after harvesting seed in the greenhouse.
The walls of the popular restaurant are adorned with nets, rods and rakes that are used to catch fish and crabs. Large nets hang from the ceiling. Stunning water views are available from every table, as well as a bird’s eye view of the nest of resident ospreys, Ricky and Lucy. The Osprey Lounge is dedicated to the charter fleet — the bar is the made from the stern of a fishing boat — and a mural of the fleet that fishes out of Oregon Inlet graces the wall.
“Rosemary from our gardens is placed on each table in bud vases, as well as recycled wine bottles that hold oil candles,” she says.
The family owned and operated restaurant is as committed to quality today as it was the day it first opened, Basnight says.
We believe there is no other way than serving locally caught seafood and locally grown veggies. Not only does it give customers the very best of what North Carolina has to offer, but it also supports our local farms and fishermen,” she says. “Why serve something imported when you have the very best out your back door.
Her favorite item on the menu is the soft shell crabs — not only for the flavor, but also because of the family connection.
“My sister Vicki, along with local fisherman Ryan Peele, set her crab pots, fish the pots and shed the crabs at our home along the water in Manteo,” she says. “The soft shells are then brought to our restaurant, where our team hand-cleans every crab. Our chefs then fry them to perfection.”
Their father, the most powerful state senator for nearly two decades, resigned from public office in 2011 after announcing he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. But the restaurant, she says, “is his heart.”
“My father is still very much involved in the daily operations, recipes and our on-site gardens,” she says. “Dad is doing well and makes the best of every day that he has. The restaurant is his heart, and he loves to watch it grow.”