If you seek the best local seafood, one choice may be to catch it yourself and cook it at home. But a new local business, Greentails Seafood Market & Kitchen in Nags Head, offers a simpler option for those with no desire to go to sea but still want the freshest fish around.
One of Greentails’ three partners travels daily to a Wanchese seafood dock and hand selects tuna, crab and other fresh local delicacies to serve just hours later. Greentails customers can either buy fresh fish to prepare at home, or dine-in on sandwiches, bowls, baskets, soups and dips made with ingredients that were swimming yesterday.
And once shrimp season opens, that same Greentails partner — licensed commercial fisherman Mark Newsome — will supply the restaurant and market with its namesake shellfish, greentail shrimp.
Located in Pirate’s Quay Shopping Center in Nags Head, recognizable by the 16-foot brass ship propeller roadside, this combination market/restaurant can’t be missed.
Market customers seeking seafood for home cooking, can browse cases displaying the sea’s bounty. A recent day’s offerings included cobia, softshell crab, shrimp, tilefish, yellowfin, poke bowls (more on that in a minute) and two varieties of house-smoked fish dip, all harvested locally. I’m not a big smoked fish fan but Greentails’ silky bluefish dip changed my mind.
In keeping with Greentails’ strong buy-local ethic, even the fiberglass display cases were custom made by a Wanchese boat builder. The walls are adorned with numerous wood fish carvings made by a Hampton Roads artist. If one catches your fancy, they’re for sale.
I was impressed by the freshness and selection in the display cases, but it was truly the prepared dishes that tempted me most — and the selection of wine and NC brews added another dimension to the good eats.
Co-owner Brandi Midgette, also an OBX local and veteran of its restaurant scene, says that since opening in mid-May, customers came in for to-go raw seafood but wound up buying prepared food. “Our menu is mostly old-school classics — fried or blackened sandwiches and baskets — but with a very distinct twist on them. It really catches customers’ interest,” she says.
For example, the shrimp and grits preparation is not your typical spiced shrimp tossed over a bed of grits. Instead, grits are blended with shrimp and fried to make a tasty croquette. They’re served with a distinctively house-made BBQ sauce that incorporates rum distilled in nearby Manteo. Sweet and savory all at once.
And for those looking for dishes outside of Carolina traditions there were two noteworthy items the day I visited. A banh mi sandwich, typically a roasted pork sandwich with pate on a crispy baguette, was on the chalkboard. The Greentails twist on this Vietnamese favorite? Cobia filet replaced the pork and bluefish dip was substituted for pate. Traditional at heart, but updated and decidedly delicious.
The other item from outside the Tar Heel state is Greentails’ poke bowls. Co-owner Bryan Whitehurst, a Virginia Beach native proud to call the OBX home, says Hawaiian poke bowls are a signature dish.
Whitehurst recounts how he and Newsome grew to love, and refine, their poke bowl presentations. In the months leading up to opening Greentails, They spent weeks as private chefs in Maui and fell in love with poke preparations.
“Poke literally means ‘bits’ in Hawaiian and the fishermen there have an ethic that nothing on a fish should be wasted,” he says.
Like the Pacific islanders, Greentails poke combines smaller pieces of fish with fresh veggies, sesame oil, fish sauce, soy and more in a bowl for a healthy, satisfying preparation sure to please. It’s about to become my go-to dish.
Poke bowls will be offered daily, though ingredients will be seasonal. The Greentails crew emphasizes that substitutions are welcome on menu items. Unfamiliar with cobia and prefer tuna? No problem in this kitchen staffed with folks who love what they do.
All of the Greentails’ dishes stick as close as possible to the local and in-house ethic: hwushpuppy mix, seafood breading, pickled vegetables and sauces like the BBQ accompaniment to the croquette-style shrimp and grits are made on site.
Greentails has a half-dozen inside tables and more outside for dining guests. Prepared items are, of course, also available for takeout. So, go to Greentails, and take home some of the freshest fish around — or grab one of its unique dishes that improve on old favorites.