In Denmark, where the frigid winter winds whip up off the open waters of the North Sea, they have a single word for how residents seek refuge from the weather. The Danish word “hygge” expresses a feeling closest to what we might call coziness. While the word may not be directly translatable to English, hygge might involve warmth, physical comfort, satisfying food and good cheer.

Around this time many Outer Bankers might be seeking a little hygge without a trip across the Atlantic. I know I am. And what better setting is there than a cozy restaurant for a romantic dinner on the upcoming Valentine’s Day? I’m thinking someplace warm and welcoming: comfort food, friendly staff, soft lighting and bracing drink. Here are a few suggestions:

Italian soul food

Josephine’s Sicilian Kitchen offers an inviting setting: soft lighting, charming staff and amazing, rib-sticking southern Italian cuisine. The small dining room has comfy seating and a low ceiling that creates an intimate environment. Have a seat at the bar for a craft cocktail served by bartender Kasia Turuk whose favorite cocktail to make is any kind of martini. The constantly changing dinner menu typically offers five entrees in addition to starters and salads, but every time I go in there I’m still torn on what to order because it all sounds so good. You can’t go wrong with any dish served Milanese style. If you’re lucky, the fireplace in a seating area will be lit.

(3701 N. Croatan Hwy., Kitty Hawk, (252) 261-2669,

Duck into the Roadside

Roadside Bar & Grill, housed in a rustic beach cottage, is practically in the road now that the town has widened its main street. No matter — it’s a delightfully charming bar and restaurant well insulated from whatever’s going on outside. Several small rooms with just a few tables in each give a homey touch. Try a rum punch made with locally-distilled Kill Devil Rum, a splash of orgeat almond syrup, pineapple and passionfruit. It just might transport you to the Caribbean. The eclectic menu includes many seafood preparations but customer Art Jeavons highly recommends the meatloaf plate at Roadside. He says the restaurant and bar atmosphere is “pretty laid back even in the evening. It’s a great place to just hang out.”

(1193 Duck Road, Duck, (252) 261-5729),

Warm and sophisticated

Trio Bar and Bistro has a gourmet wine, cheese and beer store in the front but most of the two story building is taken up with a ground level beer and wine bar, and the upstairs is a book-lined lounge with sofas and overstuffed chairs. Dark wood and indirect lighting create a warm ski chalet environment but at the beach. The highly creative menu features Paninis, tacos, soups, salads and both large and small plates. Some of the more interesting items include crab pot pie and butternut squash, goat cheese and leeks pasta. But for me the highlight was a bold glass of cabernet and a charcuterie board of specialty cheeses, dried Bresaola sausage and a sweet accompaniment.

(3708 N. Croatan Hwy., Kitty Hawk, (252) 261-0277,

Grandpa’s garage

Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint is pretty much what it says: a joint with very wide selection of beer, fries, burgers, burgers and more burgers. In fact, the only other menu item is a grilled cheese sandwich. The restaurant has seven creatively-named burgers on the menu and a different specialty burger for each day of the week. They include the elusive Chupacabra, an all-American Greg Brady, and an egg topped Cool Hand Luke for you rebels. Jack Brown’s offers 10 mostly craft taps on an aggressive rotation, and 100 bottle and canned beers of both craft and traditionally ‘Merican brews. All of this beer ‘n burger goodness is served among décor that owner Brent Hill describes as Grandpa’s garage, but what I think might have emerged from the Cracker Barrel decorator on psychedelics. Come in on a Friday and order The Ponch burger, California-styled with guacamole, smoked bacon, white cheddar and Siracha mayo.

(800 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills, (252) 715-3328,

So, are you now ready to get your hygge on at these or other cozy OBX restaurants? The ones above are open year round but may have modified winter days and hours. It’s best to call first — you don’t want to get left out in the cold. Stay warm, my friends.

Steve Polilli, a lifelong epicurean, is a journeyman journalist, whose appreciation of all things food is as far-flung as his career in the industry.


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