Mako’s Beach Grille + Bar in Kill Devil Hills has finished extensive renovations that put a fresh face on the year-round favorite. First opening its doors in 1996, Mako’s is perhaps best known as a family-friendly restaurant and private party host with an extensive menu of seafood, prime Angus beef, pasta dishes, chicken, dinner salads and wood-fired pizzas.

The décor has been significantly enhanced with historical artifacts, art work and old photos moved from its sister, the now-shuttered Kelly’s Restaurant a short drive down the bypass. Historical ship wheels and vintage fishing tackle now join a 275-gallon saltwater aquarium.

“As part of the Kelly’s Restaurant group we able to pick from the treasures that Mike Kelly had collected for over 30 years. We inherited a lot of great artifacts, pictures and historical photos” says Bill Martin, Mako’s general manager.

Until the renovation over the last year, the restaurant was known as Mako Mike’s. The front side of the restaurant with its iconic color relief of an attacking shark was repainted last summer. Interior colors, formerly tones more evocative of Miami Beach, have been refreshed with beachy but less electric hues. It’s an inviting atmosphere.

Martin believes the larger and sleeker bar area, an upstairs dance floor and a regular schedule of live music, karaoke and DJs will lure in a later crowd to Mako’s while still retaining all the characteristics that please the dinner crowd.

It’s a formula that has well served the late Kelly’s Restaurant, known for high end dining and a lively late-night scene. It c certainly seems as if all the elements are there for Mako’s to emulate Kelly’s. More big screen televisions have been added to the bar area in the multi-level restaurant. A large wine list, an expanded selection of craft beer and cocktails should have wide appeal to all customers no matter what time they visit.

An authentic Italian wood burning brick oven, visible from the bar area, turns out artisan pies and oysters Rockefeller that can be either shared starters or late-night bar snacks. Mako’s Black Angus beef, including two sizes of prime rib, sirloin and Delmonico cuts, have always been a favorite, as is its locally sourced seafood dishes such as yellowfin tuna, shrimp, grouper, sea scallops and numerous in-season specials.

Speaking of locally-sourced things, Martin says Mako’s philosophy always has been to stay open year-round to serve OBX locals.

“Sure, winter months aren’t the summer ‘gravy train’ that restaurants love but we’re here for locals with a 20 percent discount off food. We are here all the time for both visitors and locals,” he says. Mako’s winter staffing is about 20-25, compared to approximately 50 in the summer.

Martin says that the employees of Kelly’s Restaurant Group, which also includes Pamlico Jack’s Restaurant in Nags Head and Kelly’s Catering in addition to Mako’s are like a large extended family. Turnover is minimal for a restaurant and many Kelly’s workers have long tenure. Martin has been at Mako’s 20 years.

“The staff is always very attentive,” says James Martin, a Raleigh resident who was recently dining at Mako’s with his wife. “Last time we came to the Outer Banks we were a party of nine including three children. Even though it was the busy season the service and food were awesome.”

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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