Get those taste buds ready: March 28 through 31 marks the return of the much beloved annual Outer Banks Taste of the Beach. For four days, locals and visitors will be treated to the best food and drink the Outer Banks has to offer.

The four-day foodapalooza features more than 50 individual events from Corolla to Manteo, and that means those who partake are sure to find something that pleases.

“[Attendees] can expect a variety of events large and small,” says Daniel Lewis, president of the Outer Banks Restaurant Association and Chef/Owner and Sommelier at Coastal Provisions Oyster Bar and Wine Cafe.

Member restaurants will be hosting individual events, including cooking classes, wine tastings, special menus, and brewery tours. Returning this year is the tapas crawl.

“Building on the popularity of Tapas Crawls, we’ve added two new ones in Kill Devil Hills,” he says. “The other new event is Locals Night at the Soundside, a casual event open to all zip codes with local food and beverage vendors, and other craft artisans selling their foodstuffs.”

Locals Night is on Friday, March 29, and will also feature local music and a family-friendly movie under the stars.

“Admission is free with a donation of a canned good for the Beach Food Pantry,” says Lewis, “or a dollar or two if that’s easier.”

Also new this year is The OBX Oyster Tour.

“We added a set of eco-tours with four sessions which start out at the NC Coastal Federation’s dock in Wanchese, followed by a tour of a working farm near Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, then self-guided tasting with three local oyster bars.”

The first two sessions of the oyster tour sold out so quickly that two more sessions were added, though those sold out just as quickly.

On Saturday, March 30, is the Sysco BBQ & Wings Showdown at the Soundside Event Site in Nags Head.

“We have some great BBQ joints here,” he says. “There’s some great ‘que coming from all sorts of places, and we expanded the event to add wings to attract and make more competitive for non-BBQ restaurants. The barbeque event is family friendly too as good ‘que knows no age limit.”

More than a dozen restaurants are slated to participate, cooking their best pulled-pork barbeque, ribs, and wings. Expect to see other smoked options, like barbeque tacos and shrimp. Winners will be chosen by a panel of judges and people’s choice.

The weekend will culminate with Grand Tasting on Sunday, March 31. Fifteen participating restaurants will compete for awards. The Grand Tasting also features Bartenders’ Bubbly Bash and the competition for the best sparkingling wine cocktail. The best cocktail will be the one that collects the most tips, all of which will be donated to the Beach Food Pantry. The event takes place at the Soundside Event Site in Nags Head.

“We have worked with the Beach Food Pantry for the past several years and are strengthening that support even more this year,” says Lewis. “We are also working with Dare County Schools to develop more of a relationship helping students in their career choices, especially in the hospitality industry.”

When asked about his favorite part of the event, Lewis choses the Grand Tasting.

“It brights us all together to celebrate the best food the Outer Banks has to offer from it’s best restaurant,” he explains. “[It is] very gratifying to see all the attendees having such a great time. We raise at least $1,000 in cash for the Beach Food Pantry.”

This year marks the 12th year the Outer Banks Taste of the Beach has been a four-day event. The expansion was based on popularity and inspired by other regional food festivals. The origin of the event as a whole is a bit more cloudy.

“No one is 100 percent sure, but some say at least 30 years,” says Lewis when asked how long Outer Banks Taste of the Beach has been happening. 

“Since the change to a four day event, the percentage of out of area attendees to TOB has increased well above local attendance. We hope to see lots of our neighbors come out with the whole family, as there is fun for all,” he adds.

“The mission has always been to promote the great restaurants of the Outer Banks,” says Lewis. “It’s in the tagline: Food, Drink, Fun.”

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