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Soft Shell Crab Week Hopes to Lure Hungry Tourists to the Outer Banks

Celebrating softies on the North Carolina coast

A boat on the water with sunrise on the horizon.
A sport fishing boat heading out of Wanchese harbor of the Outer Banks at dawn for a day of off-shore fishing.

Today marks the first day of the very first Soft Shell Crab Week, a weeklong celebration of sofites at restaurants up and down the Outer Banks in North Carolina. For a region with historical ties to the fishing and crabbing industries, the organizers hope that this will bring attention to the longstanding custom of harvesting and eating soft shell crabs each spring. They’ve also banking on it bringing customers into the local restaurants during an otherwise slow time of year, after the Mother’s Day weekend push but before summer vacations begin.

The idea was the brainchild of Mark Ballog, owner of Lucky 12 Tavern (3308 South Virginia Dare Trail) in Nag’s Head and a leader in the local restaurant community. Ballog, who splits his time between OBX and Nashville got the idea from the Music City’s Nashville Hot Chicken Week. The concept for Soft Shell Crab Week is similar— participating restaurants will each offer a soft shell crab special on their menus throughout the week. Ballog expects most of the specials to come in around $12, which also allows customers the chance to enjoy other menu items along with their crab.

This inaugural celebration has nearly 20 restaurants participating, mostly in Kitty Hawk and Nag’s Head. Each will offer something a bit different. For example, at Lucky 12, Ballog and his team are sticking close to that Nashville inspiration with a Nashville-style hot soft crab with grilled corn and cucumber relish and a buttermilk dill crema. Two Roads Tavern (3105 North Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hills) will offer honey soy sesame noodles topped with fried soft crab.

“We’re a tight community,” Ballog said in a recent interview. “It’s fun to do things like this together.” He hopes that this becomes an annual tradition in the Outer Banks, with more restaurants coming on board next year driving even more hungry tourists out to the beach to get a bite of a true local tradition.

The list of restaurants participating in this inaugural Soft Shell Crab Week are:

  • Awful Arthur’s Oyster Bar
  • Basnight’s Lone Cedar Cafe
  • Blue Moon Beach Grill
  • Blue Water Grill & Raw Bar
  • Bonzer Shack Bar & Grill
  • Chilli Peppers Coastal Grill
  • Dirty Dick’s Crabhouse
  • Goombays Grille & Raw Bar
  • Greentails Seafood Market & Kitchen
  • Henry’s Restaurant
  • The Jolly Roger Restaurant
  • Lucky 12 Tavern
  • Miller’s Waterfront Restaurant
  • Noosa Beach Grill
  • Red Drum Taphouse & Grill
  • Shipwrecks Taphouse & Grill
  • Sugar Creek Soundfront Restaurant
  • TRIO Restaurant and Market
  • Two Roads Tavern

Softshell Crab Week runs through May 20.