One of the reasons to go to the beaches near Morehead City, NC, is the shrimp burger.
There are two leading shrimp burger places in the area, The Big Oak in Salter Path, out on the island,
and El’s on the mainland in Morehead City.
Each has its devoted following. El’s has curb service and an old fashioned feel that makes you think you’re in a movie set. Unfortunately the movie is The Birds, and not because the carhops look like Tippi Hedren.* They do not. The place is overrun with seagulls which, apparently driven mad by hushpuppy scraps and crystal meth, perch on and dive-bomb your car. Having a window open is out of the question, but a car wash may be in order.
The Big Oak is seagull-free and the shrimp burgers have a lot more shrimp than do the El’s shrimpbergers. The Big Oak also has better hushpuppies and the only habanero-based sauce on earth that actually tastes good. They also have very good scallop burgers and barbecue, about which I have written favorably.
The Big Oak is carry-out only and cash only, and it always takes a minute to get a parking space and several minutes to order and several minutes more to get your food. It is a very popular place and well worth the short wait.
I went by the Big Oak and picked up a shrimp burger and a barbecue sandwich for myself and a shrimp burger for Nancy. I showed self-restraint and didn’t get any hushpuppies.
That’s a lot of shrimp. That’s a lot of barbecue.
The shrimp burger was delicious, as always. The barbecue, alas, was missing the raw cabbage topping that I liked so much last time. But they give you a lot of meat, and they have an excellent sauce, vinegar and a lot of pepper. The meat isn’t cooked over wood, but it is slow-cooked pork mixed with vinegar and pepper and that, my friends, is good eating.
I’ve heard that there also are good shrimp burgers at the Clam Digger in Pine Knoll Shores and at the Royal James in Beaufort, but I’m a Big Oak loyalist.
*Tippi Hedren is responsible for the Vietnamese dominance of US nail salons. She visited a refugee camp in California 40-some years ago, and the women there were much taken by her nails. So she brought in her manicurist to teach 20 of the women how to do manicures, and then helped place Vietnamese women in beauty parlors across California. Thus are born empires, great and mighty.
I don’t know why that story fascinates me so.