Shrimp burgers are an important part of the coastal experience in North Carolina. For those who have not had a shrimp burger, it consists of very small shrimp, fried, and served on a bun, usually with slaw and often with tartar sauce. There’s a state law that you have to have at least one carry-out shrimp burger every time you go to the shore. Well, it may not be a duly enacted, written law, but it’s a law, and a good one.
For years there was a duel for shrimp burger supremacy between El’s in Morehead City and the Big Oak in Salter Path. You can read that saga here (and learn something about nail salons). Suffice it to say that I had planted the crown firmly planted on the metaphorical head of the Big Oak.
Now there’s a new kid on the block, or, for now, in the parking lot of the consignment store next to the Deep Water Mobile Home Park in Salter Path. It is the Captain’s Kitchen, a food truck. Here you can see me waddling purposefully, but with feigned nonchalance, toward it.
And here’s an unobstructed view.
They have a pretty extensive menu for a food truck.
But it’s not as extensive s the Big Oak menu.
My nephew, Henry Tanner, the shrimp burger maven, had reported to Mike and Liza that the Captain’s Kitchen was a much better deal than the Big Oak. We promptly went there for shrimp burgers and a soft shell crab sandwich for Mike. And some grouper bites, because grouper. We were all very pleased, and it takes something to please a Chesapeake Bay guy with a soft shell crab. (Two days later, I independently confirmed the quality of the soft shell crab sandwich.)
I fretted for a couple of days, and then decided to test the issue with a scientific, side by side comparison/taste test between the Captain’s Kitchen and the Big Oak. I got the Captain’s Kitchen’s Super Shrimp Burger ($6, tax included) and a large Big Oak Shrimp Burger ($6.75, $7.20 with tax). I could have purchased a regular shrimp burger for $5.75, plus tax, which would have been closer to the Captain’s Kitchen price, but I wanted a large. I ordered each with slaw and nothing else.
Here they are. The Captain uses a brown bag and checked wrapping and the Big Oak uses a white bag. Compare:
As you can see, the Captain’s Kitchen gives you a whole lot more for your money. Both sandwiches — burgers, if you prefer — are very good, and in each case the shrimp are fresh and fried by someone who knows how to fry food. I give the edge to the Captain on quality: better shrimp, and the slaw has a fresher taste, perhaps because it has less dressing. You don’t need a lot of dressing on a shrimp burger.
Of course, there’s more to life at the beach than shrimp burgers, and someone in your group may want a BLT, some jalapeño poppers, or, most likely, some hush puppies. The Big Oak sells these and other things which the Captain’s kitchen does not. (The Big Oak also sells milk shakes. I shouldn’t need to say this, but don’t eat a milk shake with a shrimp burger.) And, if you squeeze around behind the Big Oak to try and find some shade while you’re waiting, you’ll see it has a shaded dining area.
(There are 2 picnic tables in there.) It’s not much, and I’ve never seen it used by anyone but Big Oak personnel who might not cotton to outsiders, but I suppose it would be better than trying to eat on one the sofas in front of the consignment shop. On the other hand, service at the Big Oak is much slower, in part because of a lot of people have complicated group orders, which they have to repeat several times, and in part because of the more complex menu. But if it’s shrimp burgers you want, see the Captain.
The Captain’s Kitchen moves down to Emerald Isle on the west end of the island in November. It’ll move back some time in the Spring. You can keep track on Facebook.