The New “Best Shrimp Burger” Champion: Captain’s Kitchen

After our day of comparing the pork at Bum’s Restaurant, the Skylight Inn, and Sam Jones Barbecue, Nancy and I headed for the shore, and a shift in focus away from barbecue toward shrimp burgers.

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.

captains menu

But it’s not as extensive s the Big Oak menu.

big oak menu.JPG

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:

captains compare.JPG

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.

captain bigoak picnic.JPG

(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.

16 thoughts on “The New “Best Shrimp Burger” Champion: Captain’s Kitchen

  1. IMHO the Big Oak can’t BEGIN to compare with the quality, taste and value of the food at the Captain’s Kitchen, but what stands out MOST in my mind is the friendly service and happy atmosphere there – something I DIDN’T find at Big Oak. In fact,the one and ONLY time I ever went there, the personnel were rude and very UNfriendly! For that reason alone, I will only patronize the Captain’s Kitchen from now on! Great review!


  2. Love love love Captains kitchen…beats any place around, food truck or brick n mortar. And he’s open when he says he is. Many places on the island open at their convenience even if that means not being consistent. For someone who is on EI every day working, lunch spots can be few and far between!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We discovered the Captain’s Kitchen late one day driving back to Emerald Isle from
    Beaufort. Much to our disappointment The Big Oak was already closed. Moments later we spotted the Captain’s shrimp burger sign beckoning. It did not disappoint! In fact, we went back three more times the week we were in EI. Great food, affordable prices and truly friendly service!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you John for your great article. We here at the Captains Kitchen realize the importance of quality and quantity of our products and strive everyday to make things better and we thank you and our great customers for this review! Please introduce yourself the next time you are in the area and look forward to meeting you! Regards
    Captain Marty Muns

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Y’all do a great job, and the shrimp burgers and soft-shell crab sandwiches were thanks enough. And I’ve heard a lot about your fish sandwiches and cheeseburgers, so you’ll definitely see me again next summer. And thank you for the prominent posting of my blog article. You’ve driven a lot of traffic my way!



      Liked by 1 person

  5. The Captains Kitchen has the best food ever. Now he has a Grouper sandwich that is wonderful and has a good price. The Captain just needs to open a restaurant on the island and it would make lots of people happy. Shrimp burgers are the Bomb!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Idk why everyone thinks big oak has a good shrimp burger.. I used do the floors there every Monday night. And you would see the bag of FROZEN POND SHRIMP. I said frozen pond shrimp. Sitting in the sink thawing out… ITS FROZEN POND SHRIMP PEOPLE. From some farm somewhere… ITS NOT LOCAL SHRIMP… I cant believe people don’t know the difference in a pond shrimp & a local fresh Careret County shrimp… Unbelievable

    Liked by 1 person

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