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Outer Banks Area Features

Sam & Omie’s Restaurant

  By: Michelle Leckie

Alongside the beach road’s bend at Whalebone Junction sits Sam & Omie’s, a legendary Outer Banks restaurant and 80-year-old mecca for salty dogs. Folks fall in love with the down-home feeling inside the timber walls, clad with endless fishing nostalgia. A menu full of Southern classics and seafood favorites that never change makes a meal in this laid-back establishment become a cherished tradition. Since 1937 the cedar-shingled structure has weathered a range of tides, while serving as both a pre-sunrise fueling spot and post-sunset watering hole for seafarers. Captain Sambo Tillet was the original owner, joined by his son Omie in the mid-1950s. While still true to its origins, the eatery has since expanded to attract a wide range of loyal clientele—which to this day includes Captain Omie Tillet himself.

The heartwarming fare at Sam & Omie’s brings patrons back to the basics, with mouthwatering meals that prove simple is always delicious. About eight menu items are believed to have been served in the earliest days, including the fried fish platter and the hearty one-egg special. Modern-day offerings encompass comforting staples like pancakes, “Omie”lettes, “Sam”wiches, flavorful pastas and burgers, along with soups, salads and homemade desserts. As members of Outer Banks Catch (a nonprofit promoting regional sea harvests), the kitchen prepares the freshest local seafood in entrées, such as the crab and eggs benedict, crab cakes and marinated tuna steak. And their fabulous steam bar serves shrimp, snow crab legs, clams and more! Try the Hatteras-style clam chowder, a native specialty that wins rave reviews. Throughout the year, enjoy delicious weekly specials that always include Tuesday night Spaghetti and Thursday night Prime Rib.

Guests of Sam & Omie’s relish the distinct experience of dining inside a historic beach cottage, with screen doors and much of the original wooden flooring. In fair weather, open windows invite refreshing ocean breezes to flow through. During peak summer hours, aim to arrive early, or you may encounter a line. If you do have to wait, you might take a seat at their fully stocked bar or cozy screened-in porch, play some arcade games or perhaps stroll to the park next door. When your table’s ready, they’ll happily alert your phone. Make sure to check out all the photos on the walls, showcasing hundreds of deep-sea adventures and 27 years of Team Sam & Omie’s competing in every single Alice Kelly charity tournament.

Constructed just as charter fishing was taking off in the area, this beachside eatery has always celebrated angling. In 1971, the Waits sisters took ownership and set to expanding and modernizing the building, taking care to maintain its authenticity. While still gladly catering to area fishermen, the locale was then able to lure in the rest of the community—and people were hooked! In the mid-80s, Carole Sykes and Teresa Merritt came aboard as waitresses, steadily learning to navigate operations by tackling the spectrum of duties involved. By the late ‘90s, Carole and Teresa had taken the wheel as owners, while the Waits sisters settled into retirement, eventually becoming silent partners.

The tight-knit crew comprising Sam & Omie’s staff combines years of experience and friendship. Countless locals have at one time or another been employed here, and many have remained for decades. Darlene, head breakfast cook, has been with the restaurant longest, logging 38 years. Her daughter Jessie works by her side at least two shifts a week. Dolly and Emma in the kitchen, along with Debbie and Karen in the dining room, have all helped keep things running smoothly for more than 25 years. Emma’s two daughters were among the many college students who’ve worked their way through school here. Lauren, one of the managers, happens to be the great-grandaughter of Sambo Tillet, and recently named her baby daughter “Omie.”

Much as Sam & Omie’s coworkers are a family, Whalebone Junction’s diverse group of long-standing businesses has also formed a supportive relationship over the years, which includes neighboring Dune Burger (also owned by Carole). In large part, this association is what has helped them all endure, along with their location within an Outer Banks hub—bustling with an incredible variety of shops, recreations and restaurants. For so many who have been a part of Sam & Omie’s long legacy, early June will be a celebration of its loving preservation. To commemorate Sam & Omie’s 80th anniversary, specials will be run throughout summer, enticing friends to stop by for old time’s sake.

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