This little gem of a restaurant opened almost 2 years ago and the word-of-mouth keeps the tables filled and patrons waiting at the bar and outside. Our first visit to Urban Kitchen, highly recommended by friends, lived up to the expectation.
We walked into the restaurant, located in a shopping center in Corolla with a huge draw – the only Harris Teeter grocery store on North 12 – and felt right at home in the modern and rustic space. It’s completely non-beachy and simply charming. Tables are set with crisp white tablecloths covered with kraft paper and bud vases with a fresh flower and sprigs of mint. Our favorite wall hanging is a wood-framed trio of butchering saws (my husband recognized the saws right away), which we learned from our server, belonged to the chef’s grandfather. A newspaper article detailing the grandfather’s café from long ago was also in the frame.
Luck was in our favor; this first-come, first-served spot had two tables left, and we got one of them. Our server, Alta, was friendly, attentive, and above all else, knowledgeable about the food and the craft beers. The chef, Joe Panaras, a former executive chef at The Blue Point, in neighboring Duck, changes the menu based on seasonal availability of ingredients.
The first course was calamari with chickpeas, tomatoes and olives, topped with a salsa verde and garnished with a crunchy slice of toasted artisan bread. Although we’re not big fans of chickpeas, their crunch added texture and they absorbed the flavors of the tomatoes and olives; it was different… and delicious. From there, the goodness continued. My husband ordered a NY strip, with shoestring fries, a chunky horseradish sauce, and a lightly dressed arugula salad. The steak was well-seasoned, had a crusty sear, and was reddish-pink in the middle – just the way he likes it.
I chose the grilled swordfish, which I don’t usually order out because it comes out dry. Not the case here. Served atop sliced potatoes, small pieces of chorizo and fennel in a tomato broth, the swordfish tasted different with each accompaniment on the fork. And it was topped with a tangy olive tapenade – the best swordfish I’ve eaten in a restaurant, by far.
We didn’t leave room for dessert, but vowed to come back the next time we’re in Corolla.
If you’re at the Outer Banks this summer and want a real treat – way different from most of the restaurant choices – it’s well worth the drive to Corolla.
603B Currituck Clubhouse Drive, Corolla, NC 27927