Outer Banks BBQ (with a side of Moon Pie) at High Cotton

Thumbs up for ribs at High Cotton BBQ in Kitty Hawk “This is a bone!” Teddy said dubiously.

It was a windy, rainy Saturday night in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina and my younger child was about to try his very first rib. I showed him how to hold the rib at the ends before biting into the meatier side and watched as his eyes widened in pleasure and delight.

I think some people may forget that the Outer Banks are in North Carolina. What I mean is that they think more of the beach and the seafood than the indigenous specialty of the state, which happens to be smoked meat. Happily for carnivores like us, there is great barbeque to be found without too much trouble. We discovered some at High Cotton BBQ.

Dining room at High Cotton BBQ in Kitty Hawk A step above the shacks that you’ll find along the roadside in many North Carolina towns, High Cotton has a pleasant dining room with red-checked the cloths. Despite these slightly fancier accoutrements, the menu is satisfyingly basic. Whether you want ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, or smoked or fried chicken you’re in luck. In fact, if you’re like my husband and can’t choose, there are combination plates. He went for the three meat combo choosing the pork, beef, and smoked chicken, all of which he doused with High Cotton’s own Chick n’ Rib sauce, a thick and smoky concoction.

Three meat combo plate at High Cotton BBQ I’m a pulled pork gal myself and ordered the sandwich plate with my coleslaw right on the sandwich, preferring to top the entire thing with the Pig Pickin’ Sauce, bottles of which were also sitting on the table. This is the traditional North Carolina barbeque sauce, dominated by vinegar.

Pork sandwich plate at High Cotton BBQ All of the plates come with hushpuppies and a choice of sides like sweet, tomato-thick baked beans; salty collards; and the most fabulous wilted green beans.

(And if you must have more vegetables, there is a salad on the menu. A “Barbeque Salad” that lest you stray too far from the meat you can have topped with pork, chicken, or brisket.)

As we were eating, one of the owners Will Thorp wandered over to refill our drinks and see how we were enjoying our food. Eyeing Teddy’s remaining baked beans he asked “Do you like marshmallow?” Teddy nodded eagerly. “How about chocolate then?” Another nod. “Well then, you’d better eat up because if you do you’re going to get something you really like.” My youngest needed no more encouragement and before we knew it (and somewhat to Matt’s chagrin since he had been eying them) those beans were all gone. It was then that we discovered that children at High Cotton are served Moon Pies as the follow-up to their meals.

Sampling a Moon Pie at High Cotton BBQ While the kids munched their desserts, I decided that despite the fact I was very full I wanted to get in on the fun. I’m so glad I did, because the chess pie at High Cotton is not to be missed. We ordered a slide of chocolate pecan and a slice of coconut and they were both paragons of homemade pie-ness, in particular the coconut which wasn’t too sweet (there’s a hint of vinegar used in these as well) and had absolutely perfect texture.

Coconut chess pie at High Cotton BBQ Will is very friendly and easy to talk to (he also generously plied us with complimentary pie as well as bottles of RC Cola and both varieties yummy sauce to take home). At one point, he took the boys over to  the other side of the dining room where he showed them some of the plants that are the restaurant’s namesake.

Cotton on display at High Cotton BBQ It fascinated them to see what cotton actually looks like and they each left with a pocket full of soft, slightly gray fluff. I was also pleased to discover that Will is a fellow family traveler; in fact, he spent a month in France with his wife and four-year-old daughter last winter.

It was cozy and pleasant in the dining room, with the wind howling outside and families enjoying sweet tea and plates piled high with food. My only regret is that I left without sampling the Brunswick stew, another traditional dish full of smoked chicken, pork, and potatoes. That and the fried chicken (to say nothing of that pie) are all great reasons for us to return.

High Cotton BBQ sign High Cotton BBQ is open from spring through late fall and is very conveniently located in Kitty Hawk right across the Wright Brothers Memorial Bridge from the mainland, so no matter where you are going in the Outer Banks, you could easily make stop here part of your trip. They offer takeout in addition to dining room service (you can also buy some of those moon pies and that yummy sauce to take with you). And since the prices are low, the service is quick and friendly, and the food is divine, I highly recommend that you do so.

I offer this deliciousness for Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust and Lipstick.

To learn more about our trip, see my other posts about the Outer Banks.

Reader Responses

7 fellow travelers had this to say

  1. Thanks for sharing this little gem! It is on my list for our next OBX trip!

  2. It’s not even 9am out here and I’m already starving thanks to you. I have a feeling we will be having pulled BBQ chicken sandwiches tonight. Nothing like what you had, but I’ll have to make due till we get to NC next summer ;-)

  3. Oh my, I’ve never been to the Outer Banks and really want to go. Def have to stop here. Your descriptions are so appetizing.

  4. High Cotton is one of our favorite places to eat when we visit the Outer Banks and we often take a container of their lean pork barbecue home with us. We love the genuine friendliness of the place and most especially the food. We can’t find anything like this in suburban Maryland!

  5. Those mini-moon pies are so cute, I was jealous the boys got them. The fried chicken is definitely worth a return trip. We were too stuffed for pie after dinner, especially since we each had a can of Yuengling with dinner. Will came over to refill drinks and ask after us so much my dad got suspicious (typical Yankee, right?). Our server actually iced down the Yuenglings for us special, as they had just arrived and were still warm. Can’t wait to go back!

  6. I grew up going to OBX and marvel at how it’s grown. I think it’s pretty funny these days how chic the southern soul food/bbq has become. Barbeque seems to have become a favorite national pass time. this place looks great – will definitely check it out next time we’re there!

  7. I can’t get over the fact that it was your son’s 1st rib! How is this possible. My kids were practically teething on ribs!

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