This article was written for our sponsor, Visit Elizabeth City.
The saying goes the quickest way to a person's heart is through their stomach. If this is truly the case, then it's no wonder why residents and visitors alike have fallen in love with Elizabeth City.
The waterfront town has an array of restaurants, eateries, and coffee shops that offer unique flavors and one-of-a-kind experiences you won't find elsewhere. Foodies will find no shortage of options and Visit Elizabeth City, the official Visitor's and Tourism Center, recently compiled a Local Favorites list that was curated based on popular vote.
The following rundown includes many restaurants that made the Local Favorite's list, along with a few others, but is by no means all Elizabeth City has to offer for food lovers from near and far.
For tapas lovers - The Mills Downtown Bistro
The Mills Downtown Bistro opened in 2018 and offers a menu of tapas, crepes, and flatbreads. Janne Mills owns it with her son, Michael, a classically trained chef who wanted to do something different in Elizabeth City. Michael was inspired by a tapas restaurant he lived nearby in Charlotte while he was in culinary school at Johnson & Wales University.
"When we first opened, I wasn't sure how we would be received — nobody was doing tapas in the area," said Janne.
Despite her apprehension about the community's response to local tapas, the reception has been overwhelming.
"We have the greatest customer base. They are willing to try new things. You know, they have their favorites and they're very vocal about it, but they have been extremely supportive of Michael when he tries to branch out a little bit," said Janne.
Michael likes to frequently shake the menu up with things like grilled octopus or seasonal creations like prosciutto wrapped cantaloupe. He gets inspiration from cookbooks and things he sees on TV and goes to work testing recipes diners find unique and flavorful.
For authentic Mexican at a comfortable price - 3 Amigos
This family-run establishment serves up a menu of botanas, fajitas, tacos, burritos, enchiladas and more. One Google reviewer noted 3 Amigos offers "authentic Mexican" not "Tex-Mex", while another commented on what a good happy hour the restaurant provides.
"They have a screened-in patio for dining in warm weather and plenty of space for large groups who want a delicious, casual dining option," stated the Visit Elizabeth City website.
For low country southern with a touch of old school charm - Hoppin' Johnz New South Cuisine
Located in Elizabeth City's Historic Downtown, Hoppin' Johnz has a menu of great southern cuisine with a twist and an atmosphere to match. Additionally, the restaurant hosts events regularly, including live music on Saturday nights from 8 pm to 11 pm "by some of the region's best single entertainers, duos and an occasional trio."
Come for the food and stay for a good time.
For American cuisine in a unique setting - Montero's Restaurant
Montero's is a restaurant, bar and caterer that offers creative, American regional family-friendly cuisine, along with weekly specials.
A unique draw of Montero's is the structure of the restaurant itself. Located in a renovated, 1904 historic home, the restaurant sits on a beautiful piece of property surrounded by foliage and fauna. It's one of the reasons why Montero's is a great place for events like business meetings or weddings. The attractiveness of the house and property oftentimes misleads people into thinking the cuisine is on the pricier end though.
"My wife and I had our wedding reception in the horse pasture, which is now the parking lot," said owner Andy Montero of the property. "We were able to keep a lot of the azalea bushes, a huge Japanese maple, dogwoods and all these beautiful flowers and trees and bushes while doing construction. A lot of folks look at the restaurant and go, 'Oh that's too fancy.' But when we have special events and they come in, they realize that we have a group of warm, welcoming people who work here and food at an affordable price."
For waterfront dining - Cypress Creek Grill or Paradiso Roma Ristorante
Cypress Creek Grill sits on the Pasquotank River and is one of the best places in Elizabeth City to get fresh seafood. The menu changes often, so locals and out-of-towners would do well to make frequent return visits to get a taste of Cypress Creek's novelties.
Paradiso Roma Ristorante is also on the water. It offers patio dining that overlooks the river so you can enjoy locally sourced Italian dishes like chicken parmigiana and from-scratch pizza while enjoying a romantic view.
For a quick bite to eat that doesn't disappoint - The Pineapple Café
The Pineapple Café is a locally owned and operated restaurant that has a delicious selection of sandwiches, wraps, soups, salads and baked goods. It's perfect for lunch or a quick bite to eat and offers convenience without compromising on flavor.
The café is known for its homemade potato chips, so be sure to get some with whatever you order.
For a lip-smacking blue plate special - Circle II Restaurant
For over half a century, Circle II has been a favorite place to eat in Elizabeth City.
Serving breakfast daily, a full menu Monday through Saturday, and brunch on Sundays, Circle II has an array of country style items like steaks and chops, fried chicken, barbecue, and more.
"If you can't find something you like here, you probably just aren't hungry," the restaurant's website states. "We're a casual, come-as-you-are sort of place where you might see a doctor, a city councilperson, or a construction worker. They come because the food is great, the staff is friendly, and the prices won't send you looking for a second job."
A unique feature of Circle II is its decor, which is for sale. On its walls is an array of black and white photographs depicting vintage scenes from Elizabeth City and surrounding communities from years past.
For coffee & dessert - Muddy Waters Coffeehouse or The SweetEasy
Muddy Waters is a quaint and quirky coffee shop located on Main Street that offers cold and iced coffee, creative espresso and coffee drinks, and now beer and wine too.
Locals are also excited about the recent opening of The SweetEasy, a downtown coffee shop that already has a five star rating on Google Reviews. Many of their drinks are named in reference to pop culture such as The Coco Chanel, a hazelnut latte with white chocolate sauce or The Old Sport, a butterscotch and vanilla latte with caramel sauce.
When it comes to feeding people, Elizabeth City is all for one and one for all.
Both Montero and Mills emphasized the food community in Elizabeth City is more about camaraderie than competition.
"We've all benefited from new restaurants coming into the area," said Montero. "I think the restaurants are really good at supporting each other. So if you're here for dinner tonight and you tell me you're in town and you ask me, 'Where should I go tomorrow?' I'm going to give you a rundown of some of my favorite places. That's a lot of fun for somebody coming in to know that they can visit one place and they're going to get recommendations from the staff here on where they should go for their next meal."
"We all do a little something different," added Mills. "So if you come downtown, like where we're located, it just depends on what you're in the mood for. There's supportive camaraderie here."
This article was written for our sponsor, Visit Elizabeth City.