Pick any day, any time in the summer and you’ll see crowds of people gathered outside Jimmy’s Seafood Buffet. And if you ask any one of them, they’ll tell you that not only is the buffet well worth the wait, but that they don’t mind waiting. Not when there’s live music to enjoy on the upper deck, cornhole to play in the yard, baskets of golden fried hush puppies, and a full outdoor bar serving up tropical cocktails. Every local and visitor crowded outside has a smile on their face as they kick back, have a drink, and eagerly await one of the best meals they could have on the Outer Banks. On June 27th, 2019, Jimmy’s Seafood Buffet will be celebrating its 20th year in business, and some of those folks waiting outside have been coming to eat there since it began.
“I look forward to seeing people again,” says Elizabeth Dowless, owner of the family-operated restaurant. “I’ve had customers that I’ve seen their children come in every summer, and now I see their children’s children. My own children have grown up in this restaurant too.”
And the customers aren’t the only ones returning every year. Much of the staff at Jimmy’s have been working there for years.
So what keeps everyone coming back? While buffet restaurants can sometimes get a bad rep for serving a lot of frozen, premade foods, Jimmy’s is breaking the mold, serving up fresh local seafood and made-from-scratch recipes. A typical day for Dowless starts with receiving a list of all the fish that’s fresh off the docks, and ordering for the next day. What you see on the buffet is whatever the fishermen pulled out of the Atlantic a block away from the restaurant.
“We’re always getting new things and trying new recipes,” says Dowless. “This week we’ve got Spanish mackerel. The week before we got a lot of mahi-mahi, so our chef came up with a habanero mango mahi-mahi.”
And any seafood lover will be thrilled by their crab-stuffed mushrooms, honey mustard salmon, bang bang shrimp, and all-you-can-eat lobster. Jimmy’s also makes a point of using as much local produce as possible, like fresh summer and zucchini squash and green beans. All in all, the buffet has over 100 items, including plenty of traditional southern favorites such as North Carolina style barbeque. For those with dietary concerns, there is a special menu that includes vegan, gluten-free, and keto-friendly options.
“A lot of families have a lot of different tastes,” says Dowless. “Here you can find something for everyone.”
At the time of this writing, Dowless hasn’t quite decided the best way to celebrate Jimmy’s 20th birthday, but she does know it’s going to be big, and she’s thrilled to get to share it with all of their loyal customers and staff.
“Our staff comes back year after year, and they’re like family. And our customers come back year after year. They’re like family too,” says Dowless.