Time, circumstances, and inevitable change often make that impossible. At fifty eight years of age, I have plenty of memories. Lots of them are ones that I enjoy revisiting. Many of the memories involve people that are no longer with us. That makes them even more special.
This week I attended a meeting in Morehead City which included lunch at Captain Bill's.
I have been wandering around the Crystal Coast for over 40 years. That includes plenty of time in the last four years where I suppose I was actually avoiding Captain Bill's. I think I might even have eaten there once in those four years and immediately blocked the experience from my mind.
I guess in the life of a restaurant, there comes a time when the building holds more great memories than it does good food. Being inside the building sparks the memories and often helps you overlook what might have become pretty average lunch or dinner fare.
There were times in the sixties and seventies when I thought a meal at Captain Bill's was dying and going to heaven. I can remember one fishing trip to the Point in Emerald Isle. It was probably in the summer 1968 or 69. My Uncle Austin and I were at the coast in my lime green original Ford Bronco. The clutch had some coat hanger wire keeping it working, and I think we had to add a soda can patch to the exhaust system on that trip.
We had driven through one of the beach access points and on down to the Point at Emerald Isle where we fished most of the day. Most fishermen would not be surprised that we fished only snacking on some Nabs with soda.
At the end of the day, we put some air in the tires, went back to the motel and showered. Then we hit Captain Bill's for a dinner of Sweet Iced Tea, Fried Flounder, Oysters, Hush Puppies, and Slaw. My guess is that we had some pie to finish off the meal. As I remember they were once famous for either their Coconut Creme or Lemon Pie.
Maybe it was being dehydrated, sun burned, and wind whipped or perhaps it was the most excellent story telling skills of Uncle Austin, but it was a memorable meal. Certainly it was more than the perfectly cooked food at the end of the day. We had caught almost no fish, but it was a wonderful day just hanging out together in the sand and surf. It was the first of some fun driving experiences on the beach. I will never forget driving along the beach, hoping not to get stuck or overheated in four wheel low. Those were the early days of four wheel drives and interesting things always happened.
My Uncle Austin was one of those people who could always handle just about any situation. Given a torch and a welder, he could build anything. With wire and pliers, he could repair anything. I never met someone who could make a joke any funnier. He was a wonderful person to have as a mentor. Who knows when I might need those torch and welder skills again? They were wonderful to have during my farm years.
For his sake I'm going to remember the great meals we had at Captain Bill's when it was one of the great Carolina seafood houses. I am going to forget I even ate there last Monday.
There are plenty great places for Carolina fried seafood. In 2007, I can suggest T&Ws Oyster Bar on Route 58 near Cape Carteret. They have wonder Oysters on the dinner menu, but usually can be convinced to fry some for lunch. I don't know that I have tried their Flounder.
Jordan's Seafood in Emerald does wonderful Oysters and Flounder. They're closed on Tuesdays. Mike's in Emerald Isle does a really good lunch Oyster Basket which is probably the best buy if you're looking for a good taste of Oysters without spending a lot of money. Mike's only stays open until 2 pm so you cannot eat a late lunch there.
You can also just head over the bridge to Beaufort and eat at the Net House on Turner Street.
If you work it right, you can keep the memories and still have great meals.