Antiques on the Half Shell
From the time I stepped into Owens’ Restaurant as a young child vacationing in Nags Head, it has always managed to overflow with the sights, sounds, and scents that so easily conjure up those feelings of what the Outer Banks are all about.
I still remember slowly strolling around the foyer looking at the displays of old buoys, compasses, and other artifacts from the heroic days of the U.S. Lifesaving Service.
I recall the scent of old salt air that somehow made its way inside. The aroma was mixed with that wonderful smell of deliciously prepared seafood.
And then, of course, there was that flicker of candlelight at our table, the warm basket of bread and the giant, golden fried shrimp placed before me.
Owens’, celebrating its 74th year of being owned and operated by the same family, has a lot to offer its guests – many of whom have returned again and again to experience Owens’ unmatched southern hospitality and delicious cuisine. But there’s something more Owens’, and its matriarch Clara Mae has offered guests for decades in addition to a welcoming smile, delicious food, and her famous crab cakes, the recipe for which has gone unchanged since 1946.
And that is Clara Mae’s oyster plates.
Everywhere you look in Owens’ beautiful nostalgic dining area – sprinkled in between beautiful paintings by local artists and others – you’ll find her collection of beautiful and breathtaking oyster plates that line the walls and exude a one-of-a-kind charm that sets Owens’ ambiance apart for any other restaurant on the Outer Banks.
Clara Mae began collecting oyster plates in the early 1970s on the Eastern Shore and has never stopped. For her, she doesn’t really have a favorite, but plenty of Owens’ guests love to talk about the plates and the turkey style plate is popular with many.
Intricately detailed and stunningly decorated, each set of oyster plates Clara Mae has collected are unique and beautiful. First becoming popular during the Victorian Era, oyster plates were filled with half-shell oysters when they first became a delicacy. While their production slowed after World War II, the plates have become much sought after by collectors.
There is no doubt that the plates Clara Mae has added to her collection and shared with her guests over the years has become as much a part of Owens’ heritage. The history of the many pieces of memorabilia, family heirlooms, and artifacts that fill the nooks and crannies of this authentic Outer Banks restaurant have become part of what Owens’ is today.
So whether you are lost in the memorabilia of yesteryear as you read old log books documenting the eyewitness accounts of shipwrecks, peruse old equipment of the days of rescues made with belaying line box cannons, or feast your eyes on the beautiful oyster plates as you feast on delicious southern cuisine – you are sure to discover what makes Owens’ Restaurant so special and why it has become a favorite Outer Banks tradition for so many for so long.