Why you should eat at Old Salt Restaurant & Oyster Bar the next time you’re in Beaufort


Old Salt (Facebook) is one of Beaufort’s newest restaurants. It opened in 2012 in the space that was once a Beaufort classic, the Net House, at 133 Turner Street.

I ate at the Net House with a group of friends on a Saturday night in late May 1989. We were all somewhere between 18 and 24 years old. We were all fit. We were all tan. We had the perfect mix of boys and girls.

We spent the day on the beach. I can’t seem to recall which beach exactly, though I do seem to remember a boat ride. So, it must have been at Shackleford Banks.

Needless to say, we had had several beers that afternoon.

We were staying at a friend’s house in Morehead City, but we all were Beaufort fans and decided to take several cabs into Beaufort for supper.

The Net House was not exactly fine dining, but the fried seafood was great, the domestic drafts were cold, it was familiar and comfortable. That Saturday night in 1989 we got a table for 10. It was easy.

For years, the Net House served a stuffed soft shell crab entrée that was my favorite.

It was simply a few soft shell crabs, each wrapped around a crabmeat-based stuffing and deep fried. I always got it with what seemed to be the largest steak fries known to man and a cold draft beer…maybe it was Michelob Lite, because those were the days before ultra and other low-crab beers.

No one had ever heard of low-carb anything, much less beer. Imports rarely made an appearance.

We got a little loud that night and the proprietor had to shush us several times. Unknown to us another Net House patron was from one of our group’s hometown. Small towns in North Carolina are fairly close-knit. Come Monday morning, that patron reported the rowdy behavior to said group member’s parents.

He was in a bit of hot water.

As were the rest of us for contributing to the young man’s delinquency.

May 1989, the morning after, identities hidden to protect the innocent

When I found out last year the Net House was closed, I almost went into a deep depression. May of 1989 was only one of many trips to Beaufort in which the Net House was a setting.

But, when we discovered another restaurant was moving in, we thought we would give them a chance.

We ate at Old Salt on a Thursday in July (2012) for lunch. We arrived around 11:45am and only one other table was filled. The initial service both from the hostess and the waitress was friendly, but a little uncertain, as if they weren’t quite sure what to do with us.

The atmosphere was similar to the Net House, but classed-up just a bit (not that the Net House lacked class). The feel was a little cleaner and fresher than the Net House, but retained the basic elements – the wood paneling, tables & chairs, and the seating arrangement.

It was familiar but with just enough of the new added.

Jennifer ordered a beer and I decided to splurge on a Martini. Both drinks were served in decent time and were good. The Martini was served with a cold cocktail glass and the drink still on ice in a small chrome mixer/strainer cup. That presentation came across as a nice touch.

We ordered onion rings as an appetizer. They were very good. In addition to ketchup the waitress provided us with a few other sauces, including one she billed as Old Salt’s homemade tartar sauce. Jennifer loved it and I thought it was good, but very different from traditional tartar sauce. It was sweeter with no pickle cubes, a bit like a nautical version of that white sauce common at “Japanese” steakhouses in North Carolina.

Remains of the onion rings, yes the Old Salt sauce was good

Then the place began to fill-up rapidly and they were a bit understaffed. However, the bartender and hostess both chipped in (I believe they were the owners, though I am not sure) and everyone was apologetic. None of the customers – us included – seemed to be in a hurry so the wait was not a problem. They were newly opened and obviously trying to find the right staffing rhythm.

Old Salt did have a stuffed soft shell crab on the menu, but it was a regular entrée and sold for $21. I was excited to see it, but since it was lunch I stuck with a soft shell crab burger which was a special.

Soft shell crab burger and fries

I was very, very pleased with the crab. It was a large, and an obviously fresh and local soft shell crab, that made me smile.

Jennifer got a hamburger that was also great.

Overall the experience was very good. Old Salt had a few kinks to work through, but those were very understandable.

I am looking forward to trying a few other things on the menu, including the stuffed soft shell crabs, but also the oysters. Beaufort has not had an oyster bar serving raw or steamed oysters near the waterfront in recent memory, and I am excited to give Old Salt’s a try. And though I only took a peek, Old Salt’s bar seemed to have a bit more atmosphere than did Net House’s, in addition to the oysters.

Why give Old Salt a try? Our food was good, our drinks were good, and the overall experience was great. Sounds like great reasons to us.

We received no compensation from Old Salt for this post.

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