Ocean Boulevard Michael Thomas in white with his Shrimp Arancini.

What’s not to like about the 7th annual Outer Banks Shrimp Cook Off? Fresh shrimp, 10 of the best Outer Banks chefs creating amazing dishes and it’s all for a good cause, a benefit for the Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research .

Held at Ocean Boulevard in Kitty Hawk, it does get a little bit tight inside the restaurant. Ten chefs was the most the Shrimp Cook Off has ever had and to accommodate everyone, Two Roads Tavern was outside—luckily the weather was beautiful—and three of the stations were upstairs. For those not familiar with Ocean Boulevard, there’s not a lot of room up there. Actually, there’s not a lot of room under any circumstances in Ocean Boulevard, but the cook off really seemed to stretch things.

The consensus was the dishes were outstanding, and trying to pick out a favorite is really tough. Two Roads Tavern had a grilled shrimp stuffed with crab meat that was very good; upstairs Beachside Bistro was serving a pan seared shrimp with a smoked tomato sauce over polenta. 

But if pressed to make a decision, the Shrimp Arancini from Ocean Boulevard got a least one vote. It was like giant fried risotto with mozzarella and Fontina cheese ball with shrimp in it. Great texture and great flavor. Or course there were nine other creations that were almost as good—and for some of the crowd, even better.

The Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research began its work in 2008. Largely through their efforts, we have a fairly good idea of dolphin populations around the Outer Banks and their general health.