Sunday, April 21st, 2019

I Got Your Crabs Story


I GOT YOUR CRABS

“And awesome oysters, too!” restaurant’s owners declare

by Rick Spencer


Olivia and Hunter Stuart

Olivia and Hunter Stuart

Oysters are here and they are delicious,” Olivia Stuart, co-owner of I Got Your Crabs Shellfish Market and Oyster Bar in Kitty Hawk declares.

“It’s a complete myth that fresh oysters are only available or at their best during ‘R’ months,” Olivia points out. “That old saying predates modern refrigeration. Before fishermen were able to ensure that harvested oysters were kept at safe temperatures, it was thought that you should only consume oysters in the coldest months—September through April. Thanks to stricter regulations and mobile refrigeration, it is now safe to enjoy the delicacy all year long. We have freshly shucked oysters throughout the year, served just the way people like them—fried, steamed, or raw.”

 “We, at I Got Your Crabs, are environmentally conscious,” Hunter Stuart, Olivia’s husband and co-owner of the restaurant, notes. “Empty oyster shells are recycled and used in driveways in place of gravel. In addition, oyster farmers use a process that cleans and reclaims the shells to refurbish oyster beds.”

With a chuckle in her voice, Olivia refers to their restaurant, as “a hole in the wall,” adding, “Everyone knows if you want good food, you go to a hole in the wall restaurant.”

The couple takes great pride in not only serving “amazingly fresh” food but also in the fact that their restaurant is a family-owned-and-run business.

“We’re related to—or at least best friends with—all of our cooks and servers,” Olivia says with a laugh. “The stainless-steel bar covered with butcher paper where fresh seafood is shucked for patrons, was built by my father, Wayne ‘Stoney’ Stonesifer. Hunter’s mother, Kathy, and his sister, Amber, are the general managers, and our cousins and best friends round out the rest of the crew. We have a happy staff. These positive vibes are evident in the quality of our food and the way we treat our customers. We are all family here!”


Hunter and Olivia Stuart, owners of I Got Your Crabs, with their children, Chilton and Sifer.

Hunter and Olivia Stuart, owners of I Got Your Crabs, with their children, Chilton and Sifer.


“When it comes to operating a restaurant, it all starts in the kitchen,” Olivia emphasizes. “It is important for our food to smell and taste good while, at the same time, offering large portions that are consistent with traditional Southern hospitality.”

“Hunter is a third-generation commercial fisherman from Currituck County,” Olivia continues, “so everything we serve here is amazingly fresh. Hunter goes crabbing  and fishing daily, and he personally inspects all the other seafood brought into the restaurant from nearby fisheries. All other food comes from local suppliers.”

I Got Your Crabs’ tasty fare has earned it three consecutive Certificate of Excellence Awards from TripAdvisor, but Olivia believes that the loyalty of so many locals is also due to the restaurant’s unique story.

“Folks here know that Hunter is a third-generation commercial fisherman,” she explains. “He started his business at age five. He would take a 16-foot boat, given to him as a gift, and go crabbing. Then he’d travel door-to-door and sell the catch-of-the-day from his bright red Radio Flyer wagon.”


“It’s a complete myth
that fresh oysters are only available
or at their best during ‘R’ months
That old saying
predates modern refrigeration...
We have freshly shucked oysters throughout the year.”

—Olivia Stuart


By age 12, Hunter had earned enough money to buy 300 crab pots and buoys and 3,000 yards of netting. His boyhood dream of being a commercial fisherman was a reality. Later, he sold fresh seafood from the back of a cooling truck near the Virginia-North Carolina border while still providing seafood to the open fish market, moving his catch up and down the East Coast as far north as New York City.

Another dream came true when Hunter married Olivia, in 2011. They have two children, Sifer, age six, and Chilton, age four.

In 2012, the couple opened I Got Your Crabs. Two months afterward, Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast of the US including their 1,500-square-foot restaurant.


The restaurant’s story began with Hunter Stuart’s boyhood job crabbing along the Currituck Sound.

The restaurant’s story began with Hunter Stuart’s boyhood job crabbing along the Currituck Sound.

“We had 18 inches of water in the restaurant and no power,” Olivia recalls. “Rather than let the seafood we had on hand go to waste, we decided to make lemonade out of lemons. We cooked the food on propane burners and served it to friends and others who paddled their kayaks up to the restaurant.”

Photos of customers arriving at the restaurant on kayaks and being served crabs and other seafood dishes went viral on Facebook. The goodwill established during that experience was long-lasting. The incident caught the attention of The New York Times as well as the Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods, Delicious Destinations, who sent a camera crew to spend a day filming the restaurant and Hunter as he crabbed on the Outer Banks waterways.

Olivia and Hunter are also ardent supporters of local breweries and wineries. Olivia believes wines produced by Wild Pony White provide excellent pairings with the seafood they serve. Selections from this Currituck County-based winery include Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc.

I Got Your Crabs is well-known for its Mix and Match Tacos. Seafood options served on soft tortilla include fried flounder, shrimp, chicken tenders, clam strips, scallops, and catfish, oysters, chicken tenders and crab cake a separate, gluten-free menu is available.

A favorite event at the restaurant is the Rooster Challenge. This appetizer consists of three saltines topped with raw oysters, horseradish sauce, sriracha sauce, habanero peppers, and jalapenos. The challenge is for customers to eat three of these concoctions in three minutes. Contestants who complete the Rooster Challenge have their portraits posted in the contest’s Hall of Fame. Olivia and Hunter hope that more photos of Hampton Roads residents will soon grace the wall.

“Though I Got Your Crab is well-known among Outer Banks restaurant goers,” Olivia concludes, “we want to invite seafood lovers in Virginia to pay us a visit as well. It’s worth the trip.”


I Got Your Crabs offers freshly-shucked oysters served in a variety of tasty ways.

I Got Your Crabs offers freshly-shucked oysters served in a variety of tasty ways.


I Got Your Crabs Shellfish Market and Oyster Bar

3809 N. Croatan Highway
Kitty Hawk, NC 27949

252-449-2483
www.igotyourcrabs.com