Keeping it Local

Huge variety, laid back atmosphere and delicious food at Turtle Island Catering ‘

STORY BY: LISA P. STITES

Locals’ Night at Turtle Island Restaurant means great food with good friends in a relaxed atmosphere. And if everyone doesn’t know your name when you walk in the door, they’ll learn it soon enough. “You make friends at our bar,” waitress Amanda Wright said. Wright said she really enjoys working with the clientele at Turtle, especially the locals. “They’re amazing,” she said. “We expect them every Wednesday night.” Jim and Marion Mattern have been coming to Turtle Island for about seven years.

They love meeting up with friends, catching up on the latest news while enjoying a delicious seafood supper. On the lighter side, but certainly not leaner side, this grilled chicken salad offers a filling array of protein, vegetables and fruit, perfect for anyone trying to make good on their New Year’s Resolution to eat healthier.

Turtle Island also offers tuna, shrimp or scallops for salad add-ins. In 15 years or so of operation, Turtle Island on Oak Island has become known as a place for casual dining but not necessarily casual food. There are staple, familiar seafood dishes like conch fritters, clams, oysters and crab clusters, but also Thai seared tuna and Caribbean jerk pork loin. Wright said one of the things she loves best about the restaurant is the combination of island décor and such a variety of food. “I love how we have great food but a laid-back atmosphere,” she said. “You can come as you are and you are welcome.” And welcome they are. Always bustling with customers, Turtle Island welcomes familiar and new faces on Locals Night, Wednesday nights. The official name for the Wednesday night’s special is “Steam Night”, and it’s the only night you can’t make a reservation. Wright said she’s heard from new customers or visitors that they met locals on the beach or out and about in town who told them where to eat.

The area around the bar and the restaurant seating area fill up quickly most nights, but there’s always room to fit a few more. Jim and Marion Mattern have been going to Locals’ Night for approximately seven years. Like many regulars, Marion said her favorite dish is the whole baby flounder, because it is “to die for.” Jim also praised the whole baby flounder, but said he also particularly likes the steamed shrimp, oysters, and conch fritters. Whenever the couple has family visit, he said, Turtle Island is where they want to go. As for Wright, she likes to eat the best Southern classic delicacy… “It’s got to be the down home shrimp and grits,” she said.

The Low Country Shrimp & Grits comes with fresh shrimp nestled into a bowl of stone ground grits topped with scallions, bacon and Parmesan cheese, and a low country brown gravy. The flavors and textures blend perfectly in this satisfying yet surprisingly light meal. The Jamaican jerked pork rib eyes features tender pork cooked with a Caribbean flair, spicy and flavorful but not too hot. The pork comes served with black beans and rice and a choice of side item.

Turtle Island bartender Willie WIlliams is a fixture at Turtle Island, serving up everyone’s favorite fruity cocktails. Patron Marion Mattern said one of the great things about Wednesday Steam Night is that the bartenders know what their customers want before they even ask for it. Turtle Island Restaurant & Catering 6220 E Oak Island Dr Oak Island, NC (910) 278-4944 To find out more about their catering services, email them: on-turtle-time@hotmail.com Find us on Facebook Badge RGB / .eps there’s always room to fit a few more. Jim and Marion Mattern have been going to Locals’ Night for approximately seven years. Like many regulars, Marion said her favorite dish is the whole baby flounder, because it is “to die for.” Jim also praised the whole baby flounder, but said he also particularly likes the steamed shrimp, oysters, and conch fritters.

Whenever the couple has family visit, he said, Turtle Island is where they want to go. As for Wright, she likes to eat the best Southern classic delicacy… “It’s got to be the down home shrimp and grits,” she said. The Low Country Shrimp & Grits comes with fresh shrimp nestled into a bowl of stone ground grits topped with scallions, bacon and Parmesan cheese, and a low country brown gravy. The flavors and textures blend perfectly in this satisfying yet surprisingly light meal. The Jamaican jerked pork rib eyes features tender pork cooked with a Caribbean flair, spicy and flavorful but not too hot. The pork comes served with black beans and rice and a choice of side item.

Owners Teresea Taylor, Gerald Leonard (head chef) and Jeff Todd, heads of the Turtle Island Family, explain the restaurant philosophy and approach on the menu, pledging to use fresh, local ingredients. They believe good food does not have to be over complicated or overpriced, and they strive for consistently providing good food and service. The décor is simple. It’s kind of an Oak Island version of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville style, with a heavy emphasis on sea turtles.

There are designated areas for the bar and restaurant seating, separated by slightly different levels. There is a large fish take adjacent to some of the seating, and just enough tables to fit in plenty of customers without crowding the scene. There are bar height tables and a large bar on the higher, entry, level as well. They can even bring the party to you! Turtle Island also provides custom catering services. If you are planning a local wedding, party or special event, you definitely want to give them a call. What better way to impress your guests but with a variety of delicious down home style local flavors, seafood and quality service.

The restaurant menu offers something for seafarers and landlubbers alike. The appetizer menu features shrimp five ways, grouper fingers, mussels in the classic style with garlic butter, calamari and crab dip. There’s also jalapeno and crab cheese bites and ‘Wings Over Oak Island’ served Boom Boom style, or lemon pepper, Caribbean jerk, Asian or Buffalo style. If you’re looking for a smaller bite, there’s an appetizer portion of the Low Country Shrimp & Grits and sandwiches, including crab cake, chicken, Prime Rib and shrimp or oyster burgers. Entrees include all kinds of seafood, broiled, baked, grilled or Calabash-style fried.

There are seafood pasta dishes and entrée-sized salads as well. There is also a children’s menu. They can even accommodate a shell-fish allergy. The restaurant closed some after the holidays for some off-season cleaning and fixes, and the night they re-opened, word of mouth spread the news and it was quickly packed. Ann Helms owns the building Turtle Island occupies, and she ran Shuckers, the iconic seafood and shagging place, for 14 years before shutting its doors. Helms said she loves everything about the Locals’ Night at the Turtle. “It’s just like ‘Cheers,’” she said, referring to the long-running television show based on a group of unlikely friends who patronized a Boston bar. Helms said Turtle Island has amazing homemade desserts, and that the atmosphere is “crazy good,” especially on Wednesday nights.

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