Moonrakers in Beaufort (326 Front St.) is much more than its amazing location, as anyone who dines here will declare. Sure, the waterfront views here are beyond picturesque but dig into any of their dishes and you’ll realize special things are happening in the back of the house. To accompany an adventurous menu featuring American-coastal cuisine with a Caribbean flair, owners John and Lauri Stephens bring in and showcase local artists and offer an award-winning wine list. It’s clear they understand how to provide a well-rounded dining experience, making Moonrakers an absolute must-visit restaurant in Beaufort.
Moonrakers in Beaufort, NC
Special thanks to Moonrakers for hosting our meal at their restaurant. All opinions within this article are our own.
We can’t talk about Moonrakers without first giving some love to beautiful Beaufort. It’s North Carolina’s third-oldest town, established in 1709, and full of a charm that sticks with you for long after leaving. You can relax and stare at the boats dotting the waterway. Or you can hang glide, fish, kayak, and even take a double-decker historical tour run by the Beaufort Historical Society to learn more about this awesome coastal town. Across Taylor’s Creek, there’s Rachel Carson Nature Reserve, a 2,315-acre safe haven for various coastal wildlife. You can easily reach the reserve via ferry, boat, or kayak and have a peek at rare birds and some of North Carolina’s wild horses.
We love Beaufort so much that we included it among our favorite small towns in North Carolina.
Moonrakers: Location and the Name
And inside this awesome small town, sits Moonrakers. As we’ve already mentioned, the two-story, 254-seat restaurant is ideally placed along the water. It’s located in the middle of the Beaufort Historic District, next to the NC Maritime Museum’s Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center. Nautical savants will know that Moonrakers gets its name from the rectangular sail flown on 17th-century ships, not the Roger Moore-era Bond film.
An Open Building
While you’re being led to your table at Moonrakers, take a moment to admire your surroundings. That includes the restaurant’s 14-foot open ceilings, the open kitchen with a wood-fired brick oven, and their impressive wine wall. Open waterfront seating is available on all three floors, offering views of the boats for nearly everyone.
The Second Floor
The second floor accommodates up to 110 guests and between you and me, that’s the perfect spot to hold an event.
That Sky Deck
Take the elevator or the stairs to the rooftop Sky Deck, feel the breeze, and admire those stunning 360-degree views. This bar and lounge hosts special events throughout the year, including live music and en Plein air demos from resident artist Sharon Bass.
Bass is based in Raleigh and frequently travels to Moonrakers to supply impressionist paintings of the NC coast and lazy boats that line the restaurant’s walls. Bass believes that working on location allows her to “experience and portray the richness of her subject.” She paints in this style so her art can come together and tell a story beyond the scene. Sharon performs four live demos a year on the Sky Deck.
Take a look at some of the artwork she has on display available for sale in Moonrakers here.
Locally Sourced, Delightful Food
Wood-fired and Carribean-influenced coastal food is exactly what you’ll find on the Moonrakers menu (Lunch | Dinner). Locally sourcing all of the seafood is important to owner John Stephens, who told me diners can taste the difference. Another thing to remember is that whether you’re filling up on the Grilled Local Wahoo or sharing small plates with friends, the food at Moonrakers is light, refreshing, and flavorful. I enjoyed their seasonal flatbread of fried okra, roasted corn, and red peppers. It paired nicely with the Tuna Poke in a toasted nori vinaigrette and avocado mousse. There are so many more delightful options to try here. So if you’re in town, bring some hungry friends and munch on as much as you can!
Award-Winning Wine Selection
After being open for less than a year, Moonrakers has also gained recognition for its wine selection, which is managed by Sommelier Jessica Sabiston. The restaurant received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for its assortment of wines that thematically match menu. Moonrakers also offers an interesting “wine locker” membership program to accompany their expansive wine list. With the purchase of a wine locker, guests can build a selection of their favorite wines to have on hand when visiting Moonrakers.
It’s easy to focus on the wine at Moonrakers, but one shouldn’t overlook their cocktails. These delicious creations are expertly crafted and perfect to sip on the porch during the summer and nicer days. Be sure to grab one of their frozen cocktails to beat that just-got-off-the-beach heat.
Final Thoughts on Moonrakers
Whether you’re vacationing on the North Carolina coast or docking your boat for a spell, don’t miss out on all the excitement that is Moonrakers. It’s more than a place to fill your belly and sip on premium wine or cocktails. The carefully curated artwork and breathtaking waterfront views make Moonrakers a true culinary experience. So go ahead and stop by when you’re in the area. Order a flatbread and share an order of fried oysters with friends and family. Just give yourself some time to sit back and enjoy one of the best coastal restaurants in North Carolina in style.