Since I was a young child, I dreamed of opening a restaurant. An article was written on my mother “Navy Wife Brings Her French Background to Virginia Beach.” That night I fell asleep, dreaming of selling pastries from our front Dutch door. Little did I know that twenty-five years later, together with my husband, this dream would come true. After several attempts at various spots, when the small deli/ bait and tackle shop became available on Colington Road, it was within our means. Timing wasn’t great with a one and a six year old, but as a team, my husband, Ken and I knew we could make it work. Initially, we both worked seventy hours a week, with me doing all the cooking, baking and prep work; Ken waiting on the six tables, gardening, bookeeping and being “Mr. Mom” during the day. Neither of us had any restaurant cooking experience, except for lots of dinner parties, but we had over twenty years combined for “front of the house.” I said many a prayer those first few nights, remembering how my mother would deglaze her pans, creating wonderful, rich sauces, or how she so carefully blended egg whites into her soufflés. One thing she did was instill her love and appreciation for food. And as my Irish, Catholic father said, “Give them good food at a good price and they will come back for more.” Between the two, this is what we have always strived to do.
One day as I was driving with our two small children by the quaint Victorian house nestled amid the live oaks up on the hill, I told our young children, “That is going to be our restaurant one day.” Against my husband’s wishes, a few days later I left a note on the door: If YOU ARE INTERESTED IN SELLING YOUR HOUSE, PLEASE CONTACT ME. Initially the owners thought I was crazy, but a year later, they sold us their house. It was only ten years old then. Little was changed from the original house; the “fireplace room” was the living area, the present waiter station was the kitchen, the “sun room” was their dining room, the back room was a bedroom, as was the large room upstairs. A small area was added to the back office which is now the kitchen. The property is one of the oldest deeded properties in the Outer Banks, owned and passed down by many generations of the TWIFORD family, as was most of the property in this area. The front oak tree is over four hundred years old, possibly used for shade by Sir Walter Raleigh on one of his trips to the New World, or by the Indians to hang their deerskins and boar for drying.
Since those early days, The Colington Café has become a landmark. I was the chef for ten years, my husband was in the kitchen for twenty. For the past 20 years, we have been fortunate to have one of the most renowned chefs of the Outer Banks, Jeff Lane, bringing its reputation to what it is today. Along with the expertise of Richie Buscemi, Jeff keeps the highest standards, using only the freshest ingredients, inspecting everything that comes in, from fresh seafood to our grown herbs. We are also proud to have James Joyce who brings eight years of experience to our culinary team. After attending a session at The Cordon Bleu, I came back not as impressed as what I was expecting. I realized that even though I appreciate French methods of cooking, they can’t come close to the ingredients we have right here in North Carolina. There’s nothing like our plump, local shrimp, the big, succulent scallops right off the Wanchese boats, the sweetest crabmeat in the world, tuna straight from the Gulfstream, along with the abundance of fresh produce from Currituck and even our own backyards: sweet corn, ripe tomatoes, squash, green beans, figs, pears….
Hopefully, you can enjoy this all for yourself. We have been a family run restaurant for twenty-four years, and hope to continue for a long time. As a team, along with our son, nephew, children of our friends, and our wonderful employees, we hope to give you the best experience possible, and to paraphrase my father,“We will give you GREAT food--and wine-- for a great price.”
We hope to see you soon,
Carlen and Ken Pearl