The Budget Epicureans Review: The Pirates Table Seafood Restaurant

Jeremy Smyczek | Staff Writer

Each week, the Budget Epicureans select an eatery or take-out establishment, in search of quality and value. Bonus points are awarded for healthy options.

Despite the criticism deep-fried foods receive from nutrition-minded naysayers, they have one distinct thing going for them — when you’re in the mood for fried food, nothing else at all will do. This is where the Pirates Table on Carolina Beach Road comes in. In fact, it’s nearly all that they do; it’s all the fried seafood you’d ever want, all in one place.

The Pirates Table won’t draw you in for the décor. It isn’t quite hideous, but it’s close. The 1970s-era strip mall location doesn’t help, but the wood-paneled walls, fake plants and cafeteria-style tables and chairs only contribute to the unfortunate aesthetic. Nautical bric-a-brac like captains’ wheels and drawings of lighthouses won’t convince anyone that they are dining at sea.

There’s a small appetizer selection here with things like tasty fried mushrooms, but one needn’t bother because the dinner menu includes combo platters that are big and varied. It’s possible to sample the seas with choices such as fried clam strips, fried shrimp, fried catfish fillets and deviled crab. The latter are not fried, but one suspects that the kitchen staff are looking for a way. Fork-tender, served appealingly in the shell and — like everything else — piping hot, they’re entirely likeable in an inoffensively bland kind of way. Broiled items on any platter can be requested, such as the savory, buttery scallops, but it is $1.50 extra.

Unlike bars that have a deep fryer because it fits in a small kitchen and can produce ten different short orders, or fast food places that deep-fry to hide cheap, frozen foods, the Pirates Table wants to fry your food. From the crunch of a hushpuppy to the chew of a fried oyster or the tender, flaky interior of a trout fillet, these people know frying. They thumb their noses at the move toward steamed and sautéed everything in a way that is, for those in the mood, satisfying.

Does the Pirates Table get Budget Epicureans bonus points for healthy options? Not in this universe, but it doesn’t matter. The mostly older crowd that frequents the place knows what it wants: food so recently out of the fryer that one mustn’t touch it right away, let alone eat it, Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers be damned. There’s steam coming off everything one gets at the Pirates Table, and that’s what separates it from the buffets that have some of the same food options. Nothing languishes under a heat lamp, while the crispy goodness of batter seconds-removed from 350-degree oil turns to flaccid, mushy disappointment. That’s a culinary crime, but one that aficionados of fried foods need not worry about here.

For students looking to save a buck, the lunch specials Monday through Friday are absurdly cheap.

Cuisine: seafood

Price range: $6-$17

Address: 3536 Carolina Beach Road, Wilmington, NC 28412

Contact: (910) 392-1470

Store hours:

Sunday – Thursday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.