Even if you’re like me and don’t often ride a bicycle, take the time to so in the colorful city of Beaufort, N.C., along the Crystal Coast. Beaufort (pronounced Bo-furt by the locals) has been called “America’s Coolest Small Town’’ and I can’t disagree. From historic houses (some of which date back to the town's founding in 1709) to infamous characters (Blackbeard’s pirate ship Queen Anne’s Revenge rests about 12 miles off the coast) to art and music festivals, Beaufort has a bit something for everybody.
It’s an easy bike ride through and around Beaufort’s historic district that includes houses (many of which are now bed and breakfasts), stores and cemetery. A late morning or early afternoon bike ride to see the sites combined with a few restaurant stops along the way a great way to get a feel for Beaufort.
That’s where David and Betsy Cartier come in. They’re Northern transplants who are as enthusiastic about Beaufort as any native and who operate Hungry Town Bike Tours (www.hungrytownbiketours.com). Understand that Hungry Town is one of the names Beaufort was called back as early as 1713. The Cartiers offer a number of bike tours, including the Beaufort Culinary Tour, North Carolina Oyster Tour, North Carolina Shrimp Tour, Beaufort Lunchbox Tour and on Sundays, the Bike, Brunch & Bubbles Tour.
The Beaufort Culinary Tour will make sure you don’t go hungry – for food or history. Sort of a “spoke to fork’’ approach to biking and dining.
The foot-brake, beach bike is easy to ride (I only wiped out one time) and the culinary tour features some of the town's best and most popular dining spots, which are not only terrific dining spots but also provide great views of the Beaufort waterfront.
Front Street Grill at Stillwater: The restaurant, which sits along Taylors Creek, boasts “Coastal Food with a Southern Soul.’’ One bite of the fish tacos and you’ll know why. The blackened tuna tacos and mahi tacos might be the best you’ll ever eat. And don’t forget the black beans and rice side. www.frontsteetgrillatstillwater.com.
Finz Grill: Housed in a building on what was once a fuel dock for Menhaden and Shad boats, Finz has been a favorite on the Beaufort waterfront since 1994. It has that “Margaritaville’’ ambience that even has attracted Jimmy Buffett himself. Finz has a wide menu that serves everything from steak to burger to seafood. A good lunchtime snack is its Spicy Conch Fritters with Dijon remoulade washed down with a Carolina craft beer. www.finzgrill.com
Old Salt Restaurant & Oyster Bar: Two words are best associated with this place just a block off Front Street- Barbara Ward. She’s Old Salt’s owner and pastry chef. You can have all of your celebrity chefs and fancy eateries, I’ll take Barbara and Old Salt any day of the week – and I’ll start with dessert. Her Beaufort Butter Cake with Berries has no rival. It’s a moist pound cake glazed with sweet vanilla bean topping with whipped cream and berries. You’ll go through a large piece and not even realize you ate it all. It’s that damn good. If you want a more traditional entrée for lunch, try the Shrimp Burger. Regardless of what you try, make sure to get a hug from Barbara. It’s the only thing better than the Butter Cake. www.oldsaltbeaufort.com