The Blessing (Not the Curse) of Oak Island
Lonerider at Oak Island offers treasures like a relaxed atmosphere, good food and a nice variety of brews you can enjoy in an idyllic spot on the water.
Unless you’ve been on a 10-year-long safari with no access to television, you must have heard of the infamous TV show on The History Channel called “The Curse of Oak Island.” It’s about two brothers with (apparently) unlimited financial resources who’ve been seeking — for more than a decade — a buried treasure supposedly hidden by the Knights Templar on Oak Island off the coast of Nova Scotia.
When I went to Oak Island, North Carolina, I looked for Laginas (named Pete and Marty) but found only lagoons. I looked for gold but I only found amber. I looked for huge drilling rigs but found only pilings — with birds perched on them. In short, none of the trappings or people from that long-running TV show “The Curse of Oak Island” were here.
Of course, that could be because one Oak Island is up in Nova Scotia, and this Oak Island is down here in N.C. But make no mistake, there is treasure here as well, especially if you’re a beer lover who enjoys a relaxed atmosphere, good food and a nice variety of brews in an idyllic spot on the water.
The place is called Lonerider. It’s on 57th Street up at the west end of the island, and it occupies the beautiful location that once was home to the much-loved Oak Island Fish House back in the day.
Lonerider’s small kitchen puts out some big food and gets its beer from its parent company in Raleigh, where the brewery has enjoyed a stellar reputation since 2009.
I visited the Oak Island location close to Memorial Day, almost exactly after it officially opened. Memorial Day 2023 marked its one-year anniversary and the kick-off of a busy season.
“It gets crazy,” Bill says, “and it will stay that way until Labor Day. But we’ll handle it. After all, we’ve got Leshia Johnson managing the place.”
Leshia made an appearance and stopped moving long enough for a picture, but otherwise she was pretty much a blur with the unbridled energy of a 20-year-old. If she wasn’t arranging tables outside, she was popping in and out of the kitchen to see what was going on or lugging outside a huge box of Jenga pieces for use later that evening. The outdoor area of Lonerider has a covered patio right on the water and a side area where bands play music while guests play cornhole and Jenga.
And drink. During my visit, eight beers were available on tap and one — Sweet Josie — was available only in cans. Bill says that Lonerider in Raleigh (there are two locations in Raleigh and one in Wake Forest) sends down beers on a rotating basis. I sampled Cerveza, a 4.8% Mexican Lager that is intended to attract Corona drinkers. It had more flavor than Corona, of course, and it is the beer that’s used in the cooking of Lonerider’s Steampot, which is half-pound of crab, a half-pound of shrimp and a half-pound of Andouille sausage. A couple of ears of corn are included.
The beer is also an ingredient of its beer cheese. That mixture comes with the Pretzel Bites appetizer, which is quite good. But order when you have at least two or three people to eat it because you get a lot.
A second beer, which Bill claims is a favorite of the ladies who come in from the beach, was True Lyme Lyte. “It flies out of here on warm days,” Bill says. It’s got a lot of lime in both nose and palate, and though it’s not The PubScout’s cup of tea, I can see how it would be a beachgoer’s favorite.
Shotgun Betty Hefeweizen was a very good example of the style — flavorful and nicely balanced.
Perhaps the most interesting beer was one called Imperial Pilsner Light Lager. A 7.7% beer, it is decidedly not light either in appearance or potency. But it is absolutely delicious. I would hesitate to offer this as a transitional beer to entice the BudMillerCoors crowd, because it’s a solid Imperial Pilsner and nothing like any of those beers. Again, it is impressive.
Next came three IPAs. The first — Peacemaker — was described as a “ juicy” IPA with citrus notes. I did not find it to be particularly juicy, and it is closer to a West Coast IPA than a juice bomb. The hops came through solidly on the back end, though, and its 5.5% ABV rendered it as a solid session beer.
The second IPA was called Hoppy-Ki-Yay, and it, too, rang in at a sessionable 6.6%. It was also reminiscent of a bigger, pinier West Coast IPA and had the requisite hop bite in the finish. Both of these beers would pair well with spicier fare, and, very likely, that big Steampot.
The star of the IPA lineup (in my view) was IPA for Outlaws, and, by rights, it probably could have been labeled as a DIPA. After all, it was 8.3% and absolutely qualified as such. Lots of big flavor and initially, the malt threatened to steal the show from the hops, but in the end they were battled to a pleasing draw. A very nicely balanced and thoroughly enjoyable beer, for sure.
But the beer that got my full attention was a new one called Grant’s Amber. This 5.8% beer was richly satisfying, smooth on the palate and expertly crafted. If I were to choose a session beer at Lonerider, Grant’s Amber would be it.
While I’ve already mentioned the Steampot and the Pretzel Bites, Bill says the Fish and Chips are the best seller, and the wings come in at a close second. Indeed, one young lady seated next to me at the bar and visiting from Durham sang the praises of those wings as she ate them.
The only issue for those who love their beers in a cold, frosty pint glass is that they are not available.
Bill explains, “We just don’t have the space in our kitchen to accommodate the machinery we’d need to keep those glasses washed and dried.”
So, you’ll have to be satisfied with plastic or cans. Or, I suppose, you could buy a pint glass for $5 and have Bill fill it with your favorite beer.
But that’s a relatively small inconvenience when you measure it against good beer, good food, nice folks and an ideal spot to enjoy an afternoon or evening.
In fact, I’d suggest that TV stars Rick and Marty Lagina give up their quest for buried treasure in Oak Island, Nova Scotia, and come down here to Oak Island, North Carolina, where the treasure is far more readily accessible.
And not nearly as expensive. Which makes it a Blessing.
Drink with a View:
Lonerider at Oak Island
57th Place W., Oak Island
Photography by Katie D Photography