Hello Sailor: Lake Norman’s Eclectic Treasure
Bouncing our way across the wind-driven chop, my friends and I race the boat against nature’s clock in the hopes of finding an opening at one of the lake’s best spots, Hello Sailor.
Nestled within a long, narrow cove between cliffside homes and the typical North Carolina marina, this modest building peacefully overlooks Lake Norman, and the darkening skies soon to bring a late-Fall thunderstorm.
Despite the approaching weather we find Hello Sailor emanating a familial warmth, finding our comfort among the eclectic curation of vintage vibes, accepting the unofficial invitation to sit and stay a while.
Taking our seats and looking out across the lake, a feeling takes over that I can only describe as similar to the easy-going nature of visiting my grandmother’s home, a sort-of throwback to simpler times as a kid growing up on and around the water.
As we browse the menu, the tropical undertones of the restaurant seem to transfer us into a mindset free of any seafood restaurant stereotype, rather we feel like we’re settling in on the back deck of a family lake house.
A combination of local fish camp and authentic Calabash seafood house, the menu presents itself as a hybrid of flavors, a collection of plates just as eclectic as the interior of the main dining room. Of course, Hello Sailor has the seafood staples like oysters, hushpuppies and shrimp calabash, but they’ve also introduced items like crispy half duck and banh mi, food I never would have expected to casually find on a lakeside menu.
Since the announcement of Hello Sailor, and the introduction of its bolder choices, I’ve done my best to remain impartial to its existence; wondering how a restaurant like this might impact the culture of the lake community. For us, even though we had raced the storm, my friends and I were dressed for a day on the lake: shorts, sandals, ball caps… but crispy half duck sounds a lot more like sport coats and cocktail dresses than flip flops.
To its credit, Hello Sailor offers an experience on Lake Norman that you aren’t likely to find anywhere else. Since that stormy Fall day, I’ve continued to find plenty of good reasons to return to this lakeside gem, bringing friends and family to enjoy the casual atmosphere deliberately created with each guest in mind. And I hope that’s what Hello Sailor continues to be; a place that begs not to be taken too seriously, but allows you to dress up if you want.
Personally, I’ll continue to enjoy the elements that remind me of summers past, elements like cherry Sundrops and Hello Sailor’s 40 ounce Miller High Life specials; because that’s what the lake is to me: an unassuming place to relax with friends and forget about everything else for a while.