Capt. Bill's Waterfront Restaurant
Capt. Bill’s Waterfront Restaurant is the oldest restaurant in Carteret County. The entire restaurant sits on pilings out over the beautiful waters of Bogue Sound. It began on the corner of Arendell and Ninth Streets in 1938 by Mr. Headen Ballou (later known as Capt. Bill) and was known as The Atlantic Cafe. One year later, he moved his restaurant down the street to the block between 7th and 8th Streets (still on Arendell Street) and reopened his restaurant naming it the Morehead Café. In 1941, Mr. Ballou purchased Piner’s Fish House on the Morehead City Waterfront and converted the fish house into a restaurant which he called The Waterfront Café and Fish Market. He later changed the name to Capt. Bill’s Waterfront Restaurant and thus began a family dining tradition that is known throughout North Carolina and the Eastern Seaboard. Capt. Bill laid a firm foundation for a business that continues today. In 1959 Capt. Bill hired a manager named Bob Huntley. Mr. Huntley stayed only one season, but added his name to the restaurant and for that season only Capt. Bill’s Waterfront Restaurant became known as Capt. Bill’s and Bob’s Waterfront Restaurant. In addition to operating one of the leading businesses in Carteret County, Capt. Bill was also the fire chief of Morehead City. He was the only paid employee with the fire department at that time. All other firemen were volunteers. Capt. Bill also owned and operated the Danko fishing boat. This boat was able to carry a large number of fishermen at a time. He would operate the Danko during the summer fishing season in North Carolina and then head to the warmer weather in Florida during the winter and continue his fishing operation.
Capt. Bill’s first wife was named Iona Mae Smithson. They had nine children. They were William Headen Ballou, Jr., Gordon Ward Ballou, Charles Holden Ballou, Patricia Ann Ballou, George Ronald Ballou, Samual Francis Ballou, Thomas Wayne Ballou, Catherine Elizabeth Ballou, and Sara Iona Ballou. Capt. Bill later divorced Iona and married Agatha Garner. In February of 1960, Capt. Bill died. His will provided that the restaurant be sold by sealed bid with First Citizen’s Bank in charge of the sale. The winning bid was made by Thomas Wade and his wife Patsy Ballou Wade (Capt. Bill’s daughter) and Ken and Dawn Newsom. Later, there were two other partners, W. E. Duke and his brother Raymond Duke. W. E. Duke owned the Morehead Ocean Fishing Pier and worked at Hamilton’s Furniture Company and his brother Raymond owned the Sportsman’s Fishing Pier. In July of 1960, the interest of the Duke brothers was bought out by the Wades and the Newsoms with the proceeds from a Small Business Administration loan. When Capt. Bill died in 1960, the parking lot for Capt. Bill’s was owned by George Wallace, who had leased the property to Capt. Bill and his second wife Agatha. This property was purchased by the Wades and the Newsoms, also . The Wades and the Newsoms continued to own and operate Capt. Bill’s Waterfront Restaurant until August 1969 when Thomas and Patsy Wade were killed in a boating accident. The two had decided to go out on their boat one Sunday afternoon to have a little time together and to set the nets to catch the fish for the restaurant’s All-You-Can-Eat Friday Night Special. Capt. Bill’s had become famous for this particular special which is still available today. The fish, caught by the owners back then, became the fish special of the day. While out on their boat that day, the boat exploded, killing both Thomas and Patsy. The restaurant had a partnership insurance policy with Pilot Life Insurance Company that provided money for the surviving partner to buy the interest of the deceased partner. Ken Newsom and his wife bought the interest of the Wades and continued to run the restaurant for nine more years. It was at this point when the Newsoms became sole owners of Capt. Bill’s, that the Ballou family no longer had an interest in the restaurant. In September of 1978, Ken and Dawn Newsom sold Capt. Bill’s Waterfront Restaurant to three partners: Mr. William E. Hales, Mr. Harold K. Strawbridge and Mr. Charles L. Ellis. The partners incorporated the restaurant that same year. The next year (1979), Mr. Ellis sold his interest to Mr. Hales. Mr. Hales then owned two thirds of the restaurant and Mr. Strawbridge owned one third. In February, 1982, Mr. Hales’ stock in Capt. Bill’s was bought by Diane (the daughter of Harold and Rosella Strawbridge) and John Poag. Over the next 20 years, the Strawbridges’ stock was gifted to Diane and John who presently own one hundred percent (100%) of Capt. Bill’s. On June 5, 2000, Capt. Bill’s Waterfront Restaurant was partially destroyed by fire. The fire was caused by a gas clothes dryer that was not operating at the time. In the middle of the night, the dryer malfunctioned, started by itself, overheated, and burst into flames. The clothes dryer was less than three weeks old. The dining room of the restaurant was saved. However, the kitchen, offices, bathrooms, and gift shop were destroyed. When the restaurant was rebuilt, the gift shop was closed and a formal banquet room, The Marlin Room, was built. The banquet room is the only formal banquet room on the Morehead City Waterfront that opens out onto a deck overlooking beautiful Bogue Sound. The new kitchen is one of the finest restaurant kitchens in eastern North Carolina. In 2010, Our State Magazine featured Capt. Bill’s in its May issue. In February 2012, US Airways Magazine named Capt. Bill’s one of the area’s favorite restaurants. Today, Capt. Bill’s Waterfront Restaurant is flourishing. The vision that Headen Ballou had back in 1938 still exists today. The restaurant is owned and operated by the Poag Family – Diane, John, daughter – Melissa Poag Urquhart, and son – Scott. They strive to provide for each and every one of their customers delicious food, excellent service, and a beautiful atmosphere. All foods are made from scratch using recipes that have been in the Capt. Bill’s family for decades and recipes of Diane Poag (the present owner) that have been passed down in her family for generations. In addition to the restaurant, the staff of Capt. Bill’s has been catering since 1983 – both on and off premises. From box lunches to elegant wedding receptions with ice sculptures, Capt. Bill’s can provide the services you need when it comes to food. We invite you to come dine with us, sit and relax, feed the sea gulls, and watch the family of river otters play that live on the back deck. You will experience southern hospitality at its finest. It will truly be a unique experience for all who visit.