Fresh. That’s the word that will come to mind when you dine on seafood in the River Realm. There’s something about eating a dish freshly prepared from our region’s oysters, fish, crab, mussels, scallops and more. Our local chefs have culinary backgrounds from around the world. You’ll find traditional southern influences, a kick from Key West, and twists on local staples. Here are a few of our favorite seafood dishes to try during your next visit:
Oyster Banh Mi from Adrift
If you like your seafood in a sandwich, we recommend this Vietnamese take on Virginia Oysters. Adrift is new to the local restaurant line up. The menu features a seafood heavy menu daily. That includes oysters. The Banh Mi is a new twist on serving up the mollusk. The oysters are tucked between a foie gras spread, pickled vegetables, a unique sambal mayo and served with bay chips. Other asian influences can be found in the Thai Mussels soaked in curry, coconut, ginger and lemongrass. Throughout the week, pop in for happy hour for $1 oysters and drink specials.
Sake Steamed Clams from Dredge
Bryan Byrd was born and raised in the River Realm. He spent time in Key West and around the world. He named Dredge after the method of collecting wild oysters. Here he’s bringing one of the most creative menus of the region to life by working with local fishermen and farmers to create fresh, locally inspired bites. Start with the Sake Steamed Clams. Bryan starts with Olde Salt Clams and serves them in a steaming broth of Japanese Sake with shallots, garlic, and cilantro. There’s nothing like it here. Don’t forget to try his famous tacos made from fresh fish, oysters, and shrimp.
Eggs Rappahannock at Willaby’s Cafe
You don’t have to eat seafood for dinner. Consider oysters with your brunch bloodies at Willaby’s. Order up the filling and fresh Eggs Rappahannock. This brunch dish features poached eggs topped with sauteed oysters and hollandaise sauce. If you’re still looking for an extra bit of decadence, try a cup or bowl of the Oyster Stew, which is created with freshly shucked local oysters. As you enjoy your seafood brunch, soak in the view from the restaurant’s big windows and open porch. They open up to a private beach and view of the river.
Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes at Fish Hawk
You’ll discover a variety of casual, yet creative dishes down by the pool of the Tides Inn. Here, Fish Hawk’s menu is guided by Executive Chef Alex Pasco who has brought a bit of San Francisco and Arizona background to the menu. Our evidence: the Chesapeake Crab Cakes. These balls of joy are made with fresh, sweet crab meat and served with pico de gallo and avocado for a refreshing twist. Order them with a side of edamame steamed with Old Bay. It’s the perfect, light lunch for a day spent by the pool or out on the river. Enjoy the view here. The casual restaurant is surrounded on three walls with floor-to-ceiling windows. That makes it feel as if you are literally eating on the river.
The Rappahannock Burger at Portside Grill
Tucked away in a nook of Urbanna Creek, you’ll discover a culinary hideaway that will please any palette: Portside Grill. Watch the boats roll in and out of the marina as you indulge in creations from Executive Chef Mitch Johnson. He takes inspiration from his grandmother, so you know it’s good. Take a bite out of the Rappahannock Burger. Topped with oysters, parmesan, and bacon aioli, the land and sea combination will put a smile on your face and your belly. Pair it with fresh appetizers like crab tots and “Sea Sprouts,” brussels sprouts roasted with sea salt.
Oysters Three Ways at Merroir
Did we mention we love oysters? We know you do, too. Take a cruise down to Merroir to get your fix. The tasting room of Rappahannock Oysters is where it all began. Located right on the Rappahannock River, Merroir overlooks the waters where the oysters are grown. To get the full taste tour, order oysters three different ways. Start with a trio of raw oysters on the half shell, each variety with a unique flavor dependent on where in our rivers they’re grown. Then, try the decadent Angels on Horseback, topped with ham and doused in herb butter that brings the recipe to life. Finally, make room on the table for a Stuffin Muffin, drenched in oyster cream sauce made from Pete Wood’s own family Thanksgiving recipe book.
Soft Crab Balls at Urbanna Seafood and Raw Bar
Come by boat or by car to this River Realm staple. Urbanna Seafood and Market is known for having one of the most beautiful sunsets in Urbanna. It also carries some of the freshest seafood. The raw bar is poised on the oyster house’s dock, where oysters and other fresh seafood pass each and every day. Casual, yet refined bites line the menu. For something different, try the Soft Crab Bites. The lightly breaded soft shell crabs are a delicacy. The seasoning brings out the best of the local crab flavors. Wash them down with a healthy selection of wine and beer. While you’re waiting for your food, take a walk into the shucking house to see what happens after the oysters hit the dock. Take home fresh seafood from the market next door.
Oysters Rockefeller at Eckhard’s
You may have tried Oysters Rockefeller before, but you haven’t tried them the Eckhard’s way. This German inspired restaurant has a luxurious take on the oyster rendition. We’re talking baked herb butter, spinach, and cheese. Chef and owner Don Marvin suggests pairing it with one of the restaurant’s white wines like the Rambauer Chardonnay. Plan to stay a while to enjoy the elegant dining room with warm cozy fireplaces.
Share your Taste of the River
Before you bite, take a shot! Not that kind of shot…. Capture your favorite seafood dishes by the river and share it with us! Help us show off our hidden gems and famous bites alike. Tag us using @virginiasriverrealm and we’ll share your photos of your tasty memories in the River Realm.