Ready to get out and taste the river? We are, too! Our region’s waterways and bays are home to one of the most diverse, accessible and sustainable seafood harvests in the country. Because of the area’s ideal water salinity, crabs, oysters, fish and clams make their home here. Local watermen and aquaculture farmers make a living bringing the catch home. Farmer’s markets, restaurateurs and chefs help bring them to your plates.
To get to know how special our seafood is, we like to teach everyone who comes here about merroir. If you drink and study wine, then you may know the term terroir, which refers to the impact of the natural environment on the flavor of the grapes that make a specific wine. Here, when it comes to seafood, we use the word merrior to describe the impact of the water on our seafood. Every twist of the waterways and various blends of salt and fresh water makes many different regions of merroir here. It’s the difference between the flavor of oysters that are mildly sweet and those that are more salty. Learn more about the different oyster tasting regions here.
With 31 oyster farmers, 21 marinas, and dozens of incredible restaurants and markets, there is never a time of year when fresh seafood is not available to you and your family. We’re just a short drive from anywhere in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. Take a day trip. Spend your next free day savoring seafood from the River Realm. You can drive in to pick up seafood to take home to prepare for your crew. You can also order ready-to-eat creations for a picnic. With every purchase and each bite, you’ll not only treat yourself, but you’ll be supporting the local seafood industry and families, many of whom have seen a major reduction in sales because of COVID-19.
Now that you have a good foundation of knowledge about what’s behind the flavors of our seafood, we can dive in to learn more about how to bring it to your taste buds. Taste the freshness of the River Realm!
A Trip to the Market
Straight from the boat–that’s how we like our seafood. There are several purveyors in the area that sell everything from pre-shucked oysters to whole fish. You can take them home to prepare yourself. Many also carry other local produce, crafts, supplies and their own creations.
Miss Mary Seafood (White Stone), Jim Dandee Seafood (Kilmarnock), Kellum Farms Produce & Seafood (Irvington), J & W Seafood (Deltatville), Dug In Farms (White Stone) and Old Farm Truck (White Stone) are a few of our local seafood shops and markets. Many of them also regularly bring their fresh finds to local farmer’s markets in the area. They’ll be able to give you preparation and storage tips right from the experts.
If you can’t make it in person, you can have a taste of the river delivered right to your door. Visit the websites of seafood companies like Rappahannock Oyster Company, White Stone Oysters, Chesapeake Bay Oysters to pick out what you’re craving and have it shipped to you to prepare in your own kitchen.
Dine In or Take it To-Go
There’s something special about eating a dish freshly prepared from our region’s oysters, fish, crab, mussels, scallops and other seafood. Many lifelong chefs have made their homes here because they love working with the freshest ingredients. Each one has a unique culinary background inspired by flavors from around the world. You’ll find traditional southern influences, a kick from Key West, and asian twists on local staples. For that reason, every dish will be different. One thing will be the same, however: the seafood will be fresh.
During and after stay-at-home orders are in effect, each one of our local restaurants is diligently following CDC guidelines and recommendations along so you can feel confident your culinary finds are safe for your family. Until we can dine in, you can order from our local restaurants for curb-side pickup. Enjoy creative items like oyster Bahn Mi from Adrift, crab cakes from Something Different, and fish tacos from Merroir.
Catch it Yourself
If you really want to get up close to the source, the best way is to get out on a boat yourself. There are many ways to take on the waterways here: by kayak, by deadrise boat, or something a little bigger. Access to the bountiful rivers, creeks and bays are readily available at state parks and marinas. Marina staff can help you get on board and on your way to your freshest catch yet.
If you want to get out on the water on your own, make sure you have all the right gear. Get your fishing gear ready to go. You can get all the parts, pieces and accessories at places like West Marine and J&W Seafood.
If you want a bit of help, guidance and loads of local history, then you should board a deadrise boat with a local waterman. They can help you bring the seafood from the bay to your table. Along the way, they share stories about the local seafood industry, often carried from generation to generation. They can also show you their favorite spots to enjoy the view and bring home the catch of the day. A great place to start is by signing up for a Virginia Oyster Academy or a Waterman Heritage Tours.
Looking for more Coastal Cuisine to Love?
The River Realm is packed with eateries in every corner. Make sure you visit our Business Directory to get a full list of places to enjoy our favorite fresh seafood cuisines. Our blog is also full of new ideas and lists to get inspired for your next day trip and locally sourced meal.
Share Your Fresh Seafood Finds and Creations
You’ll have a hard time not wanting to snap photos of our fresh seafood and the meals it inspires. We want to see your perfect picnics and favorite River Realm views! Tag us using @virginiasriverrealm and we’ll share your photos of your favorite foodie shots.