If your hometown is somewhere near one of Virginia’s iconic coastal expanses, chances are you grew up catching blue crabs along the bay and cooking them up with your family, or hunting for ghost crabs with a flashlight on the muddy shores at night with your friends.
Memories like these are part of what makes life in Virginia so special. It’s no wonder that this favorite seaside pastime is about to start full swing around Virginia’s tidal waters.
And is there any better way to ensure you are eating fresh, local food than to catch, grow, or collect it yourself? Setting out the crab pots, reeling them in, and cooking up your catch in water, vinegar, and a whole lot of Old Bay spice, remains an iconic summer activity for young and old alike along Virginia’s beaches. But what if you want all the fun of down-home crabbing, but would rather relax on the dock during cocktail hour while someone else deals with the mess and fuss of turning your catch into a sumptuous banquet? Easy. Take a look at a few of our favorite VA foodie seafood spots where you can have the fun of catching your dinner yourself, and then hand it over to the local professionals for a truly memorable meal worthy of any VA foodie.
Savor the Flavor of the Chesapeake Bay
The ever-popular softshell crabs of the Chesapeake Bay are really blue crabs that have outgrown their outer shells. The scientific name of these guys is Callinectes sapidus, which translates from "beautiful swimmer” in Greek, and “savory” in Latin (source). It’s hard to think of a more aptly named crustacean, as these little swimmers are definitely worthy of savoring with some Old Bay and butter.
It’s common to see folks lining the piers all along the Bay to catch a pot-full of these guys. During the summer months it’s a great way to gather a few quick crabs. But if you’d like to make a day of it, locals of the Chesapeake region tend to head out to the muddy flats. First Landing State Park, or the Great Bridge Locks Park are two tried and true crabbing locations. And the south part of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is a classic spot for mixing a day of crabbing with some people and boat watching.
Cooking Your Catch
After a day on the water, If your own rusty crabbing skills happen to have failed you, Waterman's Surfside Grill in Virginia Beach is a humming seaside spot for a beer and some local shellfish. With boardwalk access, outdoor dining, and frequent live music events, this busy, family-owned grill is known to cook fish caught from charter boats out of the Rudee Inlet Fishing Center during the Spring, Fall, & Winter months. But sit back and let them do the work in Summer, you can dine on Waterman’s own catch of the day with confidence. Waterman’s is committed to serving local, eco-friendly seafood, as part of the Sensible Seafood Program.
Also a member of this sustainability program is Croc’s 19th Street Bistro, which calls itself an “eco-bistro.” Casual, Lebanease-inspired fare with a green, organic and local theme is served up in a lively atmosphere. Two more members of Virginia Beach’s “Catch and Cook” program include Murphy’s Irish Pub, and Rudee’s on the Inlet, from December through February.
In the interest of ocean-friendly, sustainable harvesting practices, remember that Virginia does have regulations for recreational fishing and crabbing. Read about them here, and then crab away!