Cover photo: Shady Lane Seafood
Being located on a peninsula just 35 nautical miles from the Chesapeake Bay has its privileges. Namely, Town of Colonial Beach, Virginia (CBVA), has access to some of the region’s best seafood, including local favorites oysters, crabs and rockfish.
Fishermen, crabbers and oystermen can often be seen on the horizon hauling in their bounty. Those who want to catch their own dinner can try their luck by casting a line from their own boats, from the shore, off of the Town Pier or by dropping a crab pot into the water’s depths.
Fortunately, for those of us who prefer to have our seafood harvested for us, options abound, whether dine out or cooking at home.
Shady Lane Seafood, family-owned for over 50 years, specializes in fresh, local, seasonal seafood such as steamed crabs, sold individually or by the half bushel. The store also frequently has available an assortment of fresh fish, shrimp, scallops, crawfish, lobster tails, crab legs, crab meat, oysters and clams.
Two major grocery stores in Colonial Beach, Hall’s Supermarket and Food Lion, often carry fresh and frozen soft shell crabs, crab legs, fish and other seafood.
For generations, Pearson’s Seafood has offered bulk or wholesale buying of crabs, shrimp, oysters and more.
Denson’s Grocery & R&B Oyster Bar is a 3rd generation family-owned local gourmet grocery. In recent years, the grocer added a ‘Chesapeake Bay Farm to Table’ full service restaurant. Since the pandemic, however, Denson’s has returned to its roots, offering a wider selection of wild-caught, fresh never frozen, hormone-free, specialty seafood, such as Florida Pink Shrimp, Carolina White Shrimp, Sewansecott oysters, Prince Edward Island mussels, New England lobsters, Easter Shore Virginia littleneck clams, Chesapeake Bay rockfish and blue crab, and Denson’s own homemade crab cakes. Availability is subject to what’s in season and changes weekly. Grocery menus are released on Friday afternoons, ordering deadline is Tuesday at 7 pm, for pickup Thursday through Saturday.
On the days you don’t feel like cooking, restaurants in Colonial Beach offer seafood dinners, for dine-in, curbside pickup, delivery, or onsite dining that stays within COVID-19 guidelines. Contact individual restaurants to ask about their current guidelines/operations.
Dockside Restaurant and Tiki Bar, located on the Point, offers steamed or fried shrimp, fried shrimp po’ boy, shrimp and tuna tacos, crab cakes, soy ginger glazed cod, fish & chips and weekly specials such as Chicken Stuffed with Crab Cake wrapped in bacon topped with Apricot Demi.
Along the boardwalk, High Tides on the Potomac and The Black Pearl Tiki Bar has outdoor seating and offers seafood combo of pangasiidae (shark catfish), lump crab cake, shrimp, oysters and scallops; stuffed rockfish, shrimp or flounder; crab Imperial or Norfolk, crab soups and more.
Award-winning Denson’s also offers prepared take-home seafood meals for curbside pickup, such as crab cakes with sweet corn and cole slaw, fish and chips, shrimp boil with potatoes and corn, rockfish bites, fried clam bellies (said to be tastier than strips), and authentic po’ boys with rolls from New Orleans’ Leidenheimer Baking Co. New menus are posted on their Facebook page and change weekly depending on availability.
The Lighthouse Colonial Beach is a waterfront restaurant offering an array of seafood dishes including crab cakes, scallops, shrimp basket, and board specials, but is renowned for its creative and eye-catching specialty sushi rolls, almost too pretty to eat! Its East/West Roll is a local favorite, made with shrimp tempura, bacon (that’s right–BACON), asparagus, salmon, eel sauce, spicy mayo and avocado.
In addition to its regular menu that includes Asian favorites such as Kung Pao, General Tso and other shrimp dishes, Hunan Diner also offers specialty dishes including Crispy Fish or Calamari, Double Delight of the Sea (scallops and shrimp), and its weekly Tuesday Night Sushi menu.
Suki the Cuisine features Thai-inspired seafood, including weekly bento box specials. Hancho’s Hibachi Box food truck on the Point provides quick salmon, shrimp and scallop carry-out. Oomboon Restaurant offers seafood with a French Cuisine twist, such as Ahi Tuna with Seafood Mousse, Red Snapper with Saffron Sauce, and King Fish with Pesto Sauce, as well as sushi specials including The Crab Stacker.
Willey’s Road Stove brings its North Carolina Style Pit Smoked flavors to the Colonial Beach Boardwalk. And sometimes, we even get treated to Crab & Shrimp Gumbo and Willey’s Low Country Boil and other down home seafood treats.
Wilkerson’s Seafood Restaurant offers gorgeous views of the Potomac River and a varied menu of steamed spicy shrimp, crab soups, and several entrees including deep sea scallops, flounder, snow crab clusters and more. Wilkerson’s is a favorite for its seafood specials and all-you-can-eat seafood buffet.
Nearby Ingleside Plantation Winery, a member of Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail, regular hosts food trucks on the weekend and participates in the Trail’s Oyster Crawls held in spring and fall.
The Northern Neck region is known for its oysters and festivals that celebrate them. Oyster Trails and Oyster Crawls along Virginia’s River Realm have helped make the state the “Oyster Capital of the East Coast.”
Regional Conservation & Restoration Efforts
According to the 2020 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey, a cooperative effort of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the estimated Chesapeake Bay blue crab population is healthy, with 141 million adult female crabs conserved (well above the long-term average of 126 million) and 79 million adult male crabs, just above the long-term average of 77 million. The total abundance of blue crab in the Chesapeake Bay in 2020 was 405 million crabs, a near-average abundance for the 30 years of survey results.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation is hosting a fundraiser to exceed the 10 million water-filtering oysters they planted last year with the support of members. Every dollar you give can plant 200 oysters, and each adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. More oysters = cleaner water! Right now, thanks to a generous $20,000 match offer from The Batten Family Fund, every dollar donated DOUBLES the number of water-filtering oysters that can be planted.