Although it is a seafood restaurant, the name of Croaker’s Spot does not refer to the Atlantic Croaker, which is an angler’s favorite all along eastern shores and which can be pretty tasty when roasted or fried. It refers to a long-ago Mr. Croaker, a Richmond native who opened a late-night joint up on 135th Street in New York during the Harlem Renaissance. Of course, Mr. Croaker has passed away, but his name lives on in a dining establishment that strives to live up to his watchwords: “good food, good people, at a good spot … that’s happenin’!”
Seafood is indeed the main attraction — bountiful plates of fried fish and oysters, crab cakes, crab-stuffed flounder, even seafood chili, shrimp salad, and a “veggie fish boat” that is fried fish topped with sauteed vegetables and melted cheese. Croaker is not on the menu.
One-time visitors with big appetites might want to spring for a meal called “The Ultimate Feast.” That’s shrimp, scallops, crab cakes, and whiting — preferably fried, but also available broiled — along with four side dishes from a large and inviting selection. I am particularly partial to steamed cabbage, which is tender and butter-rich, as well as to cool redskin potato salad. Cheddar grits are filling but not intriguing; collard greens are agreeably pungent. Accompanying Cornbread is gorgeous, served in a great block that appears to glisten with butter. It’s good stuff, but strictly for those who like their cornbread as sweet as cake.
As for the seafood, it varies in goodness. The whiting is snowy and sweet with a sharp seasoned crust; crabcakes are mostly crab and minimal filler; shrimp are buff jumbos; scallops are large and milky-textured, but perhaps not as sweet as one wants.
Shrimp and grits is an interesting presentation, reminiscent of something you’d get in a Chinese restaurant, the big shrimp sauteed with peppers, onions, and mushrooms in a rich brown sauce. Grits with melted cheese on top are served in a bowl on the side.
Drinks tend to be phantasmagoric concoctions of multiple liquors and liqueurs. For instance, Croaker’s Kool Aid: That’s Southern Comfort, sloe gin, pineapple juice, cranberry juice, and sour mix. One titled Sweet Pea is Absolut citron, Sour Apple Pucker, peach schnapps, sour mix, pineapple juice, blue raspberry syrup, and pineapple syrup.
Note: There are Croaker’s Spots in Petersburg and Norfolk, Virginia.