Memorable | One of the Best
Metompkin Seafood | Best Casual Eastern Shore Seafood
Review by: Michael Stern
The Eastern Shore Is Another World
If you want the best Eastern Shore seafood, take Route 13. This two-lane highway leads you into another world. Nothing like the rolling hills of more familiar Virginia to the west, the terrain is shockingly flat. Old-timers speak with a Tidewater accent that linguists trace back to English spoken three centuries ago. It is impossible not to do double-takes when passing signs for towns with such names as Little Hell, Mutton Hunk, Onancock, Bloxom, and Nassawadox.
Traveling this breeze-swept route, no one could miss Metompkin Seafood. You’ll come across it between Temperanceville and Modest Town. A long series of bright yellow sign boards along the roadside announce the eatery’s impending presence. Bold, hand-painted red script reads: “soft crabs,” “steamed shrimp,” “fried fish,” “oysters,” and “home made crab cakes.” Anyone looking for impeccable seafood served in the simplest of surroundings will be happy to know about this tumbledown shack.
All About the Seafood
Here you find not only delicious seafood; you also can get a seafood education. Ellen Hudgins, who runs the place with her husband, J.C., explains that there is a whale of a difference between seaside oysters and bayside oysters. The latter are fairly bland but good for frying. The former are bold and marshy and delicious on the half shell. Metompkin Seafood does not serve oysters raw because the Hudgins can’t abide health department red tape involved. But their roadside market / eat-shack offers fried and steamed seaside oysters that are unimpeachable. Other Eastern Shore seafood highlights include soft-shell crabs, fried fish sandwiches, and Ellen’s flaky (not lumpy) crab cakes.
Mom & Pop
Fishing equipment from J.C.’s days as a waterman decorates the one-room commissary. A mom and pop operation? J.C. explains, “We own it, we take care of it, and we don’t have to pay each other. So business is fine.”
The Hudgins’ modus operandi is cheerfully inefficient. This is how it works: Tell Ellen what you want to eat. She walks back to the kitchen and gives J.C. the order. While he cooks it, you can peruse ice beds arrayed with raw seafood or shelves stocked with a small selection of spices, hot sauce, and fish-fry mix. About every 10 minutes Ellen goes to the back and returns with an armload of meals in Styrofoam clamshells and sandwiches wrapped in foil. She announces, “I’ve got some orders here.” At this point, a wave of hungry customers from throughout the room surges towards the counter, all hoping that their time has come.
The People’s Choice
To people who live around here, visiting Metompkin Seafood is part of the fabric of life. When we first stopped by, one Saturday in February, the place had only just opened after a winter vacation, and the crowd of customers waiting for their food was positively ecstatic that it was back in business. “Finally!” one woman called out, stepping up to the counter to order a couple of pounds of steamed shrimp, a fried scallop platter and a crab cake sandwich to take home for herself and her husband. “I’ve been hungry since Christmas,” she declared as she walked out the door, juggling her armload of food. A man in a camouflage hunting outfit said he’d driven forty-five minutes to Mappsville three times in the last week, since Metompkin opened, just to have plates of fried seaside oysters, which he declared to be “food of the gods.”
Directions & Hours
|Summer, Fall, Spring
|Credit Cards Accepted