Memorable | One of the Best
Sting Ray’s | Best Eastern Shore Seafood, at Chez Exxon
Review by: Michael Stern
Gas Station Cuisine
Locals have nicknamed Sting Ray’s restaurant Chez Exxon because it is located in a gas station. But do not infer any irony in the gourmet implications of the word chez. The Chesapeake Bay seafood you eat here ranks with the best on the Eastern Shore.
Lorraine Eaton of the Virginian-Pilot newspaper clued me into this unique place. As we dug into piles of oysters, Lorraine explained the difference between these succulent seaside oysters and bayside oysters (less salty). She suggested we get sweet potato biscuits stuffed with country ham — a best dish, for sure. The biscuits are a house specialty, made from a recipe that is decades-old. Their gentle sweetness provides marvelous balance for the ham. Being Virginia ham, it isn’t all that brackish. But pairing it with the sweet potato biscuit is culinary genius.
Many of Chez Exxon’s best dishes are pretty fancy. Choose the likes of crab imperial or flounder stuffed with crab imperial. Creamed crab isn’t really a stew but is too thick to pass as soup. Recently, Roadfood’s Cliff Strutz reported that he ate something here called Smithfield Crab Imperial. “They line the dish with thin slices of ham, then bake the crab imperial right on top,” he reported. “The salty ham and creamy crab are a dreamy combination. I’ve never had anything quite like it.”
Deluxe though some dishes may be, service at Sting Ray’s is downhome. Place an order at the counter and pay. Find a seat (which can be difficult on weekends). One of the staff brings out the meal. When we first came here, a waitress named Etta turned out to be a fount of Sting Ray history as well as a top-notch adviser when it came to ordering. She steered us towards sweet potato pie for dessert. (Sweet potatoes are a local crop.) A dollop of wine-sweet damson plum preserves accents its creamy goodness.
Chez Exxon is an all-purpose destination. Its real estate is home also to a pottery shop and a boat storage facility. It is entirely possible to come for ordinary breakfast sandwiches and hamburgers. But the distinctly regional nature of the menu – as well as the expertise of the kitchen staff – make Sting Ray’s a Roadfood treasure.
Directions & Hours
|Meals Served||Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner|
|Credit Cards Accepted||Yes|