Hampton Roads seafood lovers, living this close to the ocean, cannot help but pine for the culinary bounty it provides. These local seafood markets, specializing in catch that comes right out of local waters, aim to satisfy that appetite.
by Carolyn Shapiro
photography by Keith Lanpher
Dockside Seafood Market
Dockside Seafood Market, attached to Dockside Restaurant at 3311 Shore Drive and Vista Circle near Lynnhaven Inlet in Virginia Beach, specializes in domestic sources and mostly local catch. Its case of fresh fillets typically holds options such as flounder, striped bass (rockfish), mahi mahi, tilefish and tuna caught between North Carolina and Maryland, with scallops from New England and shrimp from the Carolinas or Gulf. Along the side wall are bluefish, croaker, speckled trout and other Virginia swimmers in whole form, buried in ice and available for Dockside staff to clean upon request. The market also carries an impressive wine selection, seasonings, groceries and a few Hampton Roads-made gourmet goods such as Rowena’s sauces and Lenora Belle cookies. Open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. 757.481.4545.
Hampton Seafood Market
At Hampton Seafood Market, the focus is on crabs and crabmeat. It’s the sister operation of Graham & Rollins Incorporated, one of the last remaining crab-picking houses in Hampton Roads, on the Hampton waterfront. The seafood market, just outside downtown at 509 Bassette Street, sells female and male whole crabs live or steamed. Top-selling fish are croaker and spot, the area’s quintessential local catch, among typical consumer favorites such as swordfish, mahi mahi, tuna, salmon and shrimp – some of it caught locally. Whiting and trout come frozen from wholesale food distributors. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays. Hampton Seafood Market also operates a full-service restaurant, which opens at 11 a.m., with a traditional family-style seafood menu. 757.722.8168.
The Shellfish Company
Most of the seafood sold at The Shellfish Company has left the water within the previous 24 hours – much of it on boats the company owns through its affiliate, Lynnhaven Fishing Company. They bring in flounder, tilefish, striped bass (rockfish) and mahi mahi caught in nets and blue crabs for sale whole or picked. The owners know long-line fishermen who deliver sushi grade tuna. Clams come from the Eastern Shore and oysters from the James River. Whole fish – Spanish mackerel, butterfish, mullet and croaker – are arrayed on ice, open-air style on the deck in back. The sister shop next door to Bubba’s Seafood Restaurant & Crabhouse, at 3323 Shore Drive in Virginia Beach, also sells craft beers from breweries in Hampton Roads and as far as Hawaii, and “take and bake” prepared dishes such as clams casino, oysters Rockefeller and crab cakes. It is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily in the summer and closes at 7 p.m. starting in October. 757.481.7512.
Spots Fish Company
Tucked and hard to find behind a restaurant at Long Bay Pointe Marina, 2105 West Great Neck Road in Virginia Beach, Spots Fish Company sells local catch – and only local catch. Species such as croaker, spot, flounder, bluefish, trout, butterfish, striped bass (rockfish), spadefish, softshell crabs and cobia in the summertime arrive on boats that pull up right at Spots’ dock. Some fish travels by truck from the Eastern Shore, where watermen have caught it usually the same day. Most of Spots’ business is wholesale, packaging large quantities of seafood for shipment as far as the West Coast and even overseas. Retail customers can buy smaller portions, a pound or two or 10 at a time. Those buyers can’t mind cleaning their own fish, though. Spots only sells it whole – at a fraction of the price of fillets. Spots is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (and sometimes as late as 5 p.m.) Mondays through Saturdays. 757.481.1585.
Welton’s Seafood sells tuna caught off the North Carolina coast, striped bass (rockfish) from local watermen, and scallops from boats that dock on the Hampton waterfront and pack them dry – without preservatives, the only way Welton’s will offer them. The fish in Welton’s case typically are caught a day or two earlier, processed and delivered by a wholesaler, though the shop’s staff will clean local catch such as striped bass themselves. About 10 percent of Welton’s product, including lobster and salmon, is not local. Shrimp comes from the Carolinas or the Gulf region. Welton’s has only one store, at 940 Laskin Road in Virginia Beach, since a Norfolk location of the same name was bought out by its manager a year ago. Welton’s also sells homemade pies, chicken and potato salads, collard greens and fresh corn; it’s open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays. 757.428.6740.