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Metompkin Seafood

14209 Lankford Highway, Mappsville, VA - (757) 824-0503
Posted By Michael Stern on 8/18/2014 2:51:00 PM
Route 13, the two-lane highway that threads the Eastern Shore of Virginia from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to the Maryland state line, passes through another world. Nothing like the rolling hills of more familiar Virginia to the west of the Bay, it is shockingly flat; old-timers speak with a Tidewater accent that linguists trace back to English spoken three centuries ago; and 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, located between Temperanceville and Modest Town. A long series of bright yellow sign boards are set up along the roadside announcing the eatery's impending presence in bold, hand-painted red script: "soft crabs," "steamed shrimp," "fried fish," "oysters," and "home made crab cakes." Anyone looking for impeccable seafood, expertly prepared, served in the simplest of surroundings and at remarkably low prices, will be happy to know about this tumbledown shack.

Here you find not only delicious seafood; you also can get an education in local oysters. 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 being fairly bland but good for frying, the former 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 highlights of the hand-written menu posted above Metompkin's order counter include soft-shell crabs, fried fish sandwiches, and Ellen's flaky (not lumpy) crab cakes.

The one-room commissary, decorated with fishing equipment from J.C.'s days as a waterman, is a true mom-and-pop operation, about which 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; or you can choose dessert from a table display of candy bars, bags of Cracker Jack, and cellophane-wrapped Moon Pies. About every 10 minutes Ellen goes to the back and returns with an armload of meals in Styrofoam clamshells and sandwiches wrapped in foil, announcing, "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.

It's almost inevitable that you will get involved in a conversation while waiting for the food to cook. Spirits are high, aromas emanating from the kitchen are enticing, and quarters are close. The single room where orders are placed and delivered and where customers shop the cases for raw fish to take home is a cozy space, outfitted with a trio of rocking chairs and a round table arrayed with hot sauce, a roll of paper towels, the week's Walmart circular, a bible, and a remote control for the corner TV. It is understood that these indoor amenities are for people waiting for an order, not for dining on premises. Indeed, most of what the Hudgins cook gets bought to take away. But there is a nice informal dining option on premises. Those who crave immediate satisfaction may select a picnic table outside and have their meal al fresco.

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."

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Fish Sandwich
Crab Cake Sandwich
Oyster Platter
Candy
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

We ordered the fish and shrimp platter, adding on some fried oysters and clams.  Everything was outstanding!
"We ordered the fish and shrimp platter, adding on some fried oysters and clams. Everything was outstanding!"
Cliff Strutz





The fish sandwich might be trout or even rock fish, depending on the season. This one is flounder: moist and fresh, enveloped in a vividly seasoned crisp crust. While it's technically a sandwich, the bun is nothing more than  a handy way to get the fish from its wrapper to your mouth.
"The fish sandwich might be trout or even rock fish, depending on the season. This one is flounder: moist and fresh, enveloped in a vividly seasoned crisp crust. While it's technically a sandwich, the bun is nothing more than a handy way to get the fish from its wrapper to your mouth."
Michael Stern


A close view of the crab cake. It is not an ultra fancy one like one finds over in Maryland, but I sure wouldn't kick it off the plate.
"A close view of the crab cake. It is not an ultra fancy one like one finds over in Maryland, but I sure wouldn't kick it off the plate."
Michael Stern


Just some of the fresh seafood available!
"Just some of the fresh seafood available!"
Cliff Strutz


Metompkin is a no-frills seafood market with a few available side dishes (hush puppies, French fries, cole slaw). You are looking at the dessert menu.
"Metompkin is a no-frills seafood market with a few available side dishes (hush puppies, French fries, cole slaw). You are looking at the dessert menu."
Michael Stern


Here's some of what was fresh on February 27, 2010.
"Here's some of what was fresh on February 27, 2010. "
Michael Stern


Step up and tell Ellen Hudgins what you'd like to eat.
"Step up and tell Ellen Hudgins what you'd like to eat."
Michael Stern


Prices are as of August 2013.
"Prices are as of August 2013."
Cliff Strutz


This is the one and only indoor table. It is possible to eat here, but most people use it as a place to wait while their seafood is being cooked. It is outfitted with paper towels, hot sauce, vinegar, a real estate guide and a bible.
"This is the one and only indoor table. It is possible to eat here, but most people use it as a place to wait while their seafood is being cooked. It is outfitted with paper towels, hot sauce, vinegar, a real estate guide and a bible."
Michael Stern


What food-focused traveler could resist these folksy signs along Highway 13?
"What food-focused traveler could resist these folksy signs along Highway 13?"
Michael Stern


For connoisseurs of signage, Potampkin Seafood is a folk-art bonanza.
"For connoisseurs of signage, Potampkin Seafood is a folk-art bonanza."
Michael Stern


Beyond fine seafood from the ocean and the bay, Metompkin is Roadfood par excellence: part of a community that loves and appreciates it, completely tuned in to local foodways, informal and friendly. Here is one very convincing piece of evidence that American regional food is alive and well and a joy to discover and to eat.
"Beyond fine seafood from the ocean and the bay, Metompkin is Roadfood par excellence: part of a community that loves and appreciates it, completely tuned in to local foodways, informal and friendly. Here is one very convincing piece of evidence that American regional food is alive and well and a joy to discover and to eat."
Michael Stern


For outside warm weather dining, they have several picnic tables right outside the front door.
"For outside warm weather dining, they have several picnic tables right outside the front door."
Cliff Strutz


Sign outside front door.
"Sign outside front door."
DANNY SMALLEY


A driveway full of shells is a sure sign of a quality Roadfood restaurant.
"A driveway full of shells is a sure sign of a quality Roadfood restaurant."
Cliff Strutz



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