RE: Chesapeake Bay/Bridge Tunnell - Restaurant
I've been anticipating mention of that wonderful restaurant in an unlikely setting on the Eastern Shore side of the bay/bridge tunnel. Only, my memorable restaurant isn’t the Sea Gull Pier, it’s Sting Ray’s Cape Center Restaurant. I guess we now know there are at least 2 restaurants worthy of mention near the tip of Virginia’s Cape Charles.
As we made our way down the Eastern Shore on vacation in 1998, we often heard about Sting Ray’s when asking about good seafood restaurants. The dining guide we’d bought also said good things. So we weren’t worried; the last seafood meal of our trip would be a success. At last we saw it, the final gas and food stop on route 13, about a mile from the bridge terminus. While we thought we were prepared for the sight of it, we weren't. Sting Ray’s is a combination modern truck stop, gas station and convenience mart in a building that happens to have a fine seafood restaurant in the back.
Sting Ray’s serves stunningly delicious and perfectly prepared food. The menu offered an extensive selection of fresh crab, shrimp, flounder and other seafood, prepared every which way. I was astonished to find a baked winter squash as a side dish. At the next table, plump cauliflower, grown nearby, was served with a homemade sauce.
While seafood dominates the menu, there are some other noteworthy choices, including fiery Sting Ray Chili, which the owner is famous for. We read that sometimes the menu includes lamb and European desserts. As this fresh and elegant food is served in an incongruous setting, this Eastern Shore treasure is referred to by some as “Chez Exxon”.
There was a considerable line on the Saturday night we visited and we met several people. One couple had driven 2 hours from Richmond just for dinner (paying $20 in round trip tolls for the privilege). Then there were two couples in tuxedos and eveningwear, carrying good wine standing next to folks freshly scrubbed from work on the nearby farms and waters. A teacher and spouse had driven down from Salisbury, Md. The two of us were en route home from an Eastern Shore (and Tangier Island) crab eating vacation--soft shells or crab cakes every lunch and dinner for 3 days. The Richmond people said they made the trip a couple times a year. With seafood that good and so well prepared, I’m not surprised people made a 4 hour round trip for dinner.
We decided to enjoy as much seafood as possible at our last meal on the coast. Looking around at the happy diners we wanted to order about every dish on the menu and so we splurged, ordering 4 seafood entrees. I vaguely recall how good they all turned out, but I’m imprinted with the memory of the fried flounder. Until that moment, I had no idea flounder could be so delicious. It was an enormous piece of fish, fresh and expertly fried, then rushed to the table hot. Everything about this meal was so fine, that after just a few bites, we began whining before about living 12 hours away. It was eat and cry, eat and cry.
Sting Ray’s is still going strong, making new pilgrims all the time. It’s located at 26507 Lankford Hwy. Cape Charles, Virginia, and the phone number is 757-331-2505. I thought their prices quite reasonable for such high quality food, and the staff was friendly. It’s definitely a Roadfood kind of place.