“Our brightest blazes are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.”
It all happened when we were driving on Route 13 just 26 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. The place was Nassawadox, Virginia. We had started looking for a place for lunch and there on the west side of the road we discovered The Great Machipongo Clam Shack. The moment we pulled into the parking lot we knew we were in for a great experience.
The Clam Shack was formerly a McDonald’s Restaurant when Roger and Jean Mariner opened it as a fish market in 1998. It is located in an extremely rural agricultural countryside of the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Chesapeake Bay on the other. This sparsely populated region offers boating, swimming, bird watching, and most of all, fishing.
Once inside we realized we were not in a fancy restaurant. The simple tables and chairs were surrounded by booths with all kinds of memorabilia on the walls. Next to our booth taped to the wall was a piece of construction paper with these words, “Mussels...nourishes the liver and kidneys...arms the body...nourishes and helps blood circulation...relieves goiter and lumps.”
The menus boasted the “Largest Selection of Seafood in the Mid-Atlantic Region” which meant we had quite a challenge to decide what we wanted to eat. But once we placed our order, we looked around and took it in all of the charm and ambiance.
In one corner, a small stage was set up with an old upright piano and a few instruments and a sound system. A white board stated “Music May Nights” with “No Cover Charge” featuring everyone from Caribbean Joe and a steel guitar to Americana Lovebirds with their folk country music.
A traditional chalk board had written on it the specials of the day. Soft Shell Crabs with 2 sides were available for $20. For the non-seafood eater, they also offered baby back ribs, a half rack for $10 and a full rack for $17.
On another wall was a map of the world with paper money from those respective countries thumb-tacked to each country of origin. The map was so full of money you could hardly read the map.
Of course, a place like that would be incomplete without seafood cookbooks, baseball caps with the name of the Crab Shack on them and an assortment of cooking items from the Blue Crab Company including Seafood Doggies and Sea Salt Nuts.
The sign “We pack for travel” took us to the freezers which were stacked with any kind of sea food you would want to take home. What fun we had as we lifted the freezer tops and looked at Jumbo Alaskan Red King Crab, Octopus, Prince Edward Island Mussels, Bay Scallops, Frog Legs, Breaded Clam Strips, Seafood Burgers, seafood chowders and just about any other kind of seafood you could imagine.
After our delicious lunch, we grabbed a basket and filled it with an assortment of our favorite choices. We had a hard time narrowing our selections down because everything seemed to say, “Take this one” or “Just one more.” Graciously, they packed all of our new found treasures in ice for our drive home.
As we got in our car, in front of us we read a sign on the building wall which said it all, “Just Seafood: All the Seafood from Around the World under One Roof.” I had to take a picture of the entire building and the sign along the road. You can learn more about this great place from www.thegreatmachipongoclamshack.com.
I love the words of Loretta Lynn, “I’ve been around a long time and life still has a whole lot of surprises for me.” Evie and I love finding places like that when we travel. If we are ever back in that neighborhood, we will definitely stop in again.
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is the president ofValley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville.
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