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Rivah Visitor's Guide

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KC’s Crabs & Cues serves up good food and hearty fun


by Robert Mason Jr.

We’re here on a Sunday. It’s loud, happy and full of energy you would expect surrounded by football on large screens, a crowd at the bar, a guitar player in the corner, and a pool parlor just on the other side of the dance floor.

The coffee is hot, the beer is cold, the crab boil is spicy and the atmosphere is bold. 

It’s the kind of place that tries to live up to Gary Portnoy’s famous lyrics—“Be glad there’s one place in the world, Where everybody knows your name, And they’re always glad you came; You want to go where people know, People are all the same; You want to go where everybody knows your name.”

It’s a waterman’s playground. The chatter’s got an East Virginia ring, even the karaoke’s got twang.

For folks passing through and searching out a “locals’ hangout,” this is the place—white boots optional. If you have to ask, that’s riverneck for come as you are, right out the field, off the boat, in from the road, up from the desk and away from the computer. By now you should know, a riverneck is a redneck with a boat, and redneck is a term of endearment around here.

Leave the persnickety attitude behind. We’re all the same, we want to be fed and have a good time.

The menu is brief and to the point. There’s seafood, beef, chicken, sandwiches, soups, salads, desserts, and more seafood. The oysters and crabs are fresh, local and seasonal as you would expect from a man who catches his own.

Cecil and Kelley Dameron opened the restaurant in May 2009. “Cecil always wanted a place to play pool and, as a waterman, he always wanted a place to sell his crabs,” said Kelley.

We’re a four-top. Lisa, yeah my co-worker Lisa, who you’ve come to know through the Rivah Fare column. No matter who draws the review at the Rappahannock Record, Lisa almost always tags along. She takes good photos and packs an appetite.

Tonight, her husband, Chris, and daughter, Rachel, are along. Did I mention Rachel is the cute teen in softball attire? Yeah, she just came from the diamond. It’s a family place.

Our server, Priscilla, is patient, helpful, efficient and courteous.

Lisa orders tonight’s all-you-can-eat seafood special—steamed crabs and shrimp, plus two sides for $30. Rachel has the homemade chicken noodle soup and jumbo chicken wings. Chris opts for chicken tenders, fries and cole slaw. So I guess I’m forced to go for the hunk of medium-rare ribeye. We started with a crab dip appetizer to go around and a salad or two.

The crab dip made in-house, baked and served hot, surrounded by pita chips. It is rich, not too creamy and full of crab. We like the pita chips too. The salad greens are crisp. In fact, just before sitting down at the computer with my notes weeks later to recall our dinner, I drop by for a salad, crab dip, a shot of karaoke and pint or two of coffee. Who can write a restaurant review on an empty stomach?

Let’s be honest, we’re not first-timers. We’ve got our favorites and we’ll try to be unbiased.

The all-you-can-eat steamed crabs and shrimp special practically loads the table. That’s the steak dinner in the corner.

Perusing the menu, you’ll find oysters, clams, crab legs, shrimp. The seafood comes by the pound, dozen, half-peck bucket, or platter. There are samplers and combos. Fried or steamed, it’s all affordable.

Sides and baskets include French fries, crab chips, hush puppies, potato salad, mashed potatoes, col slaw, applesauce and deviled eggs. Vegetables of the day, this night, are corn on the cob and green beans. There’s a host of sandwiches and appetizers.

You can get the homemade seafood, shrimp and crab salads on a sandwich, or cold plate. The clam chowder, seafood bisque and vegetable soup are homemade and remarkable.

Entrees range from $9.99 for the chicken tender dinner to $27.99 for the steamed sampler—a Snow Crab cluster, half-dozen oysters, half-dozen clams, half-pound medium shrimp and eight hush puppies for $27.99. Hard crabs are market price.

It’s one of the few restaurants in the area, maybe the only one, with steamed crabs on the menu and pool tables in the back. Pick your own and rack ’em yourself!

Priscilla preps Lisa with a bucket, wood mallet, claw-crackers and a spool of paper towels.

Meanwhile, the evening’s entertainer, Patrick Moore, chats us up. Friends at the next table speak to us. Kelley checks on us and familiar servers give us a nod as they serve up trays of food.

Rachel’s soup is hot and flavorful. The wings, although mild, are a little spicier than she thought they’d be. I like ’em. Then again, I start the day with hot sauce on my eggs.

Chris’ tenders are breaded, fried crispy on the outside and juicy inside.

My steak is prepared just right, grilled medium rare with a smokey flavor. The hush puppies are great.

Priscilla brings Lisa a tray of eight medium crabs and a basket with a hefty half-pound of medium shrimp, all smothered in a heavy dusting of bay seasoning. She asks for apple cider vinegar and ketchup in addition to the cocktail sauce and melted butter for dipping.

I dip a shrimp or two into the cocktail sauce and it is just the way I like it—lots of horseradish.

Lisa notes the shrimp are prepared to her liking and the crabs are meaty and sweet. She notes some folks might want to request a lighter dusting of spices. She prefers the claws and would have “eaten 80 of them” if she could order only claws.

Watching her pick and eat crabs is a treat. The granddaughter of the late waterman Bill Parks of Morrattico, Lisa’s been consuming them “by the claw” forever.

“My granddad was the same way, he’d pick out the claws and say the rest of the crab was too dirty to pick,” says Lisa as she cracks into another one. “We’d have crabs every Saturday night and I’d eat all of the claws.”

Other family members thought it odd that so many of their crabs came stripped of claws. Lisa got there first.

Tonight, she patiently picks the crabs clean, puts all the meat into a bowl, pours in the vinegar, mixes in the ketchup, stirs it all up and eats it on crackers. Lisa also likes the “Southern-style green beans seasoned with bacon.” The deviled eggs are so good, she orders another side. She says the steamed crab and shrimp combination is a dieter’s dream. It’s low in fat and calories comparatively speaking, and you burn a bit picking and peeling.

We retire to the pool room for a couple rounds of eight-ball and dessert. I have the key lime pie. It’s tart and sassy. Lisa, Chris and Rachel share a piece of “chocolate spoon lovers cake.” They say it’s ultra-rich.

We shall return. I’ll be the one with a bib.

posted 10.02.2014

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