York River bounty: Eating water borne
YORKTOWN, June 27, 2016 – In the tidewater of Virginia, much as it did 300 years ago, life still revolves around the river. Or rivers. And now, as then, those rivers that flow to the Atlantic Ocean provide some of the most delicious culinary delicacies you can find on, or in, the water.
You just need to know where to look.
“Either you are lost or a native,” says Brian Mahoney, manager of York River Oysters, Glouster Point, Virginia. “We are becoming more well known, and of course there are the return boaters, who found us once or twice before. And then there are those new friends that find us.”
York River Oysters sits off the main waterway, off of the main river, and provides boaters with an easy place to dock and enjoy some of the finest water borne food available.
All tasting fresh this morning.
The restaurant deftly combines the friendly atmosphere of Cheers with a South Florida vibe. And they have the good food thing down quite well. The quest on this tour into the nooks and crannies of the Four Corners area is for oysters, and the Gloucester Point oysters do not disappoint. Here they are served four ways – steamed, fried, charred and the perennial favorite, raw.
With the first taste of this river oyster, you know something is different from the crisp, sweet salinity found in your more northerly Blue Points of the Long Island Sound oyster region or the plump, crisp and salty Wellfleet oysters from the cold waters of Cape Cod. That something is the brine .
The York River, being brackish or a mix of seawater and fresh water, has a slightly higher salinity than other Cheseapeake watershed rivers; however, it is still about a one-third less salty than the ocean (19-24 vs 33-37 parts per thousand).
This environment breeds a small to medium sized, plump, well colored oyster that lead with a buttery flavor and ends with a mild salty finish.
The fried Glouster Point was a real treat; this oyster cooks very well and in a traditionally fried style, it was extremely plump and wholly good. In addition to steamed and of course raw, York Oyster also serves the Glouster Points charred; a quick visit to the broiler plumps these oysters, not fully cooking them as much as imbibing them with a bit of smoky flavor, bringing out the meatiness of the shell fish and mellowing the brine.
No red or mignonette sauce necessary – just a bit of lemon sets these off beautifully. And speaking of mignonette sauce, YRO sets its red wine vinegar off with thinly sliced cucumber and sliced onion, adding lovely new layers to the flavor profile.
Also enjoyed was the YRO Tuna Tower, which brings a fresh twist on a classic with its layers of chunk avocado, mango, spicy coconut crab and a beautiful pink sushi-grade tuna that was neither overfirm nor mushy. For a casual harbor eatery, this dish was beautifully presented with a riot of summer colors, textures and tastes.
A fun outside bar allows patrons to enjoy their favorite Virginia craft brews or cocktails that provide sips of summer fun with flavors of strawberry and lemon turned into margaritas and bright vodka lemonades.
Travel south from Glouster over the bridge that spans the York River to Yorktown, made famous when Gen. Cornwallis surrendered the British forces to Gen. George Washington on Oct. 19, 1781, following the bloody siege of the Battle of Yorktown.
However, Cornwallis never appeared at the ceremony, instead sending Brig. Gen. Charles O’Hara, who presented the sword of surrender to the comte de Rochambeau, commander-in-chief of the French Expeditionary Force, which joined the American Continental Army in their fight against British forces. But you can learn all about that at Yorktown.
Now, in addition to being one of America’s most important historical travel destinations, Yorktown is a lovely place to while the day away, play along the riverbank and find great food in a fun environment.
York River Oysters is one of three restaurants owned under the name of Seateries; the others are the River Walk restaurant and the Water Street Grille. After appetizers at YRO, a quick journey to Yorktown ends in a sunset walk along the river before ducking into the Water Street Grille.
The grille is a bit of constrained chaos as families and children enjoy the welcoming atmosphere. Key to the store’s success is the up to 20 different beers, lagers, porters, ales, IPAs, Witbier and others that can be found on their larger led boards.
Pick any one as a perfect complement to watching the river flow by.
The evening fest begins with a soft pretzel, salted and served with a warm beer and cheese sauce , the soft yeasty dough and salt perfect after a day of sea, salt and sun.
The fish tacos offered a twist with full pieces of grilled filet over crisp lettuce with cheese and chunks of avocado and an avocado green goddess-like dressing.
Traditional pub fish and chips provided a more than enough for two, perfectly prepared fried with potato wedges and a crisp horseradish coleslaw.
The atmosphere here is extremely casual. We were weary, dressed in the casual clothes of a tourist, mussed from being in the wind, salt and sun all day, and it provided a perfect river edge ending to a day of tourism.