Virginia Beach's Lynnhaven Fish House serves up great seafood every way you can think of . . .
and it all comes with hush puppies.

by Ann Levelle
photograph by Tamzin B. Smith

If for no other reason than the promise of a hush puppy, I can always be talked into going to a seafood restaurant at the beach. "Seafood?" I say, my mouth watering at the mere thought of a platter of fried fish and hush puppies, or of a hunk of freshly caught ocean dweller broiled up with a thick topping of crab imperial. So it should come as no surprise that when I visited my friend Kathy last summer in Virginia Beach I was an easy sell for dinner at the Lynnhaven Fish House. No sooner had the words "fish house" left her mouth than I had my sandals on and was halfway out the door.

Lynnhaven Fish House is located on the Bay, just east of the Lynnhaven Inlet, and attached to the Lynnhaven fishing pier. A long-standing icon in the area, the restaurant offers great views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and the big-ship anchorage. It also sits over the sand, which gives diners the best of both worlds--Bay and beach.

Kathy and I arrived early in the hope of beating the Saturday evening crowds--it was tourist season, after all---but even at 6:45 we had to endure a half-hour wait. Fortunately, we also found two seats at the bar, where our uber-friendly bartender immediately set out a giant martini glass full of delicious homemade potato chips. The thin, slightly salty chips proved a scrumptious appetizer--so good, in fact, that we finally had to slide them down the bar so we wouldn't spoil our dinner.

When our table was ready we were led into a dining room filled with dark wooden tables, wood-paneled walls and lots and lots of windows. It looked almost exactly like the seafood houses of my childhood vacations, but without the kitschy nautical decorations. Here there were colorful stained-glass fish hanging in the windows, providing warmth and color in the forefront of terrific views.

Kathy and I had done a good job of not filling up on potato chips, so we kicked things off with one of the  appetizers on the specials board we'd been studying avidly from the bar: grilled tiger shrimp with a mild mesquite seasoning and served with a cucumber wasabi dressing. We were not disappointed: The shrimp were moist and sweet, a great beginning. Also, it gave us something to nosh on while we perused the menu, which was chock full of tantalizing dishes. There were fresh lobsters which we'd seen in the tank in the lobby, seafood and pasta dishes, jumbo stuffed shrimp, fried seafood platters, soft shell crabs--and more. Best of all, everything came with hush puppies! In the end, I opted for the fish of the day--mahi mahi. I chose to have the fish topped with crab imperial, though I could have had it prepared with one of several sauces that are available for people who bring in their own fresh catch of the day.

Kathy ordered the Herb Crusted Ruby Red Snapper, which was served with roasted red pepper vodka cream sauce. It was fantastic. The cream sauce was light, but flavorful, and the fish was perfectly cooked inside, yet retained its crispy crust. My mahi mahi dish was tasty as well, though I must admit that the crab imperial was the star of the duo. All in all, we had a fine meal from start to finish. And I even saved the best for last. The hush puppies were darned near perfect--crunchy on the outside, warm and moist on the inside, slightly salty and sweet all at once. Did I mention I like hush puppies?

Lynnhaven Fish House is located at 2350 Starfish Road, just off Shore Drive, a short walk or ride from the Lynnhaven area marinas. It is open for lunch and dinner daily, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Lunch $7-$17, dinner $18-$44. The adjacent, less casual Pier Cafe is open seasonally. 757-481-0003;

[03.09 issue]