Issue: April 2002
Country Cookin'

The Mooring Restaurant combines the Northern Neck’s laid-back friendliness with a drop-dead view.

 

     Virginia’s Yeocomico River is a beautiful place, unspoiled and quiet. That’s why you go there. But when you’re ready to mingle a little and enjoy some local company-and a good meal-the Mooring Restaurant is the place. Part of Port Kinsale Marina, the restaurant is one of only two spots on the Yeocomico where you can pull up your boat and sit down to dinner-and a view that just won’t quit. And if you time it right, you can get all this for less than a fin. When I told Fred Olverson-who has lived on the Northern Neck nearly all his life-that my husband and I were sailing in on a Thursday night, he said, “Now Wendy, I’m going to tell you something and you won’t believe me.”

     “Okay, Fred, shoot.”

     “You go to the Mooring on Thursday night and you will be able to eat a roast beef dinner with sides and cold beer for under five bucks.” Long pause. “You’re right, Fred, I don’t believe you.”

     Shoulda known he was telling the truth. Thursday night is locals night at the Mooring, and they offer a steamship-round buffet. For $2, you can make yourself a roast beef dinner with delicious southern-style potato salad or coleslaw-creamy, not gooey. Domestic bottled beers are $1.50. True, this is double what the price was early last summer; a sign posted on the wall apologized profusely for raising the roast beef buffet from $1 to $2 and Wednesday night’s chicken wings from 10 cents to 15 cents apiece. Yes, it’s appalling, but the folks of Kinsale and environs seem to have taken it in stride. The place was packed to the gills when we arrived at about 6:30 p.m. Lively country music was jumping from the jukebox (in a side area with a pool table and pinball machines) and the buffet was doing a brisk business.

     The restaurant sits on a small hill and looks southeast, over the marina in Allen Cove to the Yeocomico beyond. A deck out front was empty on this night-it was late September and a little cool for al fresco dining. But being inside does nothing to diminish the view. Three sides of the main dining room are floor-to-cathedral-ceiling windows, so you never lack for something lovely to see-the piney woods, the river beyond, the quiet boats tied up out front. A large circular bar is centered in the main dining room, with a large-screen TV high up in one corner. A small, no-smoking dining area is separated by more windows from the main room, so you still get the view and the TV, not to mention a cozy fireplace.

     Not in the mood for roast beef, we opted for the regular menu and started with garden salads of iceberg lettuce, grape tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers, all crisp and cool. We followed with a tasty crab dip, spiced with Old Bay (or its ilk) and served with Ritz crackers. For dinner, I ordered crabcakes-two ample helpings that I couldn’t come close to finishing. On the side was a baked potato and a bowl of nicely seasoned but slightly mushy peas. Johnny had filet mignon stuffed with crabmeat. The filet was overdone for his taste, but the crab filling was right on the mark. His fries were good, but his corn, like my peas, came from a can. For dessert, we shared a bowl of vanilla ice cream with fudge sauce. From there, it was a short walk down to the boat and bed.

     The food here is, in a word, unpretentious. And that’s what I expected in an unpretentious, laid-back part of the world. It surprised me not one bit when a group of about 20 people, who were celebrating a birthday, boisterously invited us to share in their cake for dessert. Virginia’s Northern Neck is one of the friendliest places I’ve ever been on the Bay.

     If you’re expecting five-star cuisine and white-glove service, you won’t find it here. You will find good food, a wait staff that works hard to get you what you need, and a good place to tie up your boat for the evening. And, best of all, a view that big-city gourmands can only dream about.

 

     The Mooring Restaurant is at Port Kinsale Marina on the YeocomicoRiver. Beginning April 1, the restaurant will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Entrees run $12.95 to $19.95. Reservations are not required, and all major credit cards are accepted. The marina has free dockage for diners. 804-472-2971.