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Dinner at Buoy 44: A Review

buoy 44Buoy 44 is Just off the water on Chesapeake Bay, in the former Virginia Beach location of Alexander’s on the Bay.  Destroyed by a nor’ easter in 2009, the lot was an empty building for four years as the owners searched for a new tenant.  Buoy 44 opened in April, 2014 and provides a casual, family friendly environment that rounds out the dining options in Chix Beach.

Before heading to the restaurant, I attempted to preview the Buoy 44 menu by searching the web.  I was unable to find a Buoy 44 website, but their Facebook page (link above) did provide some insight.  The menu seemed small but looked inviting and the week’s specials filled it out a bit.  Once we arrived at the location, complimentary valet parking meant we had no trouble getting to the door, and when we walked in, Doug, my mother and I were quickly seated inside by a friendly hostess.  We could see the deck and bay from our smoke free vantage point and watched many patrons enjoy the smoker friendly deck’s views.

While perusing the menu, we were offered cocktails but not told the evening’s specials.  As we waited for our drinks we found the specials listed on a chalkboard and when the cocktails were delivered we were finally told about them by our friendly server who seemed not particularly stressed out, but somewhat distracted.  The three of us also quickly noticed the noise level that resulted from a combination of low ceilings, a hardwood floor and metal tables and chairs in the dining area.  It was loud.  Our Cheesesteak Spring Rolls, one of the specials, came out with average speed but were quite delicious.  After the shared appetizer, I ordered the shrimp pasta, Doug ordered a steak and my mom ordered the crab stuffed flounder, another of the evening’s specials.

As we waited for our main dishes to be delivered, our server returned to the table to tell us they had run out of the flounder special.  Very apologetic, she was quick to offer a menu and suggest another option.  As Mom scanned the menu for another meal, the server stepped away.  Only seconds later, she returned to say that she was wrong and the crab stuffed flounder would be arriving shortly.  It did, along with Doug’s steak, though my pasta was slow in coming, dropped off close to Buoy 44five minutes later.  Awkward.  There seemed to be a very serious lack of communication between the wait staff, the kitchen and whatever system kept track of the kitchen’s inventory.

In spite of the troubles actually getting our meals to the table, we enjoyed the food.  Not one of the best meals any of us had ever had, but each plate was tasty and exactly as expected.  After wrapping up our meals, I made a visit to the restroom.  They seemed to have missed out on the renovation.  The Buoy 44 Ladies Room featured one regular stall and one wheelchair accessible stall where once white floors were worn black in high traffic areas and paper towel pieces could easily be found on the floor.  My stall door featured a wooden hinge repair, but the large vanity and two sinks were clean and brightly lit.

I returned to the table in time to decline dessert, order the check and be issued another apology from our server.  Not a place I would return to in hopes of having an exquisite dining experience, Buoy 44 does offer great views of the Bay and a deck I can definitely see myself enjoying as the warmer months roll on.  It’s the perfect spot for an outdoor happy hour with a view as long as you don’t mind the possibility of getting a nose full of cigarette smoke, though if the breeze is on your side, it wouldn’t even be noticeable.  The large bar inside would also make for a nice happy hour spot, especially for those who don’t enjoy a smokey environment.

Pluses:  Location!  Views!  Social, family friendly atmosphere.

Minuses:  No boat access, loud dining room, small menu, no website.

Will I go back?  There are numerous locales I find preferable, but it’s certainly on the list when I’m in the mood for something casual, not feeling picky about my meal and ready to talk a bit louder than normal.


Metropolitan Oyster Exchange

Doug and I went to dinner at Metropolitan Oyster Exchange (M.O.E) to kick off my Shamrock Race Week.  We were looking forward to trying a new place and had heard good things about the food and drink, which made our choice an easy one.  Located near the Virginia Beach Oceanfront in Linkhorn Shoppes (the former location of Prime 103), the restaurant is easily accessible from 264 and the Hilltop area.

Noted for their eclectic cocktail selections, I attempted to get a look at the menu online before leaving home, only to find, on 9 March, a website that announced the location’s 14 January 2014 opening and let me know the website would be up soon.  That was slightly disheartening, but forgivable.  We arrived around just before 7pm Sunday evening and found plenty of parking.  We made the short walk from the car to the door and were metropolitan oyster exchangeimmediately greeted by a friendly hostess who sat us at a high top table between the bar and booth lined wall.  The restaurant was clean, bright and upscale.

As we settled into our seats, a server walked by and said he’s be with us momentarily.  When he eventually returned, more than momentarily later, he failed to introduce himself, but took our drink orders as we perused the small menu, which he let us know, twice, was new.  I had a general idea of what to expect on the menu from reviews on Yelp and from experience at the owner’s other establishment, Coastal Grill, but no website content left me wondering what I’d find.  The majority of shrimp items were served with grits, which doesn’t give a very Metropolitan feel to the establishment and seemed out of place.  Chicken and waffles further this confused feeling on the menu since, again, it’s not a very Metropolitan dish.  Although the menu’s offerings were limited, they were finely crafted and assuredly delectable.

Upon his return to deliver our beverages and take dinner orders, we had to ask if there were any specials because we had not been told about any, but safely assumed there would be at least one.  I was surprised they weren’t written on the massive chalkboard hanging above the raw bar.  My wine selection, the Dry Creek Chenin Blanc, I couldn’t tell you the year because it wasn’t listed on the menu and I never saw a bottle, was delightful.  metropolitan oyster exchangeFresh and crisp, without the butteriness I dislike so much in most chardonnays.

I ordered seared scallops and Doug chose a blackened steak.  The entrees came out of the kitchen quickly and were placed on the table still warm.  Though the menu made no mention, my scallops were served with petite fingerling potatoes and mixed bacon infused baby spinach and kale salad.  A single, fresh cherry tomato, also made its home on my plate, and seemed out of place.  The scallops themselves, drizzled with fresh lemon, were excellent and paired very well with the Chenin Blanc.  Doug’s steak was likewise served with the bacon infused spinach and kale salad as well as a hand full of the fresh cherry tomatoes and a side of horseradish.  The steak itself was well cooked, but fatty, making it only slightly above average.  As expected, the seafood was superior to the steak, but somewhere cocktails hover between $10 and $15 a piece that isn’t New York, LA or Philadelphia, I expect more.

After our plates had been cleared, we were sipping our drinks when our check was delivered.  Unexpectedly.  We hadn’t asked for it, we hadn’t been asked if we might be interested in dessert, and I, honestly, would have liked another glass of wine and something sweet.  At that point, I made for the restrooms, which were located down a long, narrow hallway in the rear of the restaurant.  Not only was the passageway narrow, arriving at either of the restrooms requires the patron to walk directly by the food pick up window (but at first blush, it appears to possibly be the dirty dish drop window.  Either way, I don’t want to walk by it).  That explained why all evening I had seen both empty and overflowing bus pans being carried from behind the raw and regular bars and through the dining area to reach their destination.  Not my idea of fine dining.

Unfortunately, we probably won’t make any return visits to Metropolitan Oyster Exchange.  The owners of Metropolitan Oyster Exchange also have Coastal Grill in their charge, and we have always had fantastic experiences there.  When comparing the two restaurants, the food is comparably good, but the service and atmosphere at M.O.E was quite a let down.

A.W. Shucks

Located in the Ghent neighborhood of Norfolk, VA, A.W. Shucks is a great spot for lunch, happy hour or dinner.  Known for offering a massive list of oyster choices, A.W. Shucks is also home to an internationally stocked bar and a sincerely American menu that can satisfy any palate.  Doug and I shipped out to Norfolk on Tuesday evening for a few drinks and dinner we didn’t have to make ourselves.  We’d been before, but not in quite a while and were in the mood to try a new beer, or four, making the choice of A.W. Shucks an easy one.

Nestled in the corner of a small office complex that is quiet in the evening, A.W. Shucks offers plenty of off-street parking in a large shared lot that was home to plenty of open spaces on a Tuesday night.  It might be a different story for Friday’s happy hour, but being attached to another parking area should alleviate any issues.  Easy to access from I-64 in either direction, the restaurant’s location makes visiting simple.  The trendy neighborhood is a great place to walk around and do some local shopping before settling in for a meal.  You can learn all about the Ghent area of Norfolk and everything it has to offer right here.

Entering through a covered porch that offers sort-of-outdoor seating for those brave enough a.w. shucksto dine in the cooler air, we walked into a spacious reception area and were greeted by a friendly hostess.  Straight ahead to our left was a long row of mostly filled wooden booths, while to the right was an equally long wooden bar lined with cushioned, rotating bar stools and a few patrons.  After spying two empty stools towards the far end, we settled into comfy seating in the dim, but not dark, bar area and began to explore a myriad of draft beer choices listed on a series of chalkboards.

a.w. shucksWhile exploring the posted options, we were promptly greeted by our bartender, the lovely Hollie, two dinner menus and one two sided menu featuring beer choices on one and wine and liquor on the second.  For me it was Hollie’s recommendation of the Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale, for Doug it was the Smartmouth Holiday Helper and for both of us it was an order of Buffalo Shrimp.  Chatting, choosing an appetizer and enjoying our beers was easy at the uncrowded bar and our shrimp arrived before we were ready for to try a new flavor of brew.

The bright orange tail-less shrimp not only came quickly, but packed a pretty solid punch.  With a little more heat than I had prepared myself, I could smell a.w. shucksthe warmth before I could taste it, but dove right in anyway, neglecting to dip my first buffalo shrimp into any dressing.  I immediately sated my now burning taste buds with celery and dressing and ordered another beverage, a Delirium Tremens Ale while Doug went with Weyerbacher’s Merry Monks.  Both lovely, though probably not the best choices for pairing with scorching hot buffalo shrimp.

After putting away the final buffalo shrimp, we ordered dinner.  In spite of the large, fresh selection of seafood fare, pasta dishes and sandwiches adorning the dinner menu, I elected WP_20131210_005for a bacon cheeseburger and Doug went with a chicken cobb salad.  Before dinner arrived we moved on to our third choices from the extensive beer menu, a Chimany Triple and Gulden Draak Dark Triple.  The cool beers helped return our mouths return to feeling normal and we made separate trips to the restrooms.  Two large, unisex outfits across from the reception area were spacious, clean and line-less and I returned to my seat just in time for a massive burger and huge plate of salad to arrive.

We moved on to our favorite bourbon with dinner, and Hollie made perfect Bulleit and gingers for us both.  The bourbon paired nicely with my medium rare burger that was perfectly cooked, smothered in cheddar cheese and topped with crunchy bacon on a far from soggy bun.  A side of well steamed broccoli complimented my juicy burger and tasted as good as it looked.  The large plate of lettuce in front of Doug was loaded with a big grilled chicken breast and garnished with tons of bleu cheese, tomatoes, bacon and avacado.  I struggled to clear my plate, but in the end succeeded, and Doug took half of his salad to go.  We wrapped a.w. shucksup our evening with another bourbon based night cap and headed home happy and full.

Another delicious meal in the books, A.W. Shucks is a great spot for lunch, happy hour or dinner.  Our desires to try new beers were more than met and our hunger was overly satisfied by our excellent bartender, Hollie, and her chefs.  The lengthy beer list has something for everyone and the seafood menu that also sports plenty of other proteins will leave any eater feeling full.  A great place to celebrate after a race, your protein and carbohydrate needs are sure to be met by A.W. Shucks’ menu.   Put Ghent and A.W. Shucks on your must visit list and make plans to check it out today!

Savannah Eat-a-thon 2013

The Savannah Eat-a-thon 2013 is what I like to endearingly call my Rock n Roll Savannah Vacation.  During the course of this trip, I managed to run a half marathon (1:43:54), sleep, act like a tourist, learn a little history and relax while I spent three and a half days on the Savannah River coast.  It also seemed like I ate.  A lot.  Savannah has plenty of local fare to explore, and I made a pretty good effort to check them all out.  It would take me weeks to review each one in depth, so here are my short and sweet reviews of the edibles I enjoyed in southern Georgia.

B&D Burgers – No food, just drinks.  With a massive outdoor projection screen showing football, the atmosphere is distinctly sports bar.  The menu offered a wide variety of gourmet burgers and a large, quality selection of beers, it’s a great spot for any gamWP_20131108_004e you want to see.

The Coffee Fox – I’m not a coffee drinker, and I ate breakfast (Honey Nut Cheerios) at the condo, but Doug is.  I tagged along for his morning wake-me-up and enjoyed the laid back, coffee shop vibe.  The sticker covered wall was fun to read, this was one of my favorites.  Free Wi-Fi had laptops dotting tables, a large selection of caffeinated beverages and pastries including Quiche and delicacies such as vegan brownies, is sure to satisfy any morning or afternoon coffee craving.

The Crab Shack – I did review this one in depth, check it out here.  Out on Tybee Island, it’s a touristy but lovely spot that offers fresh seafood and is home to rescued birds, a large troupe of alligators and a handful of fat cats.

Goose Feathers – Savannah Eat-a-Thon continued even after the race, and this petite cafe was crammed full of runners when we arrived.  The staff was clearly prepared for the post-race rush and worked quickly.  The food was delicious, the service smothered in Southern charm and, quite honestly, I wish Goose Feathers was in my backyard.

Molly MacPherson’s – Hands down the best chicken pot pie I can recall having.  Ever.  Sorry, Mom.  An excellent selection of European beers and every Scotch you’ve ever heard, or not heard, of compliment a menu full of hand-me-down family recipes.  Swatches of Tartan that decorate the wall and flags of Scotland billowing from the ceiling give the casual establishment a wonderful feel that can’t be missed.

Moon River Brewing Company – Covering half a block in food service space, Moon River offers a full fledged on-site micro brewed heaven of a menu.  Two main floor bars, an upstairs and a beer cellar basement provide space for dinner or private parties and an outdoor area mean there’s a spot of anyone.  With a beer to satisfy any palate, a dinner menu with a something for everyone and pre-race pasta dinner specials, we enjoyed our beverages and cleared the large portions from our plates as best we could.

World of Beer – No kitchen, so no food here either.  PLENTY of beer to make up for it, though.  A mind boggling menu of beers from anywhere you can imagine, a radio pumping out classic rock and a pair of cornhole boards downstairs make World of Beer a fun stop for any alcohol aficionado.  Upstairs a row of TVs lining the walls mean this is also a good place to catch a game with a bunch of buddies.  Of course, before sampling too many of their myriad choices, make sure you eat something, perhaps at one of the other restaurants listed here!

Your Pie – Pizza, beer and gelato make their homes here.  Each personal 10″ pizza is completely customized with fresh ingredients and a choice of white or wheat crust.  Offering a decent selection of beer beverages and a variety of gelato flavors make Your Pie a great place to satisfy a just about any craving you can have.  Like Goose Feathers, having one of these in my backyard wouldn’t be too bad either.

There you have a summary of Savannah Eat-a-Thon 2013.  A wonderful foodie experience, a great town full of Southern Hospitality and a little racing makes me want to back as soon as I can.

Ocean View Pier Restaurant

Delicious food, great views and good vibes make the Ocean View Pier Restaurant the perfect place to spend a beautiful afternoon.  With a home on the Ocean View Fishing Pier, the Ocean View Pier Restaurant (OVP) is nestled in Norfolk, Virginia’s Ocean View neighborhood.  Surrounded by waterfront homes and beaches sprinkled with volleyball nets, it’s easy to find the 1,690 foot pier.  The Pier has plenty of free parking and with access from Highway 64, Tidewater Drive and Shore Drive, making the trip to visit is simple.

We chose to spend a Sunday afternoon at the Pier Restaurant, and after easily finding a parking spot, we walked off towards our destination.  Stepping off the pavement and onto the beach before feeling the wooden pier beneath our feet, we moved towards the big blue Pier building.  ovpierOn our way, we passed families fishing and taking photos while getting lung fulls of salty sea air and a light splash of sea foam.  Arriving in the building we found the Pier Tackle Shop, a tank full of crabs and lobsters, restrooms, the Pier entrance and the restaurant entrance.  Immediately to your left as you enter the pier building, a shiny metal door opens into the Restaurant’s indoor dining area that is complete with a stage on the far side and one massive metal topped bar.  Should you continue walking straight past the door, rather than choosing to turn into the restaurant, you’ll see the restrooms on your left as you head out onto the pier.  If you pass the door and shoulder up next to the wall, you march right up a big set of well worn stairs and pop out on the OVP Restaurant Rooftop Deck.

We climbed those wide wooden stairs and arrived on the breezy rooftop deck to a great view of the pier and ocean.  Features four gliders, one in each corner, the deck is dotted with octagonal picnic tables circling the central stairwell and high top tables along the railing.  Sitting in a very comfortable pair of captain’s chairs next to the rail just above the pier entrance, we were given excellent views of not only the pier below, but the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay as well.  Far off to our left we could see the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and the edges of Hampton to its right thanks to the gorgeous day.  The shuttered bar over our right shoulders was closed on a Sunday afternoon, but looked like it could certainly handle a large number of people.  Families sat in the gliders while couples and groups of friends filled both the tables and other rooftop high tops.

We were greeted by a lovely server wearing a cheery, bright green Ocean View Pier Restaurant tank top.  She dropped off menus and took drinks orders in the same moment, and just as we finished selecting our meals, our drinks arrived and we placed our orders.  It is a simple menu, perfect for a casual lunch before or after a day of lounging on the beach or casting your line.  Heavily infused with tastes of the sea, appetizers include Tuna Bites and Fried Oysters Rockefeller.  Fish and salad start the entree portion of the menu and it continues with steamers, burgers and sandwiches.  Our attentive server brought lunch quickly, and I loved the massive Hereford Beef Burger I had chosen.  A taste of my co-diner’s Shrimp Po’ Boy didn’t disappoint either.  Both meals came with a side of crisp fries, but could have been subbed out for something a little better for us.  While we were enjoying our meals and cocktails, several children seated at the glider closest to us were tossing fries and chips to the local pigeons.  Not only was this irritating, but the overfed birds are fairly bold, so if you don’t like them, avoid family friendly times or stay downstairs.  The casual environment invites children who want feed them to do so, and the big grey birds can get a little too close for comfort every now and then.

The family friendly Pier Restaurant shares its restrooms with the anglers and staff of the fishing pier below.  Located downstairs across from the tackle shop, the Pier restrooms aren’t fancy, but were surprisingly clean, and with saloon style stall doors, make the trip a little more fun.  While seated in the downstairs bar area, this geographic difficulty presents no problems, but I can imagine that after an afternoon enjoying the sights, sounds and beverages of the pier, a trip from the deck to the restroom in the wrong shoes could be an adventure.  Returning from a trip to said restroom, the wind had picked up and as it made an effort to steal my napkin away several times, we decided to head inside after finishing our current round of beverages.  Our friendly waitress was quick to help us transfer our tab downstairs and handed us over to one of her compatriots when she went back up to the rooftop.

The downstairs bar area was fairly empty, but a few families sat in big wooden the booths along the ocean facing wall.  The shore side wall is lined with big table held up by wires hanging from the ceiling and give the room a spacious, industrial feel.  Big windows provide views of the beach and ocean from the tables and the bar while a couple of large televisions provide visual entertainment when there’s no band in action.  We passed on sitting in one of the high backed booths and headed for the bar.  Seated at the large, cool metal bar, where the stools were surprisingly comfy, and because it wasn’t crowded, we had our pick of those with or without backs, we got great service from friendly locals.  A few games on the MegaTouch and a pair of adult sodas finished up our trip the the OVP Restaurant.

With an upstairs featuring great ocean views, the pier offers a fun environment and delicious food to match the views.  The final tally seemed to be Fish – 9467, Pier Fishermen and Women – 0, but it was fun to watch them try.  Friendly, quick service paired with generous portions and a laid back family friendly environment, the OVP Restaurant deserves a spot on your Hampton Roads short list.  A perfect post-race, long training run or tough workout destination, an afternoon at the Pier Restaurant will fill your belly and make sure you walk out with a few worthwhile memories.

The Pier Cafe

The Pier Cafe in Virginia Beach is located on the Lynnhaven Fishing Pier and is adjacent to fine dining establishment Lynnhaven Fish House.  Open Memorial Day to Labor Day, the entire outdoor dining area provides unbeatable views of Chick’s Beach and daily sunsets over the Chesapeake Bay.  Looking out onto the pier full of anglers while the salty sea breeze billows through the curtained windows and dining on a delicious seafood salad, fish taco or grilled chicken sandwich is what allows the Pier Cafe to provide a magical beach dining experience.  With stairs leading directly into the dining room from the sandy beach, the casual, family friendly atmosphere provides pier cafegreat views, convenient access and plenty of fun.

Walking into the Pier Cafe from the beach means you can avoid the parking lot altogether, which is great because parking in the Lynnhaven Fish House/Pier  Cafe shared lot can come at a premium with additional street parking being exceedingly difficult to find.  If you do need to find a spot, a few minutes of waiting or a couple of laps around the lot usually helps something open up.

If you choose to park, you’ll walk through the pier house and enter the Pier Cafe through a blue door heading into a narrow hallway that leads to the small indoor dining room.  With bar seating for six, two high top tables with two seats each along the wall and several larger tables able to accommodate up to fifteen people total in any combination of configurations, this indoor area is intimate and uncluttered.  Passing through the indoor dining room, you’ll go through automatic sliding doors onto the pier itself.  Enclosed by walls made of a lower half of wood and an upper half of blue nylon with zip out windows, the outdoor area with seating for about 60 reaches straight towards the bay in two lines of four top tables.  Seated at one of the two high top tables in the indoor dining room, we were quick to peruse the hand written menu of widely varied beer menu that featured domestic bottled beer and hand crafted draft and bottled beers that was hanging above the bar on a white board.  With choices from New Belgium Brewery, Anheuser-Busch and Sam Adams, the hand written beer menu implies that it changes frequently.  When our server Mike arrived, I asked about wines and he recited a well-rounded, though not extensive, wine list from which I chose the Canyon Road Sauvignon Blanc.pier cafe2

A common trend at the Pier Cafe is to wait indoors for a table on the pier, so we were not immediately given dining menus, but after notifying him we planned on staying put, Mike quickly delivered two surf board shaped menus along with our drink order.  Featuring a list that included appetizers, sandwiches and the Pier Cafe’s signature salads and crab cakes, the surf board menu’s top side had food choices while the bottom of the board showcased Pier Cafe signature drinks.  After selecting our dinner choices, we waited no more than fifteen minutes before the Seafood Caesar Salad and Fresh Catch Fish Tacos arrived.  My massive salad was served on a fish-shaped plate and the fish tacos were resting on a plate with a similar fish theme.  The fish tacos were light, and even though the pico de gallo led to a little runniness, they contained plenty of protein and were complimented perfectly by a side of rice and beans.  My large seafood salad had more than ample servings of shrimp and scallops on a big bed of romaine and iceberg lettuce.  The Caesar salad was nicely seasoned without being soggy, had croutons enough to give it a real crunch and was extremely filling.

A second round of drinks let dinner settle and helped us select a dessert from the lovely Pier Cafe dessert tray.  Chocolate tort, caramel chocolate cake, New York cheesecake, and key lime pie (with real key limes) flashed in front of our eyes before we decided on the layered chocolate cake with drizzles of caramel and a side of vanilla ice cream.  When the large slice of cake and big scoop of ice cream were placed on our table, the drinks were put down until the last of our delicious sweets were scraped onto our utensils.

Because of its home on the fishing pier, the Cafe shares restrooms with the anglers, which could be an inconvenience for those with difficulty moving about.  Located outside of the Cafe’s blue front door, on the opposite side of the pier right beside a game room that holds several arcade games and a quarter powered pool table, means they’re a little bit of a walk from the Cafe’s outdoor dining area.  This doesn’t do anything to damage the restaurant’s spirit and is a great way to see a little bit more of one of Virginia Beach’s most popular piers.

A wonderful meal of fresh seafood and delicious desserts in a quiet dining room overlooking the beaches of Chesapeake Bay make the Pier Cafe a can’t miss.  A reasonably priced, small but not boring menu and fish themed dinner wear give the Pier Cafe a distinctly family friendly, beach infused attitude.  Great service from knowledgable and professional staff members ensure the Pier Cafe is a great step off the beach for lunch or dinner.  With a lack of carbo loading choices on the protein rich menu, the Cafe might not be the best stop for a pre-race meal, but the atmosphere and beach access make it a wonderful place to relax and recap with one friend or ten afterwards.  Be sure to grab a Pier Cafe t-shirt as you leave, then make plans for your return.