Captain John’s Crabhouse

Written by on May 21, 2011 in I Eat America, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

(No website found at time of publishing) – Virginia Beach, Virginia

How I heard of this place: I first noticed Captain John’s in a tourist book of coupons I found at our hotel lobby, but did not see the name on the actual establishment, about two blocks from our hotel, until we were looking for a seafood buffet for dinner. We decided to go in, remembering how packed it was the night before.

Type of cuisine: Walking in, nearly the entire restaurant was void of people. The song “Dynamite” played on the radio overhead as I inhaled deeply, only to stop suddenly at the smell of old, fried food. I mentioned to my dining companion, as our server walked away that it sort of stank in the establishment; he suggested leaving to find a new place, but we

decided to stick it out. The food on the menu was typical of most other restaurants we had seen along the beach and throughout the neighborhood: seafood options ranging from fried coconut shrimp to stuffed flounder, a side of stuffed mushrooms to pasta specials and steak. All very old American flavors and tastes, much salt and little other by way of herbs and spices.

Ambiance: Windows along the front, presenting a chalkboard with daily specials written on it and a copy of the menu in a neighboring window, the wooden anchors on the walls between windows looking like they had seen better days, and the lack of light in the neon sign led us to believe that the place was a little run down and dilapidated. Inside, the old smell of mustiness mixed with the stench of grease and deep-fried everything lingered as heavy-set patrons made their way to the buffet table. Families entered and were eager to sample a cheap all-you-can-eat buffet, where children under three years could eat for free, and those under the age of eleven only paid $11.95. Carpeted floors held chairs and tables in a large space that expanded to both sides of the buffet, salad bar, meat table and dessert buffet. The faux-leather cushioned seats with wooden backs kept our bottoms comfortable as we went from dish to dish on our plates, over the wooden table with a round Captain John’s Crabhouse emblem in the middle. Soft music from the 80s and 90s played overhead, enhancing the sadness and low-key vibe of the establishment, itself. New wait-staff, eager to help a table,  were often disappointed to see that the patrons they had just sat had reconsidered and were making their way out the front door. The fluorescent lighting, the yellow-toned coloring of the walls and the dark greens and browns throughout the space was a flashback to the 1980s, but those inclined to eat, ate a lot and continued back for more.

What I ordered: Upon being seated, we ordered one orange juice ($2.75), which was the color of what one might see as peach juice, so we returned it in exchange for apple juice. My dining companion and I each ordered the all-you-can-eat buffet ($18.99 per person). While no items were labeled as we made our way down the buffet, I sampled a little bit of most everything – most everything that looked a little more fresh. I had about a tablespoon of the rice with green peas and bay shrimp, coconut shrimp, fried shrimp, stuffed shrimp, fried calamari, chicken breast, salmon, stuffed flounder, roasted potatoes, stuffed mushrooms, fish sticks, BBQ ribs, “prime rib”, which we decided was actually roast beef, salty meatballs, and fried mini scallops. We each grabbed a plate from the salad buffet with iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes,

beets, shredded cheddar cheese, bacony Baco’s, cucumbers and Italian dressing. We finished off our meals with the sweet desserts: chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles, yellow “cheesecake” on a graham cracker crust and what we thought was chocolate pudding, and couldn’t take more than one bite of. The fresh sliced watermelon added sweetness and juiciness to our plates.

What I loved: The desserts made the meal worthwhile, namely the very sweet, yellow “cheesecake” on a buttery graham cracker crust. Additionally, the cold, fresh watermelon and the from-a-can sugary frosting on our chocolate cake. Of the hot food available, my favorite was the marinated and broiled chicken, slightly seared on the outer edges, a little dry inside, but overall: tasty. The stuffed mushrooms and the roasted red potatoes also tasted better than most other things on our plates, as agreed by my dining companion.

Why I loved it: I loved that when we entered the establishment, the first thing I noticed was the song playing on the radio: Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite”. Much of the rest of the music, 1980s and 1990s slower rock matched the sad feel of the restaurant.

Cost: Average ($18.99 per all-you-can-eat buffet; $24.99 including all-you-can-eat crab legs)

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