Capt. Jack's Crab Shack

6330 Morris Road
Spotsylvania, VA 22551

CUISINE American, Seafood, Southern

PRICE $$ ($13-$20)

HOURS Open for breakfast, Friday through Sunday, lunch and dinner daily.






Breakfast Weekend
Outdoor Dining
Accepts Credit Cards

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NVM Review

(August 2008)

By Warren Rojas

Although mere miles from two of the area’s most prominent waterways—the mighty Potomac and scenic Lake Anna—Capt. Jack’s actually resides at the end of a dusty, gravel-filled lot (you were expecting, perhaps, sand?).

Not that proximity to water is an issue for the seasoned seafood wranglers within.

“If it’s swimming in the water somewhere … I can usually get it,” pledged co-owner Alexandra Van Cleve, stressing that her family-run business aims for 24-hour turnaround on special orders. And that’s assuming they don’t already have what you’re looking for at this very customer-friendly, seafood shop.

Alexandra runs the combination seafood counter/retail store/carry-out alongside co-owners Shelly Van Cleve (her mother) and Valerie Boyer (her aunt). The retail side features a freezer full of seafood goodies ranging from New Zealand mussels to crawfish or shrimp boudin (seafood sausage) to marinated alligator meat and counters full of assorted Cajun spices, specialty marinades and fish-fry starters.

A quartet of picnic tables parked beneath a big blue awning constitutes the main seating area, but there never seems to be much of a wait since most folks seem content to pick up orders and continue on their merry way.

Alexandra said the majority of their crabs come from the Chesapeake Bay, though she acknowledged that they do bring in crabs from the Gulf of Mexico in winter or by request. Like most other establishments, they tend to sell blue crabs by the dozen, half-bushel and bushel. But Alexandra noted that they’ve been known to steam singles for longtime customers desperate for a quick crab fix.

“Some of our regulars are actually allergic,” she explained. “But they’ll pop a Benadryl, pick a few crabs and have a beer.”

In season, Alexandra said they tend to run through about 10,000 crabs per week—a figure that leaps to roughly 150 to 200 bushels during holiday weekends. This season, hard-shell dozens appear to be going $24 for smalls, $34 for mediums and $44 for larges.

Though they do crabs year-round, these folks are perhaps best known for their 2/4 count (named so because you only get two to four pieces per pound) jumbo prawns—pseudo-shrimp doing a very convincing imitation of full-grown lobsters. These mammoth shellfish—which Alexandra touted as their “most decadent menu item”—are de-veined, cleaned and stuffed with pre-cooked crab meat for expedited home cooking.

Meanwhile, Shelly was quick to point out their latest seafood find, the so-called “Virginia red crabs,” a native species plucked from the icy depths of the continental shelf (about 2,400 feet underwater) and sold by weight (individual animals tend to range from 1 to 3 pounds) rather than volume.

“If you’ve eaten at Red Lobster over the past 10 years, this is the crab they served you,” Shelly said of the commercially popular crabs which are only now being made available to the public. She described the red crab meat as mildly sweet (akin to snow crab legs). Alas, yours truly was never able to crack a red crab for himself (they’re only delivered once per week, and our paths never crossed), but the rest of the menu provided plenty of solace.

The crab-cake sandwich reveals a hefty patty of seasoned crab that eschews extraneous binders in favor of moist, meaty crab parked between a soft roll.

Their signature crab pie—a Virginia’s Finest product, as any on-duty family member will proudly point out—is a seafood lover’s dream of jumbo-lump blue crab meat mixed with sharp cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, then baked into a flaky crust (a crabby-cheesy triumph).

“It’s kind of like crab cake taken to a whole other level,” Alexandra said of their hearty baked good.

Traditional blue crabs arrive with a minimal amount of Old Bay, but plenty of drawn butter (score!). Aside from some missing claws and a few puny specimens, the local crabs delivered on the taste front with their abundant pockets of pearl white flesh, particularly at these budget-friendly prices.

During one visit, staff passed out samples of a crab spice-laced dark chocolate (familiar bitterness, followed by a nice spice hit) the Van Cleve clan is hoping to develop into a brand-name sweet.

Can’t wait to see what they cook up next.

Restaurant Scout