Setting the Table
This little specialty restaurant has been around for about two-and-a-half years, taking over the spot when Krispy Kreme Doughnuts moved just down the street into a new shiny building. A strip mall is a peculiar location for this oddity, but it makes the most out of its small space. There are a few tables inside, a few tables outside, and some high-top counters and stools for window seating.
Everyone is extremely laid-back and appear to be having a good time working together in a cramped area. But it’s well-lit. The walls are filled with surfboards and fishnets and crab traps. There’s a large chalkboard, surrounded by colorful lights, behind the register to highlight the daily specials. There’s a deli-style glass case beside the register with displays of the specialty foods and the bottled brews.
And unlike many little strip mall restaurants, this one has actual waitresses and waiters.
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Down the Hatch
I came for an early dinner with my wife and my eight-year-old son. And there’s something for everyone on the menu. The menu’s lineup gives the impression of an old-school seafood basket joint with grilled cheeses and new twists thrown in the mix – strange but distinctive, and cool if you have kids.
In the appetizers section, you’ll find the classic Crab Balls ($8) or the fresh take on wontons with Tiki Bay Shrimp ($8) or the mismatched Buffalo Popcorn Fish Bites ($8). There’s a “Sea…Wiches” section with a Clam Roll ($13) and the claim-to-fame Crab Cake Sandwich ($8). You can get Cream of Crab Soup by the cup ($5) or the bowl ($6) or the quart ($11). There are two different types of seafood salads (both $13). The highest ticket items are the seafood baskets running from $10 to $16.
But we came for grilled cheeses with good stuff jammed inside with melted cheese. There are nine different grilled cheeses to choose from. You can go traditional with basic cheese ($4.50) or jazz it up with bacon ($5.50). Or you can go crazy and throw in some oysters ($9) or shrimp ($9) or lobster ($13).
My wife went with The CrabMelt ($10). I decided on the Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese ($9), which was recommended by our waitress, Ashley Lucas. And my son went with the Kids Grilled Cheese Basket ($5). We also ordered a large basket of Cajun Fries ($3.75) for the table to share.
Do not come expecting fast food. The food took a while to get to us. And my wife’s Michelob Ultra was far from ice cold. But once the food got to the table, and we sank our teeth in, any dissent was gone.
My Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese was half a chicken breast of spicy tastiness. It blended tremendously with the cheese and the thick, homemade blue cheese dip. My wife’s CrabMelt was a whole crab cake on a grilled cheese, and it’s no thin, flimsy cake. It’s a thick, meaty crab cake that flakes apart, only to be caught in the Monterrey Jack cheese to be devoured together. Even my son’s grilled cheese was dripping with cheese. The Cajun Fries weren’t award-winning, but they were a nice filler between bites of our sandwiches.
In the end, all three of us sat stuffed around our patio table. That made our $36 check totally worth it. Before, during and after our meals we saw several people come in and pick up large brown paper sacks to go. Our waitress Lucas told us plenty of patrons ordered pick up orders, especially in the summer. We could see why.
We’d definitely come back. It’s a great little lunch spot and the big brown paper sack just add to the appeal of the pickup because this place is what the Strand life is all about. A little hidden joint with paper cups. A joint that serves food in baskets, and when it comes to the food, anything goes.