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Rivah Visitor's Guide

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Rivah Fare: Watermen’s Restaurant


by Audrey Thomasson

There’s a lot of heritage behind the name—Watermen’s Restaurant. Some area visitors think it means waterfront dining. In fact, the place is landlocked just east of Heathsville. Ask residents and they’ll tell you “watermen” are the men who make their living on the water, and in this corner of Virginia, you’ll find plenty of them.

Owner Myles Cockrell is a fourth generation waterman. His silent partners and relatives—Andy Cockrell and Lewis Headly—have long careers on the water, crabbing, oystering and fishing.

By day, Myles works on the water and runs Cockrell’s Marine Railway, thus, the restaurant is open only Thursday through Saturday for dinner and Sunday brunch.

The upside to Myles’ day job is that you may very well be eating his freshly caught fish. And if not caught by Myles, other area waterman provide much of the seafood fare.

Seafood and Steak
Watermen’s offers a variety of fish dishes you probably won’t see on the menu at other “Rivah” restaurants. As a California transplant, I was pleased to find I could order something other than “breaded and fried” in the southern cooking style.

Menu options include lobster pot pie in puff pastry, shrimp scampi with garlic butter sauce, fried shrimp and scallops, tilapia “Virginia” with crab and shrimp cream sauce. One popular dish for southern fried cooking fans is the fried seafood plater which includes shrimp, oysters, scallops, fish and crab cake with fries.

If You Go
8200 Northumberland Highway (Route 360), just east of Heathsville


Open: Thursday – Saturday
5 - 9 p.m.

Sunday brunch

On the Menu:
Homemade Desserts

Did you know?
By day, owner Myles Cockrell works on the water and runs Cockrell’s Marine Railway.

The night we dined, specials included shrimp primavera, crab imperial, and tilapia with lobster sauce.

If you like fish but your dining companion prefers “meat and potatoes,” Waterman’s is a good bet. You’ll find some nice cuts of steak on the menu or in the daily specials. There’s also Creole mustard and wonton crusted chicken breast.

A variety of imported wines includes French, Italian, Argentina, Spain and California. Most can be ordered by the glass. 

A family affair
The restaurant offers outside dining and a great looking bar in the back room that is hardly ever used, probably because few people know it exits. Myles said he wants to relocate it closer to the entrance for more exposure.

If you like to dine to music, the Cockrells offer the occasional Saturday night band. For more information on upcoming musical groups, visit Watermen’s Restaurant on Facebook.

The main dining room is simple and spacious—no bumping chairs with the next table—and surprisingly quiet. There were a variety of diners from couples out for a romantic evening to tables filled with the whole family—grandparents, parents and grandkids—all enjoying their meals.

There isn’t a formal children’s menu, but chef Shirley Thompson tries to accommodate younger tastes. Good to know when I take my very picky eight-year-old grandson with me.

Our hostess and waitress was Kristen Cockrell (Myles’ other half) who also works with Thompson making the house-made desserts. You’ll find Myles bringing the meals to your table.

Generous portions
I invited my editor, Robert Mason Jr., to accompany me. We stopped in on July 4th weekend, his last weekend of good eating before starting cancer treatments that could kill his taste buds for a while.

We started with fresh Chesapeake Bay oysters (6 for $8 or 12 for $14) on the half shell which were medium in size and tasty. A simple and very fresh house salad followed, which was included with the price of the meal.

Seasonal fresh vegetables are featured.

Main dining room

Robert picked “surf and turf” ($26) which consisted of an 8 oz. handcut Angus ribeye steak paired with fried crab cake (from local crabs), baked potato and green vegetable. He said the steak was juicy, tasty and grilled to his liking. He must have also been pleased with the crab cake, since he gobbled it down without offering me a taste.

I chose the rockfish ($20), which Kristen said is one of the most popular items on the menu. It was served on a bed of seasoned rice, which was very addictive. A vegetable medley side of carrots, butter beans, corn and broccoli filled the plate.

The rockfish was lightly seasoned, seared and baked and crowned with a flavorful shrimp and crab sauce. I’m not usually into rich sauces, but this topper had me longing for more. The portions, including the fish, were so generous, I enjoyed my leftovers for lunch the next day.

House-made desserts include sweet potato pie and peanut-butter pie. Robert ordered old-fashioned, house-made pineapple upside-down cake which was served warm. He must have been feeling a twinge of guilt because he finally offered me a taste. It was very good.

I had the double chocolate cake that was not made in-house. Again, a generous cut nestled on a drizzle of raspberry, chocolate and caramel, but not nearly as good as the house-made dessert. Kristen says they are switching to only house-made desserts.

While Waterman’s Restaurant is entering it’s second year in business, it is on the wake of establishing itself as a great catch for Northumberland County and a place worthy of the drive for area visitors—even if it isn’t on the water.

posted 08.01.2013

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