Shenandoah Valley Oysters

BLU Point Seafood brings the taste of the Bay to Staunton.

Photography by Sera Petras Photography

Jeff and Susan Goode, the proprietors of Staunton’s BLU Point Seafood Co., are self-proclaimed seafood aficionados and particularly fond of raw bars, so when they decided to open a second restaurant, oysters and other delicacies from the sea were sure to figure prominently. In fact, Firestone Oyster Bar was on the shortlist of names for their new venture, as an homage to the Firestone Tire Company that previously occupied the restaurant’s site at the corner of West Beverley and South Lewis streets in Staunton’s commercial district. The area is home to a slew of cafés, gift shops, and restaurants that all play a supporting role to the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse, which sits on Market Street just off the eastern end of the shopping area.

Sera Petras

When the Goodes bought the building in 2018, it had sat empty for nearly six years after the former occupant, the restaurant/music hall Mockingbird, shut down. In the ensuing years, the building suffered from neglect, so it took $250,000 of renovations and design work to repair damage and transform the space into its current nautical theme. With assistance from renowned restaurant designer Helen Reed and lighting designer Wendy Umanoff, the Goodes created a lively space with sea murals, porthole mirrors, fish accents, and other design elements to take visitors on a seafaring voyage. The outside windows are covered by clever decals of swimming fish. 

The Goodes originally got into the restaurant business over a dozen years ago after retiring to Staunton from Connecticut to be close to Jeff’s father, who had purchased a farm in nearby Swoope. “We were taken with the abundance of the Shenandoah Valley’s farms,” says Jeff, citing a key factor in opening Zynodoa, a critically acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant. 

Sera Petras

At BLU Point—named after a famous Long Island, New York, oyster town—the Goodes still use Valley meats, fruits, and vegetables, while extending their “local” philosophy to relationships with Chesapeake Bay oyster farmers and fisheries. They regularly meet with distributors who bring fresh products to the Shenandoah Valley and reach out to their New England roots for the haddock they use for fish and chips. Only a few hours from some of the East Coast’s freshest seafood in the Chesapeake Bay, the restaurant features oysters, shrimp, and fish from Virginia and North Carolina. 

Head chef Luke Dowdy attended the International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach, where he worked at several restaurants before joining Thomas Keller’s team in New York, ultimately becoming chef de cuisine at Bouchon Bakery. “I grew up in my family’s restaurant in Alta Vista,” says Dowdy, “and the opportunity to work at BLU Point was a great way to be closer to family in Virginia.” Dowdy and his team have created a menu with some favorites that remain constant, except for “Catch of the Day” and “Crispy Whole Fish” entrées which rotate daily with seasonal offerings.

We visited in the midst of the pandemic last summer, and while diners could enjoy amply spaced indoor dining, we opted for dinner al fresco. Staunton’s main drag has been transformed—thanks to weekend street closures, tables line the promenade like a Parisian boulevard. 

The affordable wine list ($8-9/glass, $30-90/bottle) leans toward the West Coast and Europe; a Veritas white blend is the only Virginia option. Cocktails are more sweet than savory, although the Oyster Shooter comes with an inviting bivalve resting on top of the glass. Among the seasonal offerings, the Flip Flop Weather, Mango Rum Punch, and BLU Berry Lemonade sounded too sweet for me, so I chose the Sunny and Sour, a bourbon and Aperol concoction that leans more sunny than sour. 

Appetizers include a perfectly crisp and tender calamari platter with spicy horseradish, crispy hot hush puppies subtly laced with bits of jalapeño and served with a tangy remoulade, crab dip, and loaded lobster fries. But don’t forget about the raw bar. Visitors can sit inside at the bar by the open kitchen on nonpandemic days or choose to have their favorite delicacies delivered tableside. Oysters on the half shell, chilled or warm crab legs and lobster, and shrimp can be ordered separately or in great towers of the sea, making you the envy of your neighbors. We opted for raw oysters and had some good options to choose from. Blue Points from the Long Island Sound in New York were salty and unctuous, and the Little Bitches from Cherrystone Aqua Farms on Virginia’s Eastern Shore have a distinctively deep cup, perfect for holding the oyster’s sweet brine. During any given week, the selection may include oysters from Rappahannock Oyster Company in Topping or other Chesapeake Bay farmers. 

Sera Petras

Entrées include lobster mac and cheese with smoked gouda and cheddar, crab cakes, grilled tuna with teriyaki and jasmine rice, blackened catfish with a Cajun cream sauce, and several iterations of fish and chips with hush puppies, oysters, scallops, and shrimp. The whole fried snapper sold out before we could order, so we opted for the catch of the day: grilled swordfish over a tomato balsamic salad. There are a lot of options from the field as well, including fried chicken, steak frites, and a slew of sandwiches and salads.

Desserts are not to be missed, including Richmond’s Nightingale ice cream sandwich and a key lime pie with cinnamon crunch crumble. We ordered a special berry cobbler with locally sourced berries and an interesting homemade corn ice cream that left us fully sated. Service was lovely and the atmosphere charming on a summer night in downtown Staunton. BluPointSeafoodCo.com


This article originally appeared in the December 2020 issue.

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