By Terry Harris
Posted: June 23, 2020 | 3:40 p.m.
Surry Seafood Company manager Gilbert Brett says that he is excited to have their doors open for business againafter being closed for a month and a half due to COVID 19 restrictions. The three-year-old restaurant reopened their large deck overlooking Grays Creek two weeks ago, and now that the inside is open again as well, he said, customers who missed their seafood, sandwiches, and sunsets are flocking back to enjoy a relaxing time and a delicious meal by the water.
“When restrictions on dining-in began,” he explained, “we tried staying open for takeout. But there just wasn’t enough takeout business to justify sustaining it. I think we’re just too far out in the rural area for people just to pop in on the spur of the moment to pick up something to go. And we think we were getting a lot of traffic from Williamsburg as well, which we also lost due to the travel situation.”
Brett said that fortunately their staff was able to receive unemployment, so they were able to keep their excellent, well-trained staff, which has made reopening fairly seamless. The reason that keeping their experienced staff is so important, he explained, is simple.
“The first thing that comes to mind when someone asks why Surry Seafood Company is so special is the staff,” he explained. “I’ve had so many people tell me a restaurant can have wonderful food but a terrible staff and it makes it an experience not worth repeating. But even with mediocre food and a great staff, people want to come back time after time. And we definitely do not have mediocre food.”
On the subject of their food, Brett practically waxes poetic.
“Our crab dip is excellent – and made fresh on the spot,” he said. “And we have an excellent hamburger that’s really popular. While we have other great options as well, our menu is predominately seafood, and some of our new specials are, well, special! Like we’ve just introduced a Salmon Caesar Salad – a nice, light salad with broiled salmon on top. And we’ve got Boom-Tiki shrimp that people just love. Most people just call it Tiki Shrimp, but it’s not exactly like what you’ll find elsewhere. Eddie’s got a little twist on his secret recipe, so it’s got a nice crunch to it.”
He explained that Eddie Martin, the chef with the secret recipe, has been working for the Pack Brothers – owners of both Surry Seafood Company and Smithfield Station – for almost 25 years, and said that he attributes a great deal of their repeat business to his expertise with perfectly preparing seafood.
Asked how it feels to be open again, he said, “It’s kind of surreal. We’re only at 50 percent capacity due to the social distancing restrictions, but our sales have been amazing. We’re having a lot of locals, and on the weekend people coming over by boat. I’d love to see what it would be like if we were able to open at 100 percent!”
“I think one of biggest draws is just the view here,” he added. “I’ve seen people wait in line an hour just to sit on the back deck and have a meal and watch the sunsets. We have beautiful sunsets over Grays Creek. I don’t find anything around like it to compare.”
And for people who really love the calm, peaceful atmosphere, they even have four rooms for overnight stays, all with balconies overlooking the creek.
Brett said that when he was recruited to work at Surry Seafood by General Manager Nicki Johnson, he came down to talk about it and, “When I pulled in, I saw Grays Creek and that’s all it took for me. I feel like it’s an answer to prayer. Who wouldn’t want to work here?”
Asked if there are any changes planned going forward, he said, “We’re exploring having live music outside on the deck on Thursday nights once we’re able to open back full time. We don’t take reservations, but once you come in, if we have to put you on a waiting list, you don’t lose your place in line if you walk down to check out the dock and the marina. Most people like to do that anyway. And we really are happy to be back open and serving the community again.”
Surry Seafood Company is open seven days a week, 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Sunday and 11 – 9 every other day. Dress is casual and the GPS address is 633 Marina Road, Surry, VA 23883. For further information, call 757-294-3700.