Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Great Machipongo Clam Shack – Nassawadox, VA

Lying between the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, the Delmarva (Delaware – Maryland – Virginia) Peninsula runs for about 150 miles from just below Wilmington, Delaware to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, a twelve mile long engineering marvel that runs from the southern end into the Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton Roads metroplex. Once south of Salisbury, MD travelers find themselves in an extremely rural agricultural countryside with roads leading off U.S. Highway 13 in each direction leading to the beach or the bay. This sparsely populated region offers boating, swimming, bird watching, and, most of all, fishing. The marshlands on both sides of the peninsula provide spawning grounds for all kinds of marine animals. During the summer, this region is a busy vacation destination. In late September the season is over, the road is clear, and there’s the leisurely pace of an old and lovely region reasserts itself. As you cross the Virginia line heading south, stop at the Visitor’s Center for a warm welcome and lots of information.

The Great Machipongo Clam Shack is in an old McDonald’s restaurant on the southbound side of the road about twenty-six miles north of the Bay Bridge Tunnel. A sister restaurant sits on the northbound side. It’s a former Texaco gas station. Opened during the summer of 1998 by Roger Mariner (no kidding!) and his wife Jean, the Clam Shack offers fresh and frozen fish to eat in or take out. A plain and simple place, clean as can be, the Clam Shack is an ideal stop off for a sea food lunch or early dinner. Crabmeat is an eastern shore specialty which is served up in a variety of ways here. We shared a crab melt on an English muffin and a Cobb Island Seafood Cake consisting of chopped shrimp, scallops, and crabmeat in a hamburger roll. Both were served with cole slaw and cocktail sauce and were delicious. The top of the menu offers a pound of steamed spiced shrimp with cocktail sauce and lemon for $12.99 or a ½ pound fresh local lump crabmeat plate with cocktail sauce and crackers for $14.99. The Great Machapongo crabcake sandwich costs $7.99 and the day we were there a choice of two soups was offered. There are also daily specials.

While the food is good here, The Great Machapongo Clam Shack began life as a fish market and that’s where the majority of its business still lies. Starting by offering local clams, oysters, crab, and fish for sale fresh, Mariner has branched out to offer a range of fish and other seafood products from around the world. Tilapia, Wild Salmon, Mahi-Mahi, Red Snapper, Yellow Fin Tuna and more are sold flash frozen either as prepared entrees or filets. Fresh octopus, New Zealand Green Tip Mussels, and French escargot are all available. If you ask for it, Roger may be able to get it for you. You can purchase these products packed in coolers with dry ice or order them on-line to be shipped to you. They ship Fed Ex overnight to be sure the fish arrives still frozen solid. Visit the Calm Shack’s web site at

The Great Machipongo Clam Shack is open 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and extended an hour each way during the summer. An added advantage of traveling down the Delmarva is that you can avoid the traffic on I-95 as well as Baltimore and Washington as you travel up and down the east coast. Give it a try.