Restaurant goers have gotten used to menus boasting about the provenance of their beef or the farms that provide the produce. So it's not exactly a surprise that Matt's Fish Camp lets you know right away that today's skate has made the trip up the coast from Chincoteague, Va., while the lobsters and shrimp were just pulled out of local waters this morning.
That's just one clue that this isn't your run-of-the-mill side-of-the-road crab shack. Another: It's from the venerable SoDel Concepts, the restaurateurs behind six Delaware favorites, including Lewes's Fish On and Fenwick Island's Catch 54.
The month-old Matt's is a laid-back, no-reservations gem that fuses Maine and Delmarva. The former explains the presence of crowd-pleasing lobster rolls and fried Ipswich clams, the latter served naked atop a toasted bun to let their rich, briny flavor shine through. More evidence of New England: lobster bakes, bacon clam chowder, Parker House rolls, and a "campfire pie" with chocolate pudding and homemade peanut brittle.
But geography made no difference to the group that I brought as we devoured everything: a fantastic "smoked bluefish dip" so bulky with fish that it resembled a bluefish pate; crab balls fried in a crispy panko skin; tangy house-brined pickles; and that skate, crispy on one side and prepared simply to show the fish to its best advantage. Even more impressive, the price ranges are more in keeping with the setting than the level of cooking: Appetizers range from $5 to $10, sandwiches - served with crispy chips - are $10 to $14, except for the $21 lobster roll, and the fresh fish platters go for $16 to $19. All desserts are $6 or less.
The casual vibe means no reservations are taken, so expect long waits at peak times. It may be better to call and place a to-go order, then feast on the beach or at picnic tables next to the Fish Camp.
-- Fritz Hahn (May 27, 2011)