Little Red and I have had a few reasonably decent meals at Waterman's Surfside Grille at Fifth Street on Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach. Some of the booths near the window have a good view of the beach. There's an outdoor porch if you want salt air. The service has been reasonably fast and reasonably attentive. The place is usually full of the beachy set. The bar can be noisy at night. Waterman's gift shop has a few interesting items. Waterman's Valet Parking service works well for people who have not already parked their cars.
Although we could not consider them to be in the "extraordinary" category, we have enjoyed Waterman's Crab Cakes, their Crab Dip, and their She Crab Soup, though traces of She Crab in the soup were so few and far between it might easily have come from a canned or a frozen base. We had a passable salad there once. On a recent visit (for lunch on October 3, 2011) We did not enjoy their Crab Cake Sandwich or their French Fries -- the fries arrived tepid and a bit soggy, and the "crab cake" in the Crab Cake Sandwich was not up to the usual level of a Crab Cake at Waterman's. It appeared to be rather a small half round lump of crab meat and maybe even some "filling" that had been breaded and deep fried. So fuggedaboudt the Crab Cake Sandwich at Watermans -- would be my opinion.
What I would recommend at Waterman's Grill is a single Crab Cake (forget the fries -- ask for a vegetable or a small salad instead) -- coupled with a bowl of She Crab Soup. The Crab Cake can then be tumbled into the She Crab Soup and eaten very happily using the soup as a sauce. This ran over fifteen dollars, but at least I was happy with the meal.
My first questions would be: no bread? no crackers? is there nothing that the chef wants to show off in the amuse-gueule category? Not even on a slow night? Maybe they don't have a chef?
I don't remember seeing any exotic or at least interesting hot sauce on the table -- no Cholula, for example -- and it's worth noting that we haven't tried anything on the steak and ribs side of the menu. Maybe that's where Waterman's strength really lies? -- on the beef grill pork smoke side of the menu? They do a bang up business, however, the restrooms are reasonably clean, and the view of the beach was amusing.
Waterman's Fish Tacos, however, were terrible. Alas!
We ordered a Crab Dip and Fish Tacos with blackened tuna. The tacos themselves were wheat tacos, and they had not been warmed up on a grill. They were filled with unremarkable lumps of blackened tuna, some not cooked pink enough to suit Little Red. One chunk was way underdone. The slaw shreds inside the taco were unadorned and a bit stale. The weird black container of ranch dressing -- not very good ranch dressing at that! -- added nothing we could like, and the weird black container full of lackluster fresh salsa would inspire anyone to opine that you should: GET YOUR FISH TACOS SOMEWHERE ELSE.
I say: Send the Waterman's chef to Baja. Or San Diego. Or even to Taco Loco in Laguna Beach. Some research might be helpful. Or you might, alternatively, bump up the price to a point where you could put a much better than average fish taco on the menu-- with a few sides and decent salsas, maybe even some guacamole. After all, many of us fondly remember the fish tacos we have eaten on the West Coast. Wahoo's Fish Taco, for example -- you might go back to Wahoo's fairly often. But my opinion is you'll never order Fish Tacos a second time at Waterman's Surfside Grille.
My opinion is that a restaurant as busy as Waterman's can't really afford to serve any menu item that isn't at least in the pretty darn good category. Probably Waterman's will never manage to put a Shrimp Risotto on the menu -- that would require some real talent in the kitchen. Overall, I think Waterman's just an ordinary caliber steaks and chops and seafood restaurant with a great location, passable service and good valet parking.