Shiptown: Seafood Done the Right Way
Jon Affolter Jr.
Steve Marsh is a young, talented and outright unique chef. Above all else, Marsh is a restaurateur. He has already seen what success looks like with his first restaurant, LeGrand Kitchen, only two blocks up the street from his newest addition to the Norfolk food scene, Shiptown.
Shiptown is a high-end seafood restaurant and not one of those typical seafood places that pretend to be something they are not. Shiptown is not like restaurants that masquerade around with a chic facade, claiming overpriced frozen marine life as the fresh catch of the day.
No, Chef Marsh is providing the freshest, and most relevant to what is in season, food for seafood enthusiasts.
His oysters are delivered to him daily, only three to five hours after they are removed from the waters. One great aspect Marsh mentioned is how his supplier will come back to collect unused oysters and supply him with fresh ones.
When it comes to business operations, it’s important for Marsh to have relationships with local farm, wine and oyster purveyors. He likes to support local business owners, the people that he interacts with and that reciprocate his support. This type of mentality is a positive practice and helps reduce the size of his restaurant’s environmental impact while, in the same motion, supporting the local economy.
Understanding Marsh’s vibe and influences which have helped shape him into the businessman he is today is a whole other story in itself. Marsh’s restaurant Shiptown, named after a 1970s record label, is not exactly a polished restaurant. This unpolished feel is in relation to the less radio-friendly Shiptown Records, and is the idea behind the workings of his new restaurant, an unpolished, DIY and rock ‘n’ roll mannered establishment.
Despite Shiptown’s general theme, Marsh comments on how he sets up its ambiance by saying, “there’s no specific formula.” He plays music ranging from ’60s garage rock songs covered by Spanish-speaking bands, reggae, ’70s punk and old country. In the same way his Spotify playlists constantly evolve, Marsh’s food does, too.
The quality of fresh seafood being whisked out of the kitchen at Shiptown is uplifting and surprisingly healthy. There’s no fryer to be found. Marsh believes fresh seafood is best appreciated when grilled, sautéed or raw. “I can tell you where all my ingredients come from,” Marsh said, noting how that is a rare quality that most restaurants do not possess.
When you step inside Shiptown, the décor is minimalistic: high ceilings, a lot of metal and contrasting standard wooden seating, a bright, welcoming bar and an open kitchen. In the words of Mr. Marsh, “Customers coming to Shiptown expecting a well-polished restaurant with a twilight ambiance aren’t going to find it.”
Marsh is the sole owner of his restaurants. He prides himself with the “Norfolk DIY attitude” and a kind of roll-with-the-punches type of service. Patrons shouldn’t let his free-spirited vibe fool them into deciding anything about Shiptown except how soon they choose to pay a visit.
Recommended menu selections: The “Tuna Salad Roll” starter, the “Arctic Char Crudo” and “Oysters on the Half Shell” appetizers and the “Sea Scallops” or “Linguini & Clams” entrees.
Shiptown is located at 4314 Colley Ave. in Norfolk.