Roanoke has a lot to offer in the way of Mexican, Chinese and American fare. Their associated ethnic groups often own these establishments. In larger metropolitan areas such as Washington and Baltimore, this usually is not the case. You might find a Chinese food restaurant owned by people of Hispanic descent or “typical” American food owned by Pakistanis. This is what came to mind when walking into Vietnamese-owned Peter’s Seafood located in Market Square North at the corner of Peters Creek and Williamson Roads in Roanoke County. Owner Jodie Nguyen recently has taken ownership of the restaurant that has been open for several years in Roanoke County.
Nguyen, who moved from Texas to Roanoke in 2000, always has loved food and says this is the main reason she entered the restaurant industry. She especially enjoys seafood, so when the opportunity arose to own Peter’s, she took the bait. The small restaurant is family-owned and operated, and that was evident on the day I visited. Nguyen’s daughter was at the counter taking orders. The seafood is fresh, brought in weekly from Newport News, Portsmouth and occasionally Louisiana.
The restaurant is small, but that by no means reflects on portion sizes. There are a few tables for dine-in guests. A hanging dry erase board shows the daily lunch and dinner specials, and a placard was in place on the day I was there announcing Virginia Blue Crabs available.
Nguyen says the restaurant is busy all points of the day and especially during the weekends. Fried fish is popular, after all who doesn’t enjoy fried fish? You also may order seafood broiled or grilled for an additional fee. This comes in handy when you are counting calories or feeling guilty about the hushpuppies and fries you order as a side.
The hushpuppies at Peter’s are traditional style, round and very dense. They also are flavorful and everyone knows you cannot have fish without the requisite side of hushpuppies.
Here is a little known fact about the origin of hush puppies. The name hush puppy originated with hunters and fishermen who would fry up some of the batter, usually cornmeal, they used to coat their own food. They would then feed that to the dogs to “hush the puppies” during meals or fish fries.
The menu at Peter’s is full of combination platters that come with two sides. A variety of fish is available to order including tilapia, whiting, croaker and catfish. Also on the menu are shrimp, scallops, oysters and crawfish, when in season.
Kirk, my normal dining partner, chose the tilapia meal with sides of fried okra and broccoli. An array of sauces are available. We order to go. When we get home, Kirk removes his desired food from the Styrofoam containers. The two cornmeal fried tilapia filets are large and still hot. The fish is flaky and crisp, the batter well seasoned, and happily, he finds no bones. His fried okra is prepared just right – crisp and hot. The broccoli is a bit overcooked, but Kirk still finds it satisfying. My meal of whiting comes with two large filets. I opt for the hushpuppies and green beans as sides. The whiting is fried in a cornmeal batter, and contains a few bones. The green beans are a little buttery and contain bits of chopped onion.
On a random Thursday, I chose to pick up a Fried Shrimp Platter meal just for myself. The platter comes with eight fried shrimp and two sides. I chose fried rice and hush puppies. Again, the food was still hot when I arrive home. That provides additional confirmation the food is cooked fresh to order. The shrimp, large and lightly battered, are crisp and there is just enough batter to give the shrimp an enjoyable texture. The rice is buttery in flavor and missing, to my delight, the traditional cooked peas and carrots. Instead, the rice contains fried onion and egg, which add a semi-sweetness to this side dish.
Soft crabs are available when in season. I am not a fan of this crustacean and don’t understand the appeal. In my mind, a shell is not meant to be eaten, so it brings to mind the KFC commercials showing actors proclaiming, “I ate the bones!”
On many occasions, we have bought a pound or two of fried Whiting or Tilapia, which is priced accordingly. Fresh fish to take home to cook is available for purchase. If you are ordering a large quantify for a fish fry, a special order might be required. If it’s a fish fry you’re having, please feel free to invite me and I will bring the malt vinegar!
If you want to enjoy a taste of the sea at a low price, head over to 7232 Williamson Road in Roanoke. The menu is listed on their website, making it easy to select your meal and to call ahead. The number is 540.366.7585 for takeout during business hours, Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Peter’s is a great place for seafood, and locally owned. Let the record show that I have no issues with a chain restaurant – they have their place in this economy. However, when the option avails itself to eat fresh seafood that is delicious and at the same time you can support a fellow member of your community, Peter’s is the place to go.