James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

Honestly, You Can Stuff Crab Into Anything and It Tastes Pretty Good

Honestly, You Can Stuff Crab Into Anything and It Tastes Pretty Good

Omelet in Virginia

I may have come to Urbanna, Virginia for oysters, but I started off one morning with a crab-meat omelet.

During the first weekend of November, this small town about an hour from Richmond puts on a two-day oyster festival attracting visitors seeking their fill of the state’s bivalve. Yet on this particular morning, I and many others in Urbanna started off the day at Something Different, a family-owned restaurant.

Run by Sarah Gill Kimble, with her husband, Anthony Kimble, the restaurant was packed with probably an even mix of out-of-towners and locals. Once a country store, you can see remnants of the building’s past life, such as a spacious area and a patterned ceiling.

Of course, the Kimbles have added their own touches. I spot coffee bean sacks hung up on a side wall as art, a nod to the couple’s every edible offering being prepared in house, from roasting coffee beans to smoking meats. They also bake bread on the premises, thanks to an employee who was raised in a family bakery in Louisiana and taught Sarah and her staff.

This hands-on, communal approach also applies to Urbanna. In a shoreline region of Virginia known as the River Realm, surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay, Urbanna dates back to when Virginia was still part of the original thirteen colonies.

Nowadays, Urbanna remains a place of community. Grown children who moved away return either to take care of their parents or become ones themselves. Or people might come back to start over (as Sarah did in moving back here in 1999) later in life.

The people of Urbanna have also been influential in inspiring meal orders at Something Different. One of them is their crab-meat omelet. The restaurant served crab cakes based on Sarah’s grandmother’s recipe. Then one day, a customer asked Sarah if she could make an omelet with a crab-cake filling. Sarah obliged.

“So, whenever she came in—that is what she always ordered—we decided to throw a little of our country ham in there for an extra element,” Sarah explained. “After other customers discovered her creation, they, too, would order it. So, it ended up making it to the menu during the next [printing].”

Sarah greeted my table with an order of this omelet along with beignets. The omelet was perfectly folded; it seemed to resemble a crab’s shell. I used my knife and fork with careful precision in carving into this eggy trio of cheese, ham, and crab meat.

Besides inspiring dishes, Urbanna connects to Something Different in other ways. A community Thanksgiving meal is held for those who might not be able to provide one for their family or have a place to go. There is no cost to attend; most of what’s served is provided through customer donations.

Then there’s the Urbanna Oyster Festival. During that time in November, the restaurant morphs into a bar for two days with live music. And this omelet will among the menu choices, I’m sure.

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