Oysters at Lucky's Last Chance General Sore in Chance, Maryland
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Two weeks ago I was invited by the owners of Lucky's Last Chance General Store in Chance, Maryland to enjoy some of their fresh oysters. When I say fresh oysters, I mean really fresh, as in right out the bay and shucked on the spot by waterman who caught them just a few hours earlier.
Every Wednesday night around 6 p.m., owners Margaret and Jeff Wilson, originally from Maine, offer up the Eastern Shore delicacies in their restaurant, Paradise Grille, located in the rear of the neatly organized and well stocked convenience store. If you like oysters, you can enjoy them right out of the shell, fried, or order up a oyster pizza or a tray of Oysters Rockefeller made with freshly cut spinach.
Diners enjoy the eclectic decorations that adorn the walls and mobiles that sway gently from the ceiling whenever the door is opened and a good breeze wafts in the smells of the bay. Jeff Wilson is quite a folk artist, making fish and mobiles from driftwood scavenged from around the area. During my visit Jeff was picking through a truckload of metal on its way for recycling. His prize, a motor of some sort that he will soon turn into art. Margaret also contributes to the artistic motif of the restaurant with her own kind of specialty art.
There are treasures to be found in both food and art, but the true gems are found in the people themselves - hardworking people, many of them whose roots go back to as far as when the first waterman launched their skipjacks and crabbing boats on the Chesapeake. At Lucky's, retiree's with vacation homes rub elbows with waterman and colorful locals joke with each other, talking about life on Chance and Deal Island - who died, who got married, the weather, and general but oh-so-important waterman talk, always interesting to travelers who enjoy history and genuine down-to-earth good people. Lucky's truly takes on an atmosphere of its own where the past meets the future.
I know a lot of people on Chance and Deal Island, and like Crisfielders, they love company. When you are enjoying oysters with the people of Chance and Deal Island and sipping on a beer all seems right with the world. Not a beer drinker? Soft-drinks are always on hand. Religion came to the area with the pioneers and waterman, and is still an important part of the daily lives of many residents. Captain Art "Daddy" Daniels, age 90, whose oldest grandson you will see shucking the oysters, still oysters today, signing hymns as he captains his skipjack on the Chesapeake Bay.
Charles Showard who was snacking on a plate of meat and potatoes with gravy while waiting for the arrival of oysters said of the waterman and the owners, "They are a cut above - they are something else - the best bunch of people you'd ever meet." I agree. Our Eastern Shore waterman are all a, "cut above."
Other regulars regaled me with stories about their daily trips to Lucky's for pizza, crab cakes, soft-shelled crabs, and old-fashioned camaraderie, a ghost of the past of the fifties when people were in no hurry and sittin'-a-spell with friends either before the days work began or after it ended was routine. Arriving early, two men played an arm-wrestling game for my entertainment and one comical regular showed me his muscles (you will see him in one of the black and white photos). Shoppers in the convenience store casually talked and joked, - there is always time to talk in small towns. One man proudly introduced me to his dog Peanut who was tucked away safely into his jacket.
During the evening I inquired if anyone played the banjo and was promptly given a little Deal Island/Chance 'schoolin,' "we don't play the banjo around here," but someone quickly made a phone call looking for one resident who played the guitar. He was out of the area but a local proceeded to try his hand at playing the spoons for me.
If you are looking for a unique experience head to Lucky's. You don't have to wait until Wednesday unless you want to grab some of those freshly shucked oysters. After your visit, take a drive to Deal Island and Wenona. And while in the area, won't you visit us in Crisfield. Make a weekend out of your trip. You'll be gad you came, and we will too.
Call ahead for oysters or crabs if you are driving from out of the area - 410.784.2722 - weather, season, and supply dictate the special Wednesday offerings. Right now, oysters are in season, so get them while you can. Margaret also offers fresh crabs from the bay during crabbing season. The store offers a variety of items for both travelers and locals. Parking for the Paradise Grille is in the rear.
Please note that oysters will not be served on March, Wednesday 16, 2011. Instead, they will be served on St. Patrick's Day, March 17. Can I have green beer with my oysters?
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Margaret is shown in this photo receiving a grant check from Joanna Peak of the Somerset County Arts Council located in Crisfield. Watch for some colors, soon to be appearing on the work-boat shown rear left.