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Awful Arthur's satisfies city's demand for seafood

Nestled within the rural landscapes of central Virginia, Charlottesville boasts inspiring buildings, scenic drives, an outstanding University and fascinating history. But what this town inarguably lacks is an ocean. And when an ocean is missing, usually so is the seafood.

Enter Awful Arthur's Seafood Company, located at 333 Main Street. With its cozy atmosphere and extensive menu, the restaurant does something few other local eateries do: It appeals to both the seafood enthusiast and land lover.

Although the portions at Awful Arthur's may seem rather meager for its lofty prices, its quality is excellent.

While restaurants in the coastal region probably would surpass Awful Arthur's culinary quality, the eatery fills a void in Charlottesville's local dining scene.

Awful Arthur's provides a wide enough variety of appetizers to please even the most finicky palate.

The stuffed mushrooms appetizer ($5.95) arrives at the table promptly, but the meager portion is slightly disappointing. The dish includes only four small mushrooms, all stuffed generously with crabmeat, ham, cream cheese and roasted walnuts, then covered in mornay sauce. Despite the sauce's slightly oily appearance, the dish's contents disappear within minutes.

Among entrees, pasta dishes and sandwiches, there is clearly enough variety to satisfy seafood lovers and turf lovers. The fried oysters ($11.95) and seafood jambalaya ($11.95) are popular among seafood enthusiasts. Those less seafood-inclined will enjoy the stuffed breast of chicken ($12.95) and the "awful burger" ($4.95).

Also available are seafood staples such as raw or steamed oysters and clams, and steamed crawfish and shrimp, all of which may be ordered in larger quantities.

The house salad looks standard with its garnish of tomato onions, carrots and cucumbers, but with its red wine vinaigrette it is the perfect beginning to a meal.

The "awful platter" ($13.95) provides slightly diminutive portions of crabcake, shrimp, potatoes, vegetables and hushpuppies.

The crabcake is a near-perfect blend of ingredients. Not too greasy, but a little heavy on the mayonnaise, it is one of the best items of the meal.

The broiled shrimp is also a tasty treat. Although the portion only includes six average-sized shrimp, Awful Arthur's homemade cocktail sauce provides a perfect amount of kick.

The vegetable medley comes with all entrees and includes carrots, zucchini, squash and snow peas. At times, the vegetables are a bit wilted, but the optimal amount of oregano makes this side anything but bland.

Finally, the hushpuppies - crispy on the outside but soft and warm on the inside, are delicious both on their own and dipped in the white crabcake sauce.

The dessert menu at Awful Arthur's is nowhere as extensive as the rest of the menu, but includes standard fare such as ice cream, sherbet ($1.95) and chocolate mousse pie ($3.95).

In addition to offering a large variety of entrees, Awful Arthur's provides the perfect hang out. A cheerful fire in the old, brick fireplace adds to the bar area and game room's warm atmosphere. On Saturdays, the restaurant even boasts a band in one of its upper dining rooms.

With colorful fish-shaped wind-catchers hanging from the ceiling, the relaxed dining atmosphere, prompt and enthusiastic service and its extensive menu, Awful Arthur's certainly doesn't live up to its name.

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