On a recent sunny Saturday afternoon, I traveled with my parents and a friend to Kingsport.
Our destination was the Riverfront Seafood Company on the banks of the Holston River along Netherland Inn Road. We were there for two reasons. First, we intended to enjoy a seafood meal. Second, I wanted to give my parents the opportunity to see an out-of-range duck that has been residing on the river behind the restaurant since January.
Once we arrived, we scanned the river with binoculars and quickly located the Harlequin Duck. The female duck has been dubbed “Harley” by local birdwatchers. This duck’s nesting habitat is cold, fast-moving streams in the northwestern and northeastern parts of North America, as well as Greenland, Iceland and western Russia.
For this particular Harlequin Duck to now be spending its third month in Kingsport is not typical of this species. Only one other Harlequin Duck — a male observed in 2000 near Holston Dam in Bristol — has been found in the region.
After we all enjoyed good looks at this rare bird, we made our way into the restaurant to celebrate the occasion.
The history of the establishment dates back to 1991 when Wayne and Angie Michelli, and their daughter, Ashley, opened a seafood market, deli and bait shop along the Holston River in Kingsport. The family opened Riverfront Seafood Company in 2002 at its current location on Netherland Inn Road.
With warmer weather, many diners will probably choose to enjoy their meals on a deck overlooking the Holston River. We dined inside the restaurant, but near the large, spacious windows offering scenic views of the river. The remainder of the restaurant’s decor consists of various maritime and nautical accents. Seating is available at tables in several divided dining rooms.
The listing of possible meal-starters looked too tempting to pass up. A sampling of our options included New Orleans BBQ Shrimp Pizza, Thai Chili Shrimp, Fried Pickles, Onion Rings, Peel-and-Eat Shrimp, Crab Cakes, Buffalo Oysters, Smoked Salmon Spread and Shrimp Cocktail.
We chose to share the Smoked Salmon Spread, which was served with flatbread and crackers. The creamy, smoky-flavored spread tasted great on the flatbread. Divided among the members of our dining party, this spread was also quite enjoyable without being too filling.
Once we finished the flavorful Smoked Salmon Spread, we focused on choosing our entrees. Selections include appetizers, soups and salads, steaks, stuffed seafood, crab legs and Maine lobster, as well as a variety of grilled and fried seafood favorites.
The fresh catches which were spotlighted on the restaurant’s daily specials included Gulf Grouper, Atlantic Flounder, New Zealand Orange Roughy and Trout Almandine. Other daily specials included Shrimp Creole and Fish Tacos.
The restaurant also offers platters of fried seafood, including Jumbo Gulf Shrimp, Popcorn Shrimp, Fresh Gulf Oysters, Farm-raised Fried Catfish, Sea Scallops, Clam Strips, Crab Cakes and Alaskan Whitefish.
Other tempting entrees included the Coconut Shrimp with Orange Marmalade Sauce, the Captain’s Platter — featuring Oysters, Jumbo Shrimp, Whitefish, Sea Scallops and Clams, and the Louisiana Tilapia with Crabmeat Reduction Sauce.
I chose the Stuffed Tilapia as my main course, although I considered such entrees as Shrimp Scampi and the Riverfront Combo Platter, which features both Popcorn Shrimp and Whitefish. The Swordfish Sandwich was also tempting.
My friend chose the Orange Roughy. All the “Fresh Catch” selections can be prepared with a variety of seasonings, including Lemon Herb, Cajun, Herbes de Provence and Ginger Teriyaki Seasoning. Grilled selections can also be blackened for a slight extra charge. My friend chose to have the Orange Roughy filet prepared with Herbes de Provence, a traditional herb mix combining herbs commonly used in the Provence region of France, which typically contains rosemary, savory, fennel, basil, thyme, lavender leaves and other herbs.
My mother and father ordered the Fried Popcorn Shrimp and Captain’s Platter, respectively.
An equally wide range of sides dishes are available to accompany most of the meals, including Fried Corn On The Cob, Cole Slaw, Steamed Broccoli, French Fries, Macaroni and Cheese, Wild Rice, Pasta Alfredo, Baked Potato, Pasta Marinara and Loaded Baked Potato.
My meal came with the addition of a choice of Soup of the Day, Gumbo or Salad and Baguettes. I chose the Gumbo, which arrived ahead of the rest of the meal. I enjoyed the zesty Gumbo, which consisted of a tomato base filled with sausage, corn and other tidbits.
My parents got salads with their meals. The salads consisted of mixed greens, shaved carrots, red onion, cucumber slices and shredded cheese.
Each meal was also served with a cornbread muffin baked in the shape of a fish.
I immensely enjoyed the Stuffed Tilapia. This mild fish was stuffed with Riverfront’s own tasty Crabmeat and Shrimp Stuffing. This dish was also served with toasted baguettes.
My friend liked his firm and flaky Orange Roughy, including the subtle seasoning of Herbes de Provence. He also enjoyed the rich and flavorful Pasta Alfredo as his side dish with the fish.
My parents also liked their fried seafood. Both ended up taking some of their food home to enjoy later.
If at all possible, make sure to save room for one of the restaurant’s fantastic desserts, including Bill’s Blackberry Cake, Key Lime Pie, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Bread Pudding.
My friend and I, along with my dad, chose to share the Bread Pudding. This moist, rich dessert was enhanced by a buttery, rum-caramel sauce. Shared among three diners, we made short work of this delectable treat.
I enjoyed one other aspect of the meal. Beverages — coffee, soft drinks and tea — are complimentary with any meal. In addition, diners can switch their beverage for the dessert course with no extra cost.
The next time you are in mind for some fresh seafood, I recommend a visit to Riverfront Seafood Company.
Incidentally, Harley the Harlequin Duck is still lingering on the river behind the restaurant. She may get the urge to fly north any day. So, if you’d like to see her, you may want to plan a trip to Riverfront Seafood Company as soon as possible.
AT A GLANCE: Riverfront Seafood Company, 1777 Netherland Inn Road, Kingsport. 245-3474. Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Hours expand during the warmer months. Entrees range from $8-$26.99. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available. Full service bar available.