Navigating Storms and Serving Love: The Journey of Halterman’s Eatery – Seafarers Family
In the heart of Manquin, Virginia, located in picturesque King William County, a culinary legacy was born—Halterman’s Eatery – Seafarers Family—formerly known as Seafarers Family Restaurant & Seafood Market. But this is no ordinary restaurant; it’s a tale of resilience, heart, and the power of a family united by a shared vision and their mother’s love.
We recently had the privilege of interviewing the restaurant's owner, Amber Halterman, and asked her to share Halterman’s story. Join us as we delve into this sweet family’s journey and learn more about their charming “hidden gem” of a restaurant that draws visitors from far and wide.
The Halterman’s Eatery story began with a dream and a determined father who envisioned a family legacy within the food industry. But dreams don’t come without challenges. Just as the restaurant’s journey was about to begin, adversity struck. An automobile accident left Amber relearning how to walk while raising three children. Jean Halterman, Amber’s mother, also affectionately known as Momma Seafarer, was a retired Henrico County school teacher and Amber’s caretaker while she recovered. In her spare moments, Jean helped Amber’s father, Steve, open Seafarers Family Restaurant & Seafood Market. Shortly after opening, Steve experienced emergency surgery due to a ruptured colon. “We were all so scared!” shared Amber. “Here my father had this new restaurant venture, and we were left to figure it out. I remember saying, ‘I don’t know how this is going to work but we have to do this; we can’t fail!’”
Why a seafood restaurant, we asked. “Dad grew up spending time at his father’s house on the Rappahannock River, which meant he truly knew seafood. In fact, we all did!” shared Amber. Couple the family’s knowledge about preparing seafood with Jean Halterman’s love of cooking, and the family restaurant was born. “I was raised on family dinners every night,” said Amber. “My momma believed in God and bacon grease. She served us good southern comfort food, and when she cooked, it was from her heart. Everything was from scratch.”
As the family patriarch was recovering from surgery, Momma Seafarer stepped in and led the way through the restaurant’s first year of business. “My momma was a woman of faith,” said Amber. “She went into prayer and said God would see us through. I remember that first year was rough. Not only did we have to learn how to run a restaurant, but how to work and live with family while dealing with the stress of the business. There were many days where we did not have any customers and I questioned if we were going to make it. My momma was always so positive and kept us hanging in there. We never quit…we persevered and kept pushing forward.” And it was that determination and faith that kept customers coming back, not only to enjoy a delicious meal, but to offer support and encouragement to a family they had grown to love.
After the first couple of years, Seafarer’s began to thrive. According to their customers, what set the restaurant apart was the family’s love for their guests, resilient spirit, unwavering faith, and dedication to serving from the heart. Southern comfort food, prepared with love, became their signature. The years brought recognition and accolades, including a feature in Southern Living Magazine and being named as one of Virginia’s “Best Seafood Restaurants” by Richmond Magazine and Style Weekly, among several other nominations and awards. “I remember our first full house,” said Amber. “I was shocked and so emotional that I had to take a moment away to walk and get myself together. We were actually doing it! People loved our food and grew to love us. That feeling was indescribable.”
In 2019, a televised renovation opportunity came knocking via email, promising to elevate Seafarers to new heights. At the time, this was a welcomed chance for improvements to the restaurant. The family operation had begun to struggle a bit. Amber shared, “It’s not always easy working with family members. Some of our customers could sense the strife, and we felt this opportunity could bring positivity back to the restaurant.” The initial email turned into a long phone conversation, which then turned into a physical meeting that led to Seafarers being chosen for 24 Hours to Hell and Back with Gordon Ramsay. “All I could think was that they were going to help us! I was told to be truthful, to share our story from our hearts, and in return, we’d have our kitchen completely renovated. I was naïve, as everything comes with a price,” said Amber. “Many changes took place thanks to our episode...some great and some not-so-great. We took what we learned in a very short period and rebranded ourselves. We put EVERYTHING into our quality and technique.” Logan, the restaurant’s head chef and Amber’s son, experienced a newfound boost in confidence thanks to his time with Chef Gordon Ramsay.
When the Halterman’s episode aired, many of the restaurant’s longtime guests loved the new look and menu and fully embraced the changes, but many did not, and the restaurant unfortunately lost numerous customers. “We pressed on and tried to stay positive,” said Amber. As the restaurant began to find its new stride, fate delivered another blow—the global pandemic. The darkness of uncertainty loomed, but the family’s faith remained unshaken. And then, in the midst of it all, a devastating loss—their matriarch, their “guiding light,” Jean Halterman, passed away due to Covid pneumonia. “We were so lost…we had to close the restaurant,” shared Amber. “My momma was truly our anchor, our calm in the storms…the sweetest most selfless godly woman and Nanny to so many was gone. We felt like our world was collapsing.” But, through all the grieving and darkness, the family found light. They channeled Jean’s love and strength and kept moving forward. Quitting was not an option, and the family wanted to make Momma Seafarer proud. “Through the tears, we cooked, we served, we persevered, and we did what Nanny would do—we kept the faith!”
Our next question for Amber, although we were quickly beginning to understand the answer, was “What makes Halterman’s so special?” “Heart, a whole lot of love, faith, and southern hospitality! We want you to feel like you stepped into momma’s kitchen. We want to know you, and for you to know us. We want you to feel welcome the moment you step in the door, and we want our guests to think of only happiness when they eat our food,” said Amber. “And speaking of our food, we’re asked all the time what our guests’ favorites are. I always tell people there are too many to list! Our most popular item is our fish and chips...lightly battered, seasoned, white flaky fish served with our hand cut fries or a fixin’ of your choice. Our most loved appetizers are our house crab dip and homemade hushpuppies. And our seafood combo platter, well, we’ve been told it’s the best around! Logan’s she crab soup is our own recipe and requested all the time, and our guests LOVE our Chesapeake rockfish.”
As we were quickly learning during the interview, family is truly at the core of Halterman’s—whether guests who have become family, or the Halterman family itself. “Most of us have been here from the start, through it all. We’ve grown together,” said Amber. “My children, my legacy, are the heart of this restaurant.” Kali is Halterman’s friendly front of house server, and momma to Amber’s beautiful granddaughter, Aubriella, also known as Amber’s “Biscuits.” Kali has many regulars who adore her and is one of the most down-to-earth people you’ll meet. “You’ll usually see her chatting with guests or even singing to them!” Kali is a multi-tasker, creates the restaurant’s menus, and is very organized. Amber shared, “Kali definitely keeps me on my toes!” Logan, the restaurant’s head chef, Amber’s son, and father to her handsome grandson, Jack (“JackJack” to Amber), is known as the “beast” on the line. “He’s exceptional and very efficient,” said Amber. “He has skills and finesse and can create delicious, featured specials in a matter of minutes. Our guests love to stop at the window to give him a tip, a high five, and let him know how much they enjoyed their meal. In fact, he’s received many standing ovations over the years!” Logan created the restaurant’s Sunday brunch, and according to guest reviews, he makes a “mean plate of biscuits and gravy.” “My son Elijah does not work with us, but he’s a big fan of his brother and sister and visits often to enjoy the famous ‘Logan burger’ and she crab soup. He recently graduated and loves to participate in RAIN (Richmond Autism Integration Network). He’s so proud of his family, and we are so proud of him and all he’s accomplished!”
And finally, we can’t conclude this article without mentioning Halterman’s guests and the community it calls home. Amber shared, “We have served many, including famous names like Gordon Ramsey, Chef Rock Harper, and Artimus Pyle from Lynyrd Skynyrd, but our most treasured guests are our many regulars, who have become friends and family and have shown kindness through storms our family will never forget. The Visit West Point & King William tourism is making a difference—we are welcoming new guests every day who are traveling from around the state to try different places off the beaten path…a hidden gem as we’ve been called many times.” Amber goes on to share how much she and her family love the King William community, a community that continues to embrace and support the restaurant. “We do not know what the future holds for our little family restaurant that will ALWAYS be Seafarers to us, but we do know we are my mother’s legacy, and we will continue to keep the faith along our journey while making my momma proud by showing Momma Seafarer’s light, love, kindness, and serving delicious food!”
“To all who have joined us over the years for a meal, we sincerely thank you for your support, encouragement, and love. Our guests, this community—you are our lifeline, and we are blessed to be here serving you all delicious southern comfort food from our hearts.” -Amber Halterman and the Halterman’s Eatery family
Make sure you save the dates for West Point & King William's Restaurant Week - January 15th through 21st, 2024! Our friends at Halterman's will be serving up a special menu: visitwestpointkingwilliam.com/restaurantweek