There are people who don’t want me to write this article. They like to protect their secrets, especially when those secrets involve arguably the best seafood in Charlotte, and even more so when spilling the secret could lengthen the lines.
But you deserve to know.
In January, Jamie Walker came to Charlotte from Savannah, Ga., and he brought Seafood Connection with him. Seafood Connection specializes in low country boil, with Walker’s own twist. Ask him about the seasoning blend, which he creates from a “combination of stuff” that he likes, and he’ll smile and say: “It’s just seasoning.”
I got the chance to watch him make the seafood salad. I didn’t have to sign a non-disclosure agreement, but it was implied. As he folded ingredients into a huge bowl he looked up and said, “Nobody ever watches me make this.”
He learned to cook from his cousin, who runs David’s Crab House in Savannah. In July of 2015, Walker started Seafood Connection in Savannah, and then moved it here in January so that it could expand in a larger market. To say that it’s popular would be an understatement.
He gets two shipments of seafood a week from Savannah and then, with the help of three others, cooks it all in the kitchen of New Shiloh Baptist Church, at 2600 Elmin St., off of West Boulevard. There are no specific days of the week that he cooks, but he announces it on the Seafood Connection Charlotte Facebook group, which has more than 20,000 members. The Seafood Connection Instagram account has another 10,400 followers.
When he announces a “pull up” (it’s called that because people pull up into the parking lot) the crowds show up. He starts taking orders at 1 or 2 p.m. (watch the Facebook group for specifics) and keeps serving until around 6 p.m. or until they’ve sold out.
As soon as word is out, the posts start flying on the Facebook group. Someone’s coming in from Rock Hill. Someone wants to know if they’ll have deviled crab today. You can bet that someone’s afternoon plans just changed.
“Every day that we work, people leave their jobs early,” Walker said. “It’s serious. I didn’t know it was going to be this serious but it’s serious.”
The line to order, and the wait to get your plate, can be long. The best bet, Walker tells me, is to come early, right when they’re about to start taking orders. He serves more than 1,500 customers each week and goes through 1,800 pounds of crab legs.
You can bring your plate home or back to work, but lots of people eat it in their cars, right in the parking lot. If that’s your plan, bring a towel, because napkins don’t cut it. And don’t wear a shirt that you care about.
Seafood Connection is known most for tender, flavorful crab legs that slide out of their shells with ease, and for seafood salad. You might have had seafood salad before. Maybe it was somewhat bland and you ate it on a croissant. This is different. I’m not at liberty to divulge any of the seasonings but I can say it’s filled with big pieces of crab and shrimp. I’m pretty sure I spied some hard-boiled eggs in it. Most importantly, though, it’s got a kick and it’s addictive.
The low country boil includes shrimp, potatoes, corn and sausage, as well as crab legs if you get the combo plate. He sometimes serves up lobster and deviled crabs, as well as alligator sausage (alligator meat blended with pork) and conch — not items found on the typical Charlotte restaurant menu.
Walker has no immediate plans to open a restaurant, but is hoping to get a couple of food trucks going soon. For now keep your eye on the Facebook group, and pull up early. Cash only.
Photos: Jody Mace