Bill O'Reilly would like the Backfin Restaurant. Keith Olbermann would not. I actually have no idea if either of these statements is true but I use the example to suggest that most people either love or hate this long time Williamsburg establishment. This assessment is partially based on internet reviews at Yahoo and TripAdvisor as well as informal interviews with area residents.
The Backfin is off the beaten path located on Ironbound Road making it primarily a local's haunt. It is fair to say that the restaurant has a large local following. At lunch, you will see contractors in their short-sleeved oxford shirts and kahki slacks. You also will see a number of older women with white hair who fill the tables in the early afternoon. Sports, especially William and Mary sports, seems to be the common denominator that draws much of the predominantly male, beer drinking cliental.
In spite of being miles from open water, the decor is nautically themed - a cross between Long-John Silvers and an Outer Banks tourist trap. There is even an outdoor deck to take advantage of the sea breeze generated by passing traffic. The well-worn bar suggests that many a sailor (golfer) makes it a regular spot of anchorage. The seemingly pleasant servers wear the beach restaurant uniform of brightly colored tee shirts (on sale at counter) and kahki shorts.
The menu boasts that it offers the best seafood in Williamsburg- a sentiment that must be shared by many. I have never had much luck in confirming this for myself among the many deep fried offerings that one could find at most college cafeterias. Even the signature (and award winning) crabcake seems devoid of the prerequisite lump backfin having instead a lot of claw meat and filler. Today, I tried the lunch 'special'-a backfin crab quesidilla to re-assess any previous biases. What showed up was a large flour torilla, filled with disappointing crab meat and melted cheedar cheese. Dollops of sour cream and 'salsa' a la Taco Bell came along to embellish the entree. I would like to report that the crunch that accompanied each bite was not bits of crab shell but I can't. I also tried the award winning seafood chowder in hopes of redeeming my experience. I found it to be a concoction of stewed tomatoes with bits of fish and/or crab and a lone shrimp.
It is possible that some of the broiled fish entrees have merit as well as the raw bar items. But my overall impression is that no matter what you choose, I would rate it as C food. But then again, Bill O'Reilly has over 3 million followers, so each to his own. Perhaps it was no coincidence that I saw Fox news playing on the TV over the bar when I left today.