Sunday, December 8, 2013

Whitey's Fish Camp Orange Park FL

Whitey's Fish Camp is exactly the kind of place I am always hoping to find. Locally owned, no frills, with homemade specialties worth driving for. Perched right on the water at Doctor's Lake the large gravel parking lot holds not just the restaurant but a bait and tackle shop, boat rental (and launches), RV spaces, campground and -- believe it or not -- a hair salon. I was in love before I ever walked in the door.
The area around Whitey's has grown up in recent years. I passed shopping malls and apartment buildings on my way, but perched on Whitey's deck watching the boats go by I reveled in the brief glimpse of old Florida culture. Cheerful waitresses not in any way svelte enough for their oddly tiki themed Whitey's tank tops pass by regular customers refilling beer glasses and exchanging friendly banter. College football flickers on a corner TV. The whole place feels vaguely like a waterside biker bar with families, fishermen, boaters, bikers and couples in corvettes as customers.
Whitey's specialty is catfish, wild caught from nearby waters. This isn't the muddled mild taste of farm raised catfish. Rolled in a sandy cornmeal crust and fried to a fragile crisp, the moist flesh (cooked whole on the bone) is rich and savory and perfumed with the flavor of local waters.
Down home cooking for locals and friends.

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