Friday, December 28, 2012

Owen's Fish Camp: A Taste of Old Florida

Nestled in an old 1923 cottage, under an imposing banyan tree in the eclectic Burns Court corner of downtown Sarasota, is Owen’s Fish Camp, named for Sarasota real estate magnate and avid fisherman, Owen Burns. The restaurant looks like an early 1900's fish camp, and the vibe is decidedly 'trendy bayou,' serving a wide variety of southern-style culinary offerings such as traditional fried baskets of oysters and shrimp, soft shell crab, Po' Boys and low country boil with crab legs, shrimp, mussels, clams, andouille sausage, potatoes and corn. Owen's also offers a selection of entrées including steamed mussels, cornmeal crusted catfish and steak frites. 

Owen's Fish Camp Bar

Busy and bustling, the bar was where to be, and be seen

No fish camp is complete without the requisite 'catch' of the day

They also serve salads, soups and sandwiches. Waiting for a table at Owen’s is one of the more pleasurable aspects of the restaurant. Those who choose to stand for a drink while waiting for a table, will find a light-hearted wine list with selections designated as 'Good', 'Decent', or 'Cheap', and a solid beer and respectable cocktail list. After two rounds of drinks, 45 minutes later, we were seated in one of the restaurant’s front room, oars, buoys and large fishies hanging overhead. 

Specials are highlighted on various chalkboards throughout the restaurant

Owen's Fish Camp Special Brew

Owen's Sparkling Cava - yum!

Owen's Fish Camp wine served in a 'stubby'

Owen's Fish Camp placemat menu

Old-fashioned condiments dressed the table, and the menu was appropriately, a paper placemat, with offerings inspired by classic southern seafood, from Murph's Bloody Mary Oyster Shooters and a mason jar of Smoked Fish Spread with saltines to whet our appetite. The shooters, marinated in Sake, were memorable and well worth the $5 price tag for two small shot glasses with horseradish spiked tomato juice and a plump oyster nestled in the bottom. One heavenly slurp and you're smitten. The Fish Spread is just the same — yum!

Smoked Fish Spread appetizer 'Jar' with Saltine crackers

Murph's Famous Bloody Mary Oyster Shooters - $5 for 2 - and well worth it!

The starters were also delicious, and almost the best part of the meal. The cornmeal-crusted FGTs — Fried Green Tomatoes — were served over arugula and romaine with warm goat cheese and crisped country ham, cucumber, red onion, and an herb-buttermilk dressing — light, refreshing and impossible to resist, this was absolutly delicious. The creamy New England Clam Chowder with applewood bacon was also noteworthy, with a luscious texture chock full of clams, as well as the dozen Texas Oysters served with lemon wedges, cocktail sauce and tangy mignonette sauce.

Fried Green Tomato Salad with goat cheese and country ham

 One dozen Texas oysters with lemon wedges, cocktail and mignonette sauce for $14

Thick and creamy New England Clam Chowder with Applewood Bacon

Our entrées included Naked Blackened Mahi Mahi with Owen's succotash and shoestring fries, Cornmeal Crusted Catfish with spicy local collard greens, bacon and 'My Way or the Highway' cheesy grits, Pasta Jambalaya with crawfish, shrimp, chicken and andouille sausage and the heartedly endorsed speciality of the house, by our enigmatic server Terri — the outstanding Seared Scallops with braised pork and owen's succotash — hands down the best dish on the menu, although each and every dish on the menu looked great.

Naked Fish - Blackened Mahi Mahi with green tomato salsa, 
Owen's succotash and shoestring fries

Cornmeal Crusted Catfish with spicy local collard greens, bacon 
and 'My Way or the Highway' cheesey grits

Seared Scallops with braised pork and Owen's succotash

Pasta Jambalaya with crawfish, shrimp, chicken and andouille sausage

Our effervescent and ebulliant server Terri, our culinary conduit to what were 
the most tasty offerings on the Owen Fish Camp menu

Owned by the Caragiulio Brother’s, of Italian restaurant fame in Sarasota, Mark Caragiulio, chef and co-owner of Owen's Fish Camp and the newly opened 'Shore' in St Armands Circle, unfortunately declined my request to photograph him in his kitchen at Owen's Fish Camp. I can only deduce that they're doing such a stupendous trade, he'd no time to indulge a small request from a fellow foodie. Well, maybe next time...and there will be a next time!

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