Details. . . Details. . . Details. . .
I’ve heard it said more than once, that it’s the small details a businesses overlooks that will sink any endeavor. Fortunately, covering the details isn’t an issue for the team at Owen’s Fish Camp. They don’t miss a beat, from the exterior landscaping, decor, clever menu, delicious food and charming atmosphere — which results in a steady stream of customers who are often willing to wait an hour or more for a table. It’s that good!
Owen’s Fish Camp is the creation of our dear friends at Caragiulo’s, easily one of Sarasota’s most successful family of restaurateurs. Located in a wonderfully decorated 1923s cottage, Owen’s Fish Camp sits under the shade of a majestic banyan tree, right next door to the Burns Court Theater. The area is known for its eclectic cottages, some are residential, others are commercial, and it’s just a block behind Pineapple Avenue. Charming is a good word for the Burns Square area.
So when my sister, Judy, and her two girls were visiting from Minneapolis, the eldest daughter Michelle, wanted to go our for seafood before she left town, and we just knew Owen’s Fish Camp would be right up their alley. It has an old Florida flair that appeals to all ages.
When we arrived, and heard the wait would be 45 minutes for a table of five, we decided to order a few drinks from the bar, and a few appetizers during the wait. I was pleased to see that Owen’s has opened up their back porch and yard for additional seating, and just loved the smell of the fire pit wafting through the air.
Do you remember the first time you ever tasted an oyster? This would be niece Robyn’s first time, and her mom had to strong arm her into trying. Guess which daughter is Robyn in this photo. . .
Luckily for her, Robyn was surrounded by a number of people encouraging her to “suck it ” and so she did!
And, happily, she loved it! Even going for more than one!
Mart and I are big fans of Murph’s Famous Bloody Mary Oyster Shooters at Owen’s Fish Camp, even though we have no idea who this “Murph” guy is. An oyster shooter is essentially an oyster, in a shot glass, covered by Bloody Mary mix, that you gulp down all at once. Most folks will catch the oyster on their tongue so they can chew it a bit before swallowing, but Mart just shoots the whole thing.
Once we’re seated, we’re all excited to start dinner, but Mart insists we try two more of Owen’s specialties, found in the “Jars” section of the menu. So he ordered up a jar of boiled peanuts and another jar of Fried Pickles. That’s right . . . Fried. If you’ve never tried them before, I have to warn you. . . the juice inside these delicious fried dill pickles gets quite hot. If you can’t wait to crunch in on these babies, maybe you should cut them up first, letting some of that hot, steamy juice cool a second before you go to town. Judy and I also discovered that the dipping sauce from the Fried Pickles was equally yummy with the boiled peanuts.
When our main courses arrived, we were all really ‘stoked’, as it were. Recommended by more than one server, Judy decided against Owen’s famous Low Country Boil for two, and selected the Seared Sea Scallops with Braised Pork & Owen’s Succotash. Glad she did, because she gave each of us a taste and we all agreed her scallops were easily the crowd favorite.
Robyn has been as adventurous as she’s going to get tonight, having oysters, boiled peanuts and fried pickles for the first time, so she orders a classic – the fried shrimp and fries basket. Picking up on the idea of some fresh, shoestring french fries, Mart orders a Fried Soft Shell Crab BLT with a basil mayo on the side. Both entrees delivered a crunchy fried crust on the fish, and the perfect balance of fish against coating. Nothing doughy or gooey here!
Michelle is all about the shell fish, so she orders one of Owen’s heaping dishes of Steamed Mussels with spicy tomato, garlic and wine over angel hair pasta. Again, her portion was large enough to share, so we each had a taste (delicious) and she still had enough left over to take a large to-go carton home.
Me, I knew what I wanted before we even arrived . . . Owen’s Shrimp & Grits with Smoked Sausage. The grits are a creamy, cheesy concoction that Owen’s calls their “My Way of the Highway Cheesy Grits” and believe me, given the choice – try the Cheesy Grits! Beautiful!
One of the nicest things about Owen’s Fish Camp is that the patrons tend to be relaxed and, as said earlier, willing to wait an hour or even more for a table. If you want to get seated quickly, arrive when they open at 4:00, or wait until after 7:30. If the Film Festival is going on next door, Owen’s attracts an even bigger crowd, but don’t let THAT deter you. Take a hint from our man “Tate” here — sit back, relax, have a cool drink and smile — knowing that you’re in for a real treat of down home southern seafood amongst a mess of really nice folks. No wonder they say “After just one visit, you’ll get hooked!”