Memorable | One of the Best
Whitey’s Fish Camp | All You Can Eat Catfish | Florida
Review by: Michael Stern
When we began researching Roadfood, someone told us about a place off Florida’s St. Johns River called Whitey’s, open since 1963. It was here we learned to savor all you can eat catfish — wild-caught in particular. A few forkfuls let us know just how different whole ones are from fillets of farm-raised mudcats that restaurants present as easy-to-eat fillets.
No doubt, pond-raised catfish can please an appetite no end. Their polite character makes them receptive to all kinds of character-building treatments. You can blacken them or Cajun-spice them and wind up with a very yummy dish.
But farm-raised cannot compare to the wild ones at Whitey’s. Here you savor the flavor punch of genuine, bottom-feeding river shovelheads. Forget fancy seasonings. They don’t want it.
All You Can Eat
Around here, more than a few restaurants serve fish AUCE style. (That means All U Can Eat.) At Whitey’s, when the order is catfish, you can specify what size you want. If you don’t, each plateful holds one or two big ones and two or three little ones. The tiniest are so fragile that experienced diners eat even the tender rib bones, leaving nothing but vertebrae. Big ones, with a skeleton that demands respect, provide supremely easy access to meat. Simply poke the tines of a fork through the sandy cornmeal girdle just below the backbone, then pull downward. A nice mouthful slips cleanly off the ribs. Atop the patch of brittle crust on your fork you find a nugget of dense meat as luxurious as prime beefsteak.
The Magic of the Mudcat
Both sizes of fish deliver freshwater sparkle that evokes vacation campfires and balmy summer nights. We have never eaten anything so indisputably outdoorsy in a normal cloth-napkin restaurant. (In lieu of napkins, Whitey’s supplies each table with a roll of paper towels.)
Whitey’s made its reputation on all you can eat catfish, but its menu offers just about any seafood you’ll find in the South. Name your favorite fish and they will broil it, sautee it, fry it, blacken it, stuff it, and serve it filleted or on the bone.
Whitey’s is a community as much as it is a restaurant: boat launches, bait and tackle shop, oyster bar and beer bar, campground and RV park complete with hair-styling salon.
Directions & Hours
- Monday: 3:00 – 10:00 PM
- Tuesday: 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM
- Wednesday: 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM
- Thursday: 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM
- Friday: 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM
- Saturday: 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM
- Sunday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
|Meals Served||Lunch, Dinner|
|Credit Cards Accepted||Yes|