Whitey’s Fish Camp

All-You-Can-Eat | Fish Camp / Catfish Parlor | Seafood
Memorable
One of the best
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Whitey’s was one of our first Roadfood finds when we began traveling around the country in search of regional eats. It gave us a taste of wild-caught catfish, which made the fish-loving half of the Stern team an instant fan. Subsequent encounters with farm-raised catfish revealed that the flavor punch of genuine, bottom-feeding river cats is something special. Pond-raised are fine – mild and polite, receptive to all kinds of character-building treatments such as blackening and Cajun-spicing. But farmed fish are no comparison to the wild ones at Whitey’s, where the menu and the place have expanded dramatically and where catfish still reigns.

You name the seafood and Whitey’s probably serves it – broiled, sautéed, fried, blackened, or stuffed, filleted or on the bone. But it’s catfish, served AUCE (local fish house shorthand for All U Can Eat), that star. Unless you specify what size you want, 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 is a nugget of dense meat as luxurious as prime beefsteak but with 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 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.

Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle | November 18, 2010

Do you really love catfish? Do you enjoy working for your dinner? If so, Whitey’s Fish Camp is the place to try fried catfish that has not been farm raised. These beauties are caught wild, then fried up whole (but headless and skinless), and brought to you until you tell your waitress to stop. The catfish are on the small side, so you’ll have to pick and nibble your way through them. It’s worth the effort, however, for the cornmeal crust is highly seasoned with a wicked crunch, and the meat is creamy-textured, and it’s fun discovering all the hiding places for the edible parts. Our waitress Tara asked if we prefer them large or small, informing us that many of her customers like them as small as possible, so they can be eaten bones and all. We chose to leave the bones.

With the catfish comes heavily seasoned fries, good coleslaw, and some of the best hush puppies we had in Florida – fluffy white, onion-laced, and tender-textured. Part way through our pitcher of Bud, Tara rushed out with a bag of ice to drop in the beer. Nice, thoughtful touch. All manner of other local water creatures are available to eat, including the ubiquitous (in Florida these days) alligator tail, local frogs legs, and turtle. There’s even something called soft-shell turtle (in season), and we have a hard time imagining how that would be prepared. Boned and filleted catfish are also available, in or out of sandwiches.

Whitey’s is really a fish camp, rather than a fish-camp-themed restaurant. You can purchase bait, rent a boat, and catch your own, and there’s an RV park on the grounds. The restaurant has an outdoor covered deck in back, along the water, and it’s here we recommend you dine. The area around Whitey’s is no longer a remote wilderness. You’ll pass by shopping centers and country clubs and senior housing developments on your way here. Don’t be concerned by that – Whitey’s is still a taste of old-school Florida.

What to Eat
Whitey’s Fish Camp, Catfish
Catfish
Must-Try
Catfish with au gratin potatoes & hushpuppies
Whitey’s Fish Camp, Red Beans & Rice
Red Beans & Rice
Red beans and rice is here a Cajun/gazpacho hybrid with chunks of smoked sausage.
Whitey’s Fish Camp, Pineapple Slaw
Pineapple Slaw
Pineapple slaw is sweet and happy.
Whitey’s Fish Camp, Key Lime Pie
Key Lime Pie
Key lime pie strikes the right balance of sweet and tart.
Directions and Hours
closed now
Sunday11am - 9pm
Monday4:30pm - 9:30pm
Tuesday11am - 9:30pm
Wednesday11am - 9:30pm
Thursday11am - 11pm
Friday11am - 2am
Saturday11am - 2am
Roadtrips
This restaurant is featured in the following eating tours.
8 stops | 191 MILES | 4 hr 33 min

Florida's north coast is an eater's paradise, with fare both exotic and familiar. The menu includes fish camp cooking at its finest, pour-your-own pancakes at the Fountain of Youth, fried shrimp that may be the best anywhere, and a four-alarm delicious legacy of Minorcan hot peppers.

Information
Price
$$
Seasons
Open Year Round
Meals Served
Lunch, Dinner
Credit Cards Accepted
Yes
Alcohol Served
Yes
Outdoor Seating
Yes
Website

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