Choosing a meal at Winter Park Fish Co. is a matter of 1-2-3-4: logical, but demanding full attention.
First, choose your fish. A board above the raw fish case (where many people come to shop for seafood to take home) lists what is available. When I visited in January, the roster included Tasmanian Trout, Stone Bass, Halibut, King Fish, Striped Bass, Swordfish, Ahi Tuna, Mahi Mahi, Grouper, Scallops, Salmon, and Snapper.
Next, decide how you want it prepared: grilled, broiled, blackened, seared, Cajun, jerked, TNT crusted, chili crusted, macadamia buttered, tempura-battered, lightly fried, or buttermilk fried.
Third, pick a topping: mango ginger glaze, tartar sauce, olive tapenade, garlic chili & soy, green tomato chow chow, Cajun remoulade, white cocktail, lemon caper butter, habanera BBQ, sundried tomato truffle basil butter, or orange beurre blanc.
Finally, select two side dishes from a list that includes sweet puppies (hushpuppies dusted with powdered sugar), French fries, mango cole slaw, coconut rice, black beans, fried okra, squash cassoulette, blackeyed pea ragu, zucchini stir fry, roasted parmesan-topped tomato slices, sweet potato fries, grits, mashed sweet potatoes, green beans, bok choy, spinach pie, parmesan cous cous, mac & cheese, and potato salad.
Whew! Once those decisions are made, you pay for the meal and receive a placard to carry to a table, so when the food is ready, the waitress knows where to find you.
I went for scallops, broiled, with lemon caper butter, sided by sweet puppies and mango cole slaw. Magnificent scallops! Not cheap, mind you. It was $20 for exactly seven of them. But they are big, dense, and ocean-sweet – a mighty main course.
Jane forwent the step-by-step order system and instead chose one of the “Fish Company Classics,” which are complete meals such as fish & chips, bacon-wrapped trout, Florida grouper cheeks in parchment, or buttermilk fried shrimp. Her choice: shrimp and grits. It is another winner, an abundance of seared pink shrimp with real snap to their flesh, cosseted in very peppery lobster gravy enriched with melted cheddar cheese, all piled atop a mound of luxurious creamy grits. On the side comes a chewy cheddar-jalapeno biscuit.
It would take countless visits to sample a significant portion of the menu in this jolly place (at the top of the list for next time: the effulgent cioppino a neighbor ordered). Not only is the fish impeccably fresh and expertly prepared; the ultra-casual way of doing business makes dining fun. Decorated like some sort of Oceanside shanty, with fishing rods and buoys hanging overhead, the Fish Company sports bare tables locally made from local wood. It is a tiny place with a total of six tables indoors (frequently shared by strangers) and an outdoor bar where you can dine and drink. Expect to wait for a place at prime mealtimes.