Owen’s Fish Camp hooked me as soon as I walked up the sidewalk toward the hostess stand. Off to the left was a very large and presumably old banyan tree and off to the right was a quasi-outdoor dining area. I say quasi because it was screened in so diners could enjoy the lovely Sarasota breeze while being sheltered by any insects.
“Hi, I don’t have reservations but I’m just one person, have any seating available?” I asked the young gal. It was just past 6 o’clock, prime dinner time, and knew it’d be a 50-50 chance at securing a seat.
“You can have a seat at the high-top,” the hostess said. In these situations, it’s good being a solo traveler.
I slipped onto the stool and ponied up to the high-table which was covered with a sheet of tin. I joined a couple who sat at one end and we were later joined by three others who filled the table. The table was close to the bar and it was a little loud but it was the best view for all the action.
Owen’s Fish Camp’s menu is a paper place mat but the don’t be fooled. Menu items are glammed up Southern comfort food. I ended up with the shrimp and grits topped with chopped tomato and smoked sausage along with garlic snails. Yeah, definitely something you wouldn’t find on a Southern diner’s menu. I’m usually a fan of shrimp and grits but I really didn’t like this one. There were plenty of shrimp but too many tomatoes and sausage. The snails were tasty.
My neighbors had the smoked fish spread which was served in a Mason jar and the other neighbors slurped up one of the soups along with salads. Beverages, including wine, beer and soda, was served in a simple, short drinking glass, almost like the ones in hotel rooms.
Nostalgia makes Owen’s Fish Camp more interesting and thankfully, the them isn’t over the top like other restaurants. Fishing poles accent the ceiling in the main dining area, a large black chalk board in the bar area lists specials and theming is carried into the restrooms. At least in the women’s restroom with the “We Can Do It” poster, shabby chic white chair with red and white stripes, chintz lace curtain on the door and fishing charts on the walls.
The tab was a little more than I’m accustom to spending and despite not liking my entree, was worth it for the ambiance. I plan a return visit to try the fish tacos, the fried soft shell crab BLT, Randal’s seafood stew…yeah, there’s a lot on the menu I’m hoping to taste on a return visit.
Reservations strongly advised, unless you’re a solo traveler and don’t mind sharing a table.
Owen’s Fish Camp
516 Burns Lane
Sarasota, Fla. 34236