With Gasparilla going on this afternoon, UD and I made the decision early on that we were going nowhere near the beer-sodden semi-metropolis of Tampa. Since (other than Pearl in the Grove in Dade City) we'd have to drive all the way to St. Augustine for a decent meal if we headed north, it only made sense hop on I-75 South and tap the Bradenton/Sarasota grub market.
On the recommendation of a friend, we decided to try Owens Fish Camp...which was pretty much a case of love at first sight for me when I came upon its adorably kitschy splendor, cozily nestled in the arms of a giant banyan tree with Christmas lights burning year-round in bona fide redneck fashion (just as God and Bubba intended).
We were seated right away and got top-notch service from sweet Caroline. Our wine was delivered promptly in non-stemmed glasses. Perhaps my reputation for toppling stemware has preceded me. How embarrassing. Nonetheless, we were pleased with the short-yet-price-point-diverse list of offerings.
We started with a couple of apps from the paper-placemat menu (but don't let that deter you...this is casual seafood kicked up to the highest power). The Maryland Iced Peel and Eat Shrimp were huge, chilled, spicy decadence.
The Garlic Snails on Grits starter (which I'll refer to going forward as "trailer park escargot") were plump, herbaceous and super-rich. This could've been meal in itself.
Shrimp and Grits is a tough dish for this Suthren gurl to pass up, so I naturally gravitated to it. It was a tasty, spicy rendition. I loved the insanely creamy grits, the freshness of the large crustaceans and the heat of the andouille. An awesome take on a southern classic!
UD ordered the Fish Camp Basket, which included fried fish, shrimp, oysters and soft-shelled crab with fries and slaw. This was some pretty good shiznet overall. The shrimp and fish were lightly breaded and perfectly fried. I wasn't offered a bite of the soft-shelled crab, but it was inhaled by my better half in veryshort order. If I had to bring up one shortcoming, it would be the oysters. They were Thumbelina tiny, too heavily breaded and over-cooked. The side order of nutty, spicy black-eyed-peas studded with andouille sausage made us both forget the fact that the oysters could've been a little better, however.
Desserts impressed. I had some little fried blackberry hand pies with vanilla ice cream which were quite tasty, but fell short of being unforgettable due to a tad too much residual oil for my taste.
But Jimbo's bona fide southern pecan pie was the stuff wet dreams are made of. An angelic, flaky crust cradled an overload of giant, toasted pecan pieces with just enough Karo syrup filling to bind it all. *thud*
Back off, beyotch...you haz your blackberry pie-thingyz.
So fun...and good food at reasonable prices, too. A great place for diners of all ages...and all ages were represented on our visit (2 months to 102). You'll like it!