Jacksonville’s Famous Fish-Camp Eateries
Bringing new life to ramshackle fishing camps of the 1940s, the Jacksonville fish-camp eateries of today offer a boot-kickin, foot-stompin, anything-goes night of pure culinary bliss. Not only is the food interesting and just-plain-good, the subtleties of fish-camp eating mean there are no rules: so kick back, dig in, and let the night roll on at these favorite fish camps of Jacksonville.
Clark’s Fish Camp
There are no pretensions at Clark’s, but they don’t need any. Eating at this former bait shop is as genuine as it gets, starting with a walk across the gangplank over Julington Creek. Signs warn against feeding the gators, and they aren’t kidding. Inside, you’ll be keeping company with hundreds of taxidermied critters mounted on every inch and crevice of the walls, floors, ceilings and furniture (think tigers, giraffes, bobcats and bears). Under the scrutiny of eyeballs galore, you can graze on gator poppers, frog legs, crawfish etouffee, oysters and hush puppies. The bar overlooks a swampy lagoon with a half-submerged fishing boat, which you must cross to reach the ladies-and-gents rooms.
Julington Creek Fish Camp
The owners of Julington Creek Fish Camp say it the way it is: they serve fresh Florida seafood prepared with Southern soul and style. They scoop up most of the day’s catch from North Florida waters, and you can tell. Though fish-camp eating has a rowdy reputation, don’t be fooled by the name on this one: owner Ben Groshells is a celebrated Jacksonville chef with two other fish camp restos under his belt, as well as the fine-dining Marker 32. Exotics are on the menu at Julington Camp but with an elegant twist, such as Fried Gator Tail with Cowgill’s Datil Pepper Aioli and Iron Skillet Fried Brook Trout with Arugula. You’ll also find fried green tomatoes and their signature white chocolate bread pudding.
Whitey’s Fish Camp
Renowned for all-you-can-eats, boat-in dining and live deck music, this is the “party” camp overlooking Doctors Inlet. There’s a real “Whitey,” and he opened his original humble fish camp in 1963 with a tackle shop, nine bar stools and a toaster oven. It still has a bait-and-tackle shop for visiting boaters, but you no longer have to reel it in yourself. In fact, you can eat all the crab legs, pollack andpopcorn shrimp you want on Monday nights, or stop by for all-you-can-handle boiled shrimp on Tuesday nights. Drop in for fun events such as the Working Man’s Bass Tournament or the Fallen Riders Bike Run, and catch live reggae and rock on the deck every Wednesday through Friday. There are also more than 40 RV spots, so make a weekend of it, and eat to your heart’s content.