Manolo's Food Blog Manolo Loves the Food!

July 27, 2009

Fish fry

Filed under: American Food,Fish,Shellfish,Spirits — Mr. Henry @ 8:35 am

For the past two weeks Mr. Henry has been on the road and in the swamp. He has eaten blueberries in Maine, black raspberries in Massachusetts, corn in upstate New York, and fried soft shell crab in Florida.

Soft shell crab in Florida? Who knew?


Step aside, Maryland. In the Stygian waters of the vast St. John’s River estuary the blue crab is molting.

Although shrimp is caught locally in Jacksonville, in summer it can be soft and lacking flavor. Catfish filet is local as well, and surprisingly good if you don’t mind a few inevitable bones. Soft shell crab, however, is clearly the best local catch.

At Clark’s Fish Camp on Julington Creek, a fry house in the swamp, New York Robert went for the full, bona fide Southern experience by ordering the Swamp Fest Platter, a mixed fry of conch, mako shark, frog legs, catfish, squid, and gator tail.

It’s all good, it’s all fried, and every platter comes with hush puppies.

The insistent flavor of breading browned in corn oil nearly overwhelmed the light scallopy taste of conch, but gator tail survived the fryer with flavor intact. Yes, it does taste rather like chicken, but with chewier texture and, to Mr. Henry’s palate, a brighter and more interesting flavor. (With more than one million in Florida, the alligator is no longer endangered.)


Mr. Henry stopped Robert from ordering the frightful Swamp Cocktail, a boozy brew of vodka, rum, blue Curacao, triple sec, orange juice, sour, and “a splash of Pepsi.” Hooooooo doggies!

There  was no need to prove manhood here, however. Local tap water is daring enough.

A stroll along the boat dock revealed several large red-eared slider turtles on the surface of the black water as well as a small alligator toying with a floating wedge of cocktail lemon.


More daunting than the swamp critters or the hundred or more stuffed animals on the walls, however, at the bar a group of ladies in Gator regalia jiggling iced after-dinner drinks snagged Robert in a flirty conversation that, but for the prudent intervention of Mr. Henry, might have culminated in more bona fides than he reckoned for.


  1. You just can’t go wrong if hush puppies are involved….

    Comment by klee — July 28, 2009 @ 3:15 am

  2. Glinda’s one and only time eating catfish was at a (recommended) cafe in New Orleans.

    It tasted of dirt, and I have never been able to eat any since. And NO is supposed to have the best catfish anywhere, I believe.

    Comment by Glinda — July 29, 2009 @ 9:17 pm

  3. But you haven’t had a real fish fry until you’ve been to Friday Fish Fry at a pancake house. Or a Chinese restaurant. Or the VFW.

    Comment by class factotum — July 31, 2009 @ 4:09 pm

  4. How were the bugs and mosquitos?

    Comment by Phyllis — August 2, 2009 @ 4:50 am

  5. You had to keep moving on the dock to avoid being devoured by one and sundry.

    In the river the mullet were leaping, either to take a look at humans or to snag a stray flying insect, who can say?

    Comment by Mr. Henry — August 2, 2009 @ 5:51 pm

  6. From the sounds of that conclusion, it seems you had a cougar sighting as well.

    Comment by raincoaster — August 3, 2009 @ 4:55 am

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