For this review we welcome a member of our own JRR family: Rhonda Kovar is a former call center manager turned stay-at-home mom. She grew up in the heart of North Carolina and moved to Florida after getting hitched in 2002. She is a graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne University and a lover of all things crafty, musical, or edible. Rhonda loves finding new and delicious ways to turn her two tiny picky eaters into future foodies.
Most people in town know that there are a lot of great dining spots at the beaches. Some of our favorite spots are out at the beach, so it’s usually a pretty safe bet for good eats. This is especially true if you’re in the mood for tasty, fresh seafood. Today we really wanted some good seafood, so we hopped in the car and headed down Atlantic Boulevard towards the beach. The Beaches Town Center is packed full of unique dining options, so we figured we might find some yummy food there. We decided to try out North Beach Fish Camp on the corner across from One Ocean.
We opted for a table inside since the weather was a little warm, but the outside dining area looked comfortable and charming. I loved the decor inside. The best way I can think to describe the style would be “upscale industrial beach house”. The dark hardwood flooring and exposed ceiling beams are complemented by light-colored painted wooden booths and bar area. North Beach Fish Camp’s corner location means lots of big windows and natural light. The whole place feels open, bright, and airy. There’s also an upstairs area that offers even more sunlight in a loungy sort of setting with a view of Neptune Beach.
We usually don’t have too much to say about specific servers (unless the service was particularly sub-par), but I have to say that our server was awesome. He had a ton of personality, but was still very respectful of our space and our comfort. He was funny and charming and polite. Actually, all of the staff that we interacted with were great. It was casual, yet still very attentive service and added to our overall dining experience.
The menu at North Beach Fish Camp obviously focuses heavily on fresh Florida seafood. In addition to a wide range of finer-dining options, they offer plenty of laid back “fish camp” choices too, including fried seafood baskets and a pretty decent kids’ menu. Their menu also boasts a lot of tasty southern sides and comfort food, like grits, collard greens, and smoked bacon butter beans…yum! But the menu descriptions on some items (the starters and sides, especially) are a little short and simple, which left a little mystery as to what the exact preparation would be. We didn’t mind that, though since we were feeling a little adventurous.
We started with some Fried Green Tomatoes ($8). After being referred to on the menu as simply “Fried Green Tomatoes” (with no description other than that) we were pleasantly surprised by the amazing plate that was brought to our table. These were some of the best fried green tomatoes I’ve ever had. The breading was well seasoned and crispy. And it actually stuck to the tomato, rather than sliding around and falling right off when you cut into it. The tomatoes were drizzled with a creamy, smoky tomato sauce and topped with tangy goat cheese and fresh basil. It was a delicious start to our meal.
For my entree, I had the Iron Skillet Fried Brook Trout ($17). My fish was perfectly cooked with a lightly crispy breading on the outside. It was rested on top of smashed red potatoes and a layer of peppery arugula. All of this deliciousness was topped with chunks of crispy bacon, a slice of boiled egg, and then drizzled with an amazing deviled egg sauce. Deviled egg sauce?? Yes, deviled egg sauce. And yes, it was incredible. I believe the first words out of my mouth when I tasted it were “I would like this sauce on everything I eat from now on for the rest of my life, thank you very much.” The sauce itself was mustardy and creamy and just plain awesome. And all of the flavors together added up to a unique dish with lots of interesting textures and tastes. My only complaint with this dish (if I really HAD to pick a negative) would be the amount of arugula. There may have been a tad too much and as it wilted, it became more and more bitter. By the end of the meal, I ended up picking some a lot of the arugula off because it was just too bitter for my taste. Otherwise, the dish was amazing. It almost reminded me of a deconstructed potato salad…but with fish. Sounds weird, I know, but you would be amazed at how well it all worked together.
We also had the Pan Seared Grouper Special ($26). The fish was cooked nicely and served on top of cheddar mashed potatoes and lots of veggies (zucchini, onions, and mushrooms). This was all covered in a poblano pepper cream sauce and then topped off with a bit of tomato marmalade. Again, a unique mix of ingredients, but it all came together really well. The tomato marmalade offered a nice cooling contrast to the smoky heat of the poblano cream. The veggies were tasty and the potatoes added nice creaminess. This was a really good dish. As we were finishing up, our adorably endearing server came over to check on us. He mentioned that we were one of the first people that evening to order the grouper special (we were in pretty early, as is usually the case when we go out without the kids…gotta be home for bedtime!). He asked what we thought about it and then asked what we would change about it. Say whaaaaat?? We thought it was pretty awesome that they would ask for specific feedback like that. I think it shows a real desire to cook the best food possible and make their diners happy. Our only real qualm with the grouper was that it could have used a tad less black pepper on the fish itself. Otherwise, it was great. Our server thanked us and then went straight back to the kitchen where we could see him deliver the feedback to the chef. Again, awesome. Very impressive for such an established, popular place.
What a great meal and dining experience as a whole. I can’t believe that we hadn’t stopped by here before, but North Beach Fish Camp is definitely on our list of favorites now. And with two other locations in the area (Palm Valley and Julington), you can be sure we will be enjoying some of this amazing seafood again in the near future.