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RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK
This is another old fashioned, down home casual Florida seafood house. It sits right on the water on an inlet from the St. Johns River and offers down home cookin' in an extremely casual setting in the Jacksonville area.
Whitey's has quite a history and it's claim to fame is its signature all-u-can-eat fried catfish dinner for just under $15. They also offer most of the other usual suspects for this part of Florida like grouper, shrimp, oysters, scallops and gator.
We sampled this place for lunch and I started out with a dozen steamed little neck clams. I was holding my breath when I ordered them because I've been disappointed with the clams at most other Jacksonville area restaurants. One--Clark's Fish Camp--was particularly disappointing. Their clams were some that I had never seen before (and I've eaten clams all over the world) and when I asked the waitress what kind they were and where they came from, she said she would ask the kitchen. All they could tell her were that they came from New England. They were nearly opaque white in color with a black stripe. Turns out they actually came from Vietnam, I learned by seeing some in the frozen food section of a local grocery! Anyway they sucked! Stringy, fishy--awful! Okay, back to the little necks at Whitey's! Yes, indeed, they were little necks. And just the right size. Not too tiny like many places serve. They were cooked perfectly, plump, and juicy. But there was one disappointment. They were served with melted margarine and not drawn butter. Bad mistake but I still enjoyed them.
For my main meal I selected a "Boathouse Combo For One" which was their version of a fried seafood platter. It came with a small piece of fish, five shrimp, a large deviled crab and a slew of clam strips. The fish was good but nothing sensational. The deviled crab (in a real blue crab shell) was very good although it was made with artificial krab instead of the real deal. Deduct 2 points! The shrimp were just great. They were cooked perfectly and lightly battered. The clam strips probably came from some far away country but nonetheless they were great! Large, plump and delicious. Whitey's sauces were great, too. The tartar sauce was right on the money and the red cocktail sauce for the shrimp was also excellent. My dish came with a choice of two sides. I chose cole slaw and red beans and rice. The cole slaw had an curious taste and I finally figured it out. They mixed a little pineapple in with it. Sounds awful but you know what? It really worked beautifully. Somebody at Whitey's must have some New Orleanian blood in them because the red beans and rice were fantastic. True flavors of New Orleans including the bits of sausage mixed in with them. And I know good red beans and rice. We used to live in New Orleans!
My wife decided to go with the fish and chips. The menu said it was made with grouper. Instead of French fries as chips, this rendition came with its own version of potato chips. They appeared to be home fried. While decent, they weren't in the same league as kettle made potato chips. The fish was good but I dare say it was not grouper. How can I say that? Well we used to have a fishin' boat when we lived in Palm Harbor on Florida's west coast in the Tampa Bay Area and we came home with plenty of grouper (red, gag, scamp) and I know what grouper tastes like. I suspect my wife's fish was cod. Whatever it was, it was pretty good although my wife quipped that it was a bit overpriced at $15 for two small pieces of fish. She could have gotten the all-u-can-eat catfish for the same price.
Overall we were pleased with our lunch at Whitey's and we'll be back. I think the next time we'll try the catfish. I've heard good things about it. It comes "whole fish" style and not fillets. But to a true catfish lover, that's the best and most flavorful way to have it. As a teen growing up in the Indianapolis area, we used to always make trips to Pittsboro to eat whole fried catfish at Frank and Mary's Tavern. And it's still going strong. Sad to say, however, that another Hoosier catfish tradition----Miller's in Colfax----is gone forever.
Whitey's has a web site here.