Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sarasota Trifecta, Part 3 - Owen's Fish Camp

I am quite certain that Sarasota is chock-full of great restaurants. And yet, like many people I know, I always seem to find myself at the Columbia Restaurant in St. Armand's Circle when I find myself in Sarasota for the day.   That has all changed with my introduction to Owen's Fish Camp.

From the menu at
Owen's Fish Camp
First, how can you resist a restaurant that calls itself a "fish camp"?  The mere name conjures up delicious down home food and a laid back atmosphere.  And if the name doesn't sufficiently entice you, just take a look at their website.  (You can find it at  The minute the page opened I wanted to jump in the car and drive there.  

Susan, Steve, and I headed over to Owen's after seeing the matinee performance of South Beach Babylon at Florida Studio Theater.  The restaurant opens daily at 4:00, and I had worked up quite an appetite from our day of culture.

Susan, Tate and me
Owen's is nestled on Burns Lane in downtown Sarasota.   (It is next door to the Sarasota Film Society, an indie film house. Another great find!)  The building is incredibly inviting with screen doors that you can imagine kids running in and out of all day and lots of fun art.  The old gent in this picture with Susan and me is "Tate" (not Owen, as we had assumed). (Thanks are due to Bruce and Dorrit both for telling me about this place and for correcting me on this point.)

Steve and Susan
Since we arrived at the restaurant on the early side, a table was immediately available.  Seeing how taken we were with the decor, though, the waitstaff encouraged us to look around before we took our seats.  We loved the patio where you can hear rock music on Friday nights and  blue grass on Saturdays.  If you don't want to stand around while you listen to the music (or wait for your table), you can have a seat on the tire swing after helping yourself to a beer from the wooden barrel bearing a sign "Honor System Beers -- $2".  (Our waitress told us that they get a few IOUs and miscellaneous notes every night.)

Then it was time to eat.  I am delighted to tell you that Owen's did not disappoint.  The only problem was trying to decide what to order.   I settled on four huge scallops topped with pulled pork that sat on a bed of cheesy grits with succotash.   Susan tried fish tacos for the first time, and Steve opted for garlic snails (they wouldn't dare call them "escargot" here) with sweet wine and chorizo with sides of collard greens and black eyed peas and andouille sausage.  I couldn't say which of us was more happy with our selection. Are you drooling yet?

Owen Burns
It turns out that there's an interesting history behind Owen's Fish Shack that we missed entirely during our dining experience. Thank goodness Bruce and Dorrit were paying attention during their recent visit.  Owen Burns arrived in Southwest Florida in the 1910s when Sarasota was filled with, well, fish camps.  Burns ended up owning much of what is now Sarasota and became the premier developer of the area (as Bruce said, the "Trabue" of Sarasota, a reference we'll leave for another day).  His projects included St. Armand's Circle, Long Boat Key, and Ca d'Zan (John and Mable Ringling's home on Sarasota Bay).   Owen's Fish Camp is an homage by the Caragiulo family of restauranteurs both to Burns and to a simpler time.  (As an aside, the five Caragiulo brothers have two other restaurants -- Caragiulos, which features Italian-American cuisine, and Nancy's Bar-B-Q.  Definitely on my "to try" list.)

The next time you're in Sarasota, check out Owen's Fish Shack.  You are in for a real treat.  



1 comment:

  1. Yes! You had me drooling! If we're ever down that way, we will definitely eat there.


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