With just about every restaurant in Florida offering some sort of seafood dish, chances are, if there’s only one seafood item on the menu, it’s going to be a piece of fish on a piece of bread. Creative? That depends. Classic? Most definitely.
The specialty seafood restaurants our area is known for aren’t immune to the trappings of the fish sandwich, even if they also offer up more advanced plates like yellowfin tartare or whole fried snapper. So why does the fish sandwich always occupy valuable menu space, even in the world of refined dining?
“There’s just so many different things that you can do between two pieces of bread and I think our culture kind of celebrates that,” says the owner of St. Augustine’s Catch 27, Stephen Hutson.
OP Fish House and Oyster Bar owner Nathan Stuart agrees, adding that the fish sandwich is a universal way to show off a region’s native seafood.
“If I’m in Alaska they have fresh halibut sandwiches,” Stuart says. “They don’t have flounder sandwiches.”
Check out this smattering of fish sandwiches from some of the top local seafood spots in Northeast Florida.
OP Fish House and Oyster Bar
Sister restaurant to Atlantic Beach’s Seafood Kitchen, OP Fish House and Oyster Bar opened earlier this year to serve the freshest seafood west of the St. Johns River. If you can’t catch it in North Florida, Owner Nathan Stuart won’t put it on his menu. In addition to the seasonal fresh-catch sandwich, the menu has a permanent gamut of regionally sourced fish to put on a bun, including mahi-mahi, yellowfin tuna, and triggerfish.
Tucked into St. Aug’s historic district on Charlotte Street, Catch 27 might be one of the fancier joints on this list. But their take on the fish sandwich is a classic treatment: lightly blackened, lettuce, tomato, onion, and a homemade 16-ingredient remoulade adds distinctive flavor. Whether they’ve got sheepshead, flounder, or mahi on deck, the locally baked brioche bun gets branded with the number “27,” a shout-out to Florida’s place as the nation’s 27th state.
North Beach Fish Camp
Undoubtedly one of the most well-known beachside seafood restaurants, North Beach Fish Camp is known for churning out sophisticated, authentic dishes that sit perfectly on the fence between fine dining and soul food. They serve up a classic fried fish sandwich and a fresh catch fish sandwich, usually blackened mahi on brioche, with rotating accompaniments.
Safe Harbor Seafood
Safe Harbor is not only one of the area’s top suppliers of freshly caught seafood; it’s also an affiliated restaurant under the same umbrella as North Beach Fish Camp. But don’t be mistaken, the first come, first served style adopted by both Safe Harbor locations provide casual dining experiences and both overlook the intracoastal waterway. Fried, grilled, or blackened haddock and masa sandwiches are year-round menu fixtures in addition to fresh catch options which are delivered daily.
This Bold Bites feature originally appeared in Void Magazine’s March 2019 issue under the headline “Fishing for a Complement.”