Continuing the Tar Heel 25 theme, this week I wanted to experience a "fish camp." I was pretty sure it would be little different than good ol' Country Boys at Lake Talquin -- a staple of childhood weekends at my grandmother's lake house. But I do love an off-the-beaten-path outing, and the paper had an inviting description:
Down-home fried-fish restaurants called fish camps used to dot river towns throughout the South. Get a taste of the tradition at Twin Tops Fish Camp in Belmont. Skip the seafood and go with a plateful of salt-and-pepper catfish. The crunchy crust is dusky with black pepper and covers sweet, white flesh underneath. Save some change to blow in the incredible candy store.
My friend Ty is a Mississippi native who gets a little homesick for catfish country, so we rounded up some friends and made it a Friday night field trip.
I loved it as soon as we got there -- despite the bright fluorescent lighting, it oozes character, with fishing paraphernalia mounted on the baby blue walls and a colorful menu dotted with advertisements for local businesses. Tiny Tim's Tree & Stump offers diners a bevvy of arboreal options, under the clever slogan "Give Us A Hoot, We'll Remove Your Root." Our enormous booth came complete with a gumball machine.
The wait staff couldn't have been any friendlier. "How are the scallops?" Alexis asked as we pondered the menu.
"Honey, I've never eaten one in my life," our waitress confessed. When I asked which was better, the catfish fillets or the whole bone-in fish, she swore by the latter and brought us a generous plate of both to sample. I agree the bone-in option is indeed more flavorful, but I'm not sure it outweighs the additional effort.