Southern Living's annual list of favorite seafood restaurants in South Carolina typically has a heavy coastal focus. But for hardcore fish lovers, there's a lot to be said for the old school fish camps dotting the state's inland areas.
Historically, these eateries were almost always located near a lake or river, with the earliest known fish camps occupying spots along the Catawba River in South and North Carolina in the 1930s. Though nothing more than sheds at that time, they were just right for hungry anglers eager to fry up the day's catch.
Today's remaining fish camps carry on that spirit of simplicity, though they now feature fancier appointments like doors, windows and AC. You can find them along South Carolina's rivers and large lakes like those of Santee Cooper. Some have set up camp along our coastal areas, too, for the best of both freshwater and saltwater dining.
But one thing is consistent: They tend to be no-frills establishments, which is part of their charm.
Show us a fish camp and we'll show you an owner who thinks their recipe for battering and frying a "mess of fish" is simply the best. Flounder, croaker, spot, perch, whiting and that Southern staple, catfish, are some of the usual suspects being snagged from South Carolina's best fishing spots and served up at area fish camps.
Don't be surprised to see gator bites and frog legs on some menus, though.
The main draw, however, is always platters of freshly fried fish sided by slaw, heaps of fries and hot, crisp hush puppies, with the occasional baked potato, salad bar or buffet thrown in for folks who like options.
Since sweet tea was born in South Carolina, you can count on plenty of that to wash it all down. But if you want to pair your perch with a crisp pinot grigio inquire ahead as most such establishments don't offer adult beverages.
Ready to experience this South Carolina tradition? Here's a sampling of some of the most time-honored fish camps across the state. Before you head out, keep in mind that many have limited days of operation and some are so old school they may be cash-only. Call ahead for all the details.
Fish Camps to Try
Blackstock Fish Camp 1944 Blackstock Road, Blackstock (803) 581-6568
Owned by the Boulware family, Blackstock Fish Camp is located in an old service station at a fork in the road. The fish offerings include flounder, catfish, perch, whiting and others. They also have shrimp, scallops, oysters and deviled crab.
Mac Daddy's Restaurant 139 Canal Landing Road, Cross (843) 753-2271
Old McDonald Fish Camp 355 Currytown Road, North Augusta (803) 279-3305
Owned by the Bass family since 1977, Old McDonald Fish Camp has a farm feel with goats, chickens, ducks, peacocks and fish that children can feed. The restaurant specializes in channel catfish and is distinctive for its all-you-can-eat grits and hushpuppies bar - a novel touch for those who love milled corn!
Old York Seafood 1880 Old York Road, York (866) 749-5417
Family owned for 20 years, Old York Seafood has been serving up all kinds of fish and seafood. It also has a salad bar and offers dishes for landlubbers, such as Greek kabobs.
Ellis Creek Fish Camp 1243 Harbor View Road, James Island (843) 297-8878
A casual, camp-like setting defines Ellis Creek Fish Camp. What sets this Charleston-area eatery apart is its indoor bar and outdoor seating overlooking the marsh and Ellis Creek. They also have a nifty protocol: Order from the window located streetside or the front of the building. Then, find a seat and wait for a server to bring your food. Note that the patio is dog-friendly!
Boathouse Fish Camp 612 North Main Street, Cross Hill (864) 998-4444
The Boathouse Fish Camp specializes in fried fish plates as well as Southern seafood favorites. The crusty onion rings make a delicious sidedish or appetizer.
Catawba Fish Camp 6131 Lancaster Hwy, Fort Lawn (803) 872-4477
Since 1951, Catawba Fish Camp has been serving up battered and fried fish and seafood to a huge following of fans. The seafood platters here are brimming with treasures and big enough to split, unless you have an above-average appetite!
Luvan's Old South Fish Camp 3951 Highway 701, Conway (843) 397-5454
No need to wait until you hit the beach for some tasty fish and seafood. Luvan's Old South Fish Camp makes a great stop along the way. Disks of sliced potatoes serve as fries here and are a lipsmacking accompaniment for whatever fish or seafood floats your boat.