Fish On Fire has been operating on the lonely corner of Daetwyler Drive and McCoy Road since 2004, though not consistently, and not just because of pandemically forced shutdowns.
In April of 2010, a fire all but destroyed the structure, proving that the gods have a taste for irony. But owners Jay Herrington and John Mitchell rebuilt the restaurant, which sits in front of a motel across from the elevated Beachline Highway, and reopened it in 2011.
Except for the lack of a nearby body of water – Lake Conway Chain of Lakes is about a tenth of a mile away but that doesn’t count – FOF has all the trappings of a classic fish camp, especially in its overt rusticity. I did notice on my recent trip that the floors that were once bare concrete are now tiled, and galvanized buckets have been fashioned into overhead light fixtures, a bit of whimsy that might be considered too precious for an actual fish camp.
But there are the other requisite touches: the mismatched tables and chairs, neon beer signs and the occasional hanging fish trophy.
And the food, of course, which is appropriately seafood centric, nicely prepared and presented simply.
Even such a hoity-toity dish as shrimp and grits, which my dinner companion ordered. There were plenty of shrimp, though annoyingly served with the tails intact, interspersed with coins of sausage stuck into the grits, which were a bit underseasoned but perked up nicely with some salt shakes.
I ordered the mahi dinner with the fish prepared blackened. It was nicely done, the fish firm but moist and the seasonings not overwhelming. And the tartar sauce was an apt accompaniment. The dinner came with a choice of sides. I chose the black beans and rice – again, a bit under seasoned – and the collards, which unfortunately were gritty.
Before our meal we nibbled on an order of hush puppies, which, though startlingly blond, were quite good, especially with the remoulade dip.
Service was more than adequate, and I got the sense that several of the staff had been with the restaurant for a long time, perhaps even pre-fire.
By the way, there are no displays of fish actually on fire, and the unfortunate blaze that closed the restaurant in 2010 happened at night when no one was present.
I remember thinking at the time that that would be the end of Fish On Fire. But I’m glad I was wrong. It’s a nice casual restaurant to have in this airport-adjacent part of town.