Gone fishin’ – be back soon

Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp
Boudain Quesadillas

Have you stopped by the bright blue restaurant on Calder lately? The spot that has been home to many different types of restaurants is now known for a cuisine that brings a unique blend of Cajun and Tex-Mex to this area.

Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp opened a few years ago, and has recently improved not only its menu, but also its fun, easy-going atmosphere.

Owner Ricky Martinez has added several new menu items, enclosed a side seating area and redesigned the front patio, giving the now full-service restaurant an inviting face-lift.

“We are adding booths to this section pretty soon,” Martinez said pointing to the new side area. “We also added these windows so we can open them up in the spring and summer to let the nice breeze blow throughout the place.”

Everybody should visit

The experience starts before you open the screen doors to Tia Juanita’s. Parked outside are a fishing boat decorated with strings of white lights and an old rusty truck. The building has vintage signs plastered along the front and sides and with the bright aquamarine blue paint, the whole place just screams “Look at me!” The scenery is a prelude to all that is going on inside. The front patio is decorated very nonchalantly with mixed chairs around wooden tables, and a wooden stage in the corner. Customers are still welcome to dine in the screened-in area on chillier days, as standing heaters are provided. There is even a claw machine for youngsters to try their hand at winning a stuffed prize!

Walking inside, servers greet you with a friendly smile and seat you at a table of your choice. For those who may have visited Tia Juanita’s when they first opened, this is delightful surprise, as you no longer go to the counter to order.

The place looks so festive! Strings of novelty fishing bobber lights hang from the tin roof and posters of Selena and Honey Boo-Boo are hung beside each other. This place is easy-going, to say the least.

While the decorations are not meant to be taken seriously, the food most definitely is.

About six months ago, Martinez added Sunday brunch for the morning crowd and while most might not think a fish camp could offer such a thing, Tia Juanita absolutely can. Chefs prepare traditional Cajun and Tex-Mex delights such as dishes like shrimp and crab quiche and Migas, but also combine the styles with Chi Chi Eggs Benedict. The one that stood out for us however, was the French toast bananas foster (but we’ll get to that in a sec.)

Select dinner items are also available throughout the week as well. The regular menu has a lot of traditional items you would find at a seafood place like fish and shrimp combos and PoBoys, but what is special about Tia Juanita’s is the use of Cajun spices in usual Mexican foods, and visa versa.

What we ate

From brunch to lunch and appetizers and dinner items, Tia Juanita’s has so much to offer, but we carefully selected three dishes: an appetizer, something from the brunch menu, and a regular entre.

 

Boudain Quesadillas 

Homemade boudain grilled between mozzarella and flakey tortillas. Served with house pico, guacamole and jalapeno ranch sauce.

If there are two things we love in this world, its boudain and quesadillas! The blending of the two is a beyond amazing combination, and the melty, stringy cheese is the final touch that puts this dish over the top. The boudain wasn’t overly spicy and had just enough heat for a dip in the sauce. The signature sauce is creamy and delicious, and honestly, we could probably dip anything in it – chips, sandwiches, ice cream – it is that tasty.

 

Shrimp and Fish Combo

One filet of catfish and six jumbo shrimp butterflied, battered and fried to crispy crunchy perfection. Served with two hushpuppies, on a bed of seasoned fries and a lemon slice. Don’t forget the homemade tartar sauce.

While you can pick up a fish and shrimp basket at any seafood place, what makes Tia Juanita’s special is their jumbo shrimp. Even after being butterflied, these juicy morsels hold their shape and size.

“Some places will flatten their shrimp,” Martinez said. “Or load it down with batter. We don’t, and you can tell the difference.”

He is right; the shrimp were still very meaty and flavorful.

 

French Toast Bananas Foster

Sliced French bread, dipped in a sweet egg mixture, grilled and topped with fresh bananas, brown sugar sauce and whipped cream. The toast is served with breakfast potatoes and homemade sausage.

Only three words can describe this dish. Oh. My. Goodness! The bread was light and fluffy and not overly sweet, the porous loaf sopped up the sauce like a delicious sponge, and yet was still crunchy around the edges. The bananas were more like chunks than slices, which we noted as a nice touch. 

Lets talk about the sausage. While the two smaller pieces could be easily overlooked from the pile of toast beside it, they are not to be underestimated. The quality of the meat was wonderful, and tasting it brought us back to when we were little and Grandpa made us homemade sausage for breakfast.

•••

Don’t let the name “Fish Camp” fool you; this place has a fun atmosphere and a serious menu. The presentations of all of our meals were top-notch and definitely something you wouldn’t find at a mom and pop eatery. Martinez has done a wonderful job sprucing up the place, and it’s quickly making a name for itself as a famous local hangout. Tia Juanita’s also has local music and crawfish, so be sure to swing by on the weekends to check out all the camp has to offer. If you are coming after dark, just look for all the bright colorful lights off of Calder. 

That’s where the party is at.

 

We like to know where you like to go! E-mail suggestions for next week’s adventure to weeklydish [at] theexaminer [dot] com.

shadow