We spent our first night in Pensacola out on the beach with my brother and sister-in-law, listening to the ocean crash, drinking a few cold ones, and grooving to a soundtrack of Sublime and Gorillaz until the wee hours. Waking up the next day, Jess and I decided to take a quick swim and go get some supplies for that night’s dinner of shrimp and scallops, but we decided that we needed something to get us back up and going after a late night. Best answer when you’re right on the Gulf of Mexico? Eat a bunch of seafood for lunch.
To this end, we traveled to Atlas Oyster House hoping to get a couple of dozen on the half-shell…only to find out that Atlas is only open for dinner. No reason to despair, though — Atlas shares a building with sister restaurant Fish House, and they were open and ready for lunch. We wound up with a pretty good meal with some definite creative touches that would make The Fish House a place we’d definitely recommend.
Like I said, we were in the mood for oysters, but The Fish House doesn’t have them on the menu. Our waitress was nice enough (after spending about 15 minutes discussing workout techniques with the yuppies at the adjacent table) to tell us that she could get us a dozen raw since they were part of the same group as Atlas. The result was an iced-down platter of oysters of which six were decent and the rest were so sandy that we might as well have just eaten a mouthful of the beach. Seriously, if you can’t serve clean oysters, don’t offer them, because grit ruins the experience. Lucky for us, the oysters would be the only low point in the meal.
To get the gritty taste of those oysters out of our mouth we ordered some Soul Rolls, described on the menu as a spring roll with collard greens in place of cabbage, served with a creamy mustard sauce and peach chutney. To be perfectly honest, we ordered this appetizer strictly because it was a unique take on spring rolls, and we didn’t expect much. Our expectations were quickly exceeded by this dish, however: crispy wrap, rich tasting greens — and the creamy sauce made a great addition. The peach chutney was sweet, tangy, and spicy all at once, and worked far better with the rolls than we would have thought possible. The chicken seemed to be something of an afterthought, not adding much flavor, but this was still a surprisingly good dish and one that I’d order again. Cabbage in spring rolls normally offers a bright crunch to spring rolls, and the collards in this dish did the opposite — they provided a deep chewy texture and flavor that was quite compelling.
For our main entree, we went with the Fish House’s “signature” dish, something they call “World Famous Grits a Ya Ya.” This dish was perfection. Creamy smoked Gouda cheese grits topped by a sauce made from creamed spinach, bacon, garlic and shallots; topped further by some excellent grilled jumbo shrimp — it was just perfection. The grits were thick and creamy, redolent with cheese flavor; the sauce was flavorful without overpowering; the shrimp were among the best we’ve had — plump, juicy, and with a seasoned flavor that was simply fantastic. By the end of this dish, we had forgiven the oyster mishap (after all, the oysters weren’t exactly on the menu) and decided that The Fish House was pretty great in our book. As a side note, this shrimp and grits dish was considered a single portion, but we easily split it between two people and left stuffed (the Soul Rolls certainly helped). The Fish House is located at 600 S Barracks St. in Pensacola, and they’re open for lunch and dinner. Happy eating!