The Fried Fish At Carolina’s Fish Camps That Built A Community — SFA
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The Fried Fish At Carolina’s Fish Camps That Built A Community — SFA

January 13, 2020

(soft guitar music) (people chattering) – [Stephen Criswell]
Fish camps are distinct. So, they’re small, family
friendly restaurants, nothing fancy about
them, very simple decor. They cater to a largely
blue collar clientele. They’re marked by having both saltwater and seafood offerings,
and then the trinity of hushpuppies, french
fries, and coleslaw. The fish camps were a
place where you could go and feed your whole family and
not blow your whole paycheck. And the portions were always generous. First and foremost, it’s good. It’s good food, I mean, nothin’ beats a hushpuppy fresh out of the grease. But it’s tied to the textile
mills that were so important to the South, they were
vital to these communities, and they shaped the culture of the region, the food at the fish camp
has a direct relationship to the mill workers, and what they wanted, and what they ate, and
what they were used to. (soft guitar music) The first fish camps were
really just spots on the banks of the river, the
Catawba River, in this case. Mill workers would, on their
days off, would go fishing. A number of entrepreneurs
would set up little camps on the banks where they
would clean your fish and fry it for you, and make
hushpuppies and french fries for you to have with it, and you’d sit out and have a little picnic. One of the earliest ones in
Gaston County, North Carolina was run by a fellow
named Luther Lineberger who worked for the textile mill in Cramerton, North Carolina. Luther was known around the
mill to be a really good cook, and he would be out on the bank some days, fryin’ fish for other mill
workers who were out fishing. That was so successful
that Luther decided to open his own spot, and in 1948,
he opened Lineberger’s Fish Camp a little ways off
from the banks of the river. So, Luther was a mill
worker, the folks fishing in the fishing banks were mill workers, and the clientele of the fish camps tended to be textile mill workers. Because of that connection,
some traditions came up. The culture of the community becomes intertwined with the mills. I don’t wanna romanticize it,
it was painful, unpleasant, hard, loud work, but
there was a community, a camaraderie, and
working at the mill meant that you belonged to a community, that you belonged to a family. I, myself, I grew up in Gaston County, North Carolina, and my dad worked for the textile mills, and the textile mills tended to pay on Thursdays,
and so the fish camps were usually open Thursday,
Friday, and Saturday. I remember many Thursday nights, we would go to Stowe’s Fish Camp,
because Dad got paid, and this was our outing, and
so we’d go out to Stowe’s, and we’d go out to eat,
and I’m the smallest member of my family,
so it was quite a feast that we would have. So, you’re gonna order your entree, and it’s gonna be whole
or half order, right, so whole order is huge, and
half order is still pretty big. You have a choice of filet of flounder or whole flounder, salt
and pepper catfish, perch, I’m not even sure what a perch is. You could get shrimp, this is all fried. A big, giant basket of french fries. Hush puppies, and cole
slaw, and sweet tea, of course, with every meal. Yeah, and that was pretty much it. (soft guitar music) When the mills were at their height, the fish camps were at their height. At one point, if you looked
at maybe a five mile radius, there’d be at least half a dozen or more, and if you go out a little
further, probably another dozen. And so, when the mills started dying off, partly because of
outsourcing, a lot of folks in the area suffered as these
mills picked up and left. Curiously, the decline of the
mills has sort of paralleled the decline of the fish
camps as well, the number of fish camps has dwindled
compared to what it was, say, 20, 30 years ago. It has created a generational split. That said, they’re there
still, and, you know, they’re serving the same
items that they always did. Twin Tops is pretty much
a typical fish camp. What you see there is the
kinda thing you would see or would have seen across the
street and around the corner. (soft guitar music) When you talk to folks
about their memories, goin’ as a family to the fish
camp, those are warm memories, they’re lovely memories
for a lot of people. Home, family, food, feasting,
just that whole experience. You know, when we break bread together, we come together, and
this is a place where a lot of small town
blue collar Southerners came together, formed their communities, they formed their
families, they checked up on each other, they got the latest gossip, but also shared their latest
news, and it was a place for the community, and
for building a community, and building a community
focused around really good food. Like much of history, it’s worth saving, it’s worth honoring,
it’s worth remembering. (upbeat guitar music) – [Narrator] The name is Reckoning’s Cafe, to feed the working man. We went over the menu before we opened, okay, okay, this is good,
this is good, now we… (upbeat rock music)


  • Reply マハ July 2, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    well that was refreshing to watch

  • Reply charro028 July 2, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    😒 only one demographic eating there huh?! 🤔interesting.

  • Reply harry sri July 2, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    seems tasty

  • Reply Chris Peters July 2, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    I was hoping to see Catawba Fish Camp in Lancaster SC very tasty.

  • Reply Yung Reefy July 2, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    ENGLAND is my CITY😎😎!!!!!!

  • Reply Don Congjuico July 2, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    These kinds of videos are so good. I learn so much about other people through their food and what it means to them. Would love to eat at those fish camps someday!

  • Reply E. July 2, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    Why is everyone fat?

  • Reply Vanessa Do July 2, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    That has got to be the whitest town in America.

  • Reply Darkvine July 2, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    wtf are hush puppies?!
    I actually googled it and it says they are shoes, that can't be wth he's referring too

  • Reply azkalot1 July 2, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    Well, that cant be healthy, eating in this kind of place more than 2 times a week,

  • Reply iKaBanana July 2, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    "Thursdeey, Frideey and Saturdeey"… proper Carolina accent!

  • Reply ro pro July 2, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    Generous portions of fried foods at a low price is a big contributor to the obesity epidemic. Wash it all down with a gallon of sweet tea and now you have diabetes. This is not a good 'tradition' to have.

  • Reply StreetsWorth July 2, 2017 at 5:26 pm


  • Reply Noreen's Kitchen July 2, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    Thank you for this lovely revisiting of Carolina history. I am a transplant to North Carolina and a foodie. I love learning about food traditions and this is just awesome. No need to pay any attention to the nasty comments in this feed. They are just jealous that they don't get to eat this wonderful fish dinner more often!

  • Reply Brandon Flora July 2, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    beautiful segment, great change of pace!

  • Reply jkim6509 July 2, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    The narrator nails the segment. Great choice.

  • Reply William Gates July 2, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    cool thing to hear that old family restaurants is still in Carolina

  • Reply Hxllz Cxrtxz July 2, 2017 at 8:04 pm

    eater comment section is a cestpool if it isnt a lucas video

  • Reply Ana Banana July 2, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    free the fish!!!

  • Reply Menz123451 July 3, 2017 at 12:16 am

    Lol are non whites allowed to visit ?

  • Reply Neta McKinney July 3, 2017 at 12:22 am

    I loved the feel and info of this video! Great job!

  • Reply ahmed July 3, 2017 at 1:51 am

    I tranced out and when I came back I thought it pressed the wrong video… Damn son thats some history

  • Reply HBY July 3, 2017 at 1:52 am

    fried seafood is definitely not my favorite way to eat seafood

  • Reply AriesMale88 July 3, 2017 at 2:01 am

    Summary of the comments Murica!!, white demographics, fried food obesity, Trump supporters, Great South!!, Soothing atmosphere.

  • Reply Daniel H July 3, 2017 at 2:07 am

    Good video

  • Reply charlie katsu July 3, 2017 at 2:10 am

    why doesn't anyone (including the SFA) address SEGREGATION in this video?

  • Reply Malik 303 July 3, 2017 at 2:13 am

    Am I the only one who thinks this guy looks like the lost twin brother of the guard Piscatella from Orange is the New Black?

  • Reply ExopMan July 3, 2017 at 2:42 am

    Comfort food is great but the south has gotta work on it's diet…

  • Reply Mornhaven July 3, 2017 at 2:49 am

    Loved the history!

  • Reply Joe Bobst July 3, 2017 at 3:02 am

    not enough food shots

  • Reply Molly Martin July 3, 2017 at 4:30 am

    This video made me cry. I love being from the Carolinas

  • Reply E C July 3, 2017 at 6:00 am

    How's the Chinese food in that town?

  • Reply Yichen Wu July 3, 2017 at 6:33 am

    Wow all these commenters must be fun at parties …. ITS JUST SOME DAMN GOOD FISH CHILL

  • Reply The Engineer July 3, 2017 at 7:59 am

    Strange how leftist comments…please learn to read.. I said COMMENTS.. not videos…. get a lot of hate replies yet never seem to get thumbs down… interesting…

  • Reply s xu July 3, 2017 at 10:22 am

    i love how romantic this piece is, this and the sally's lunchboxes are my favorites, watched them several times.

  • Reply Come on smile. July 3, 2017 at 11:37 am

    This video is basically.

    Picture of the restaurant.
    Picture of another restaurant.
    Picture of another restaurant.
    Picture of another restaurant.
    Man's face.
    Picture of another restaurant
    OPEN sign.

    The end.

  • Reply Raaar1 July 3, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    Disgusting Amerotards!

  • Reply pete_rock2310 July 3, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    This dude waxes poetic about an era of segregation & lynching like it was a jubilant period in history when "things were right". Very disappointed in Eater but not surprised.

  • Reply Duong Kristin July 3, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    The guy on the right at 0:39 looks just like Geoffrey Rush

  • Reply Truth Talker July 3, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    I'm Indian American and watching this video, I don't see just white people like most of these commenters here, I see families enjoying a good fish dinner together, with affordability. That is what is wrong these days, everyone jumps to race so quick, jeez, enjoy the video.

  • Reply James L July 3, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    What a wonderful video.

  • Reply Robert Black July 3, 2017 at 11:35 pm

    Village Restaurant in Denton is our go-to spot.

  • Reply GFINHK July 5, 2017 at 12:52 am

    What's a hush puppy?

  • Reply djiniiiii July 5, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    "Do you think it is a vain hope that one day man will find joy in noble deeds of light and mercy, rather than in the coarse pleasures he indulges in today — gluttony, fornication, ostentation, boasting, and envious vying with his neighbor? I am certain this is not a vain hope and that the day will come soon."


  • Reply Gerard Papa July 5, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    The best denim and twill came from those mills. If you're a denimhead like me, you know what I'm talking about.

  • Reply 9929kingfish July 10, 2017 at 2:53 am

    I grew up eating at river view fish camp off Wilkinson BLvd. I remember the old pirate with his wooden leg that would greet all the children. Gosh I miss those days. Today's younger generation are not into dining on hard wooden benches and tables. They want better ambiance and bigger menus. Sadly, fish camps are dying out due to this and people are much more health conscious today.

  • Reply Plummet July 11, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    not a slim person in sight

  • Reply Skandal December 21, 2017 at 10:11 pm

    im cryin over a fried fish shop smh

  • Reply A Blackwell February 23, 2018 at 6:48 am

    Really enjoyed this. THANK you.

  • Reply nestle joseph July 23, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    wow, what a history of how fish camps were so vital to the community. Amazing to listen to hardworking stories. Love from India.
    Will visit in future with my folks.

  • Reply Carr Rexx August 25, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    No Nz, Xanadu ☺

  • Reply Zee Fax Productions September 1, 2018 at 10:45 pm

    My uncle Ben owns twin tops!

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  • Reply Dave Otuwa June 20, 2019 at 5:01 am

    What a huge decline of fish camps in the Carolinas! 'Tis how people lose their jobs evidently for unemployment. They must've been bankrupt with the government.

  • Reply ROGUEROUGE September 15, 2019 at 1:54 am

    Fact no one in North or South Carolina likes being lumped together as the "Carolinas."

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