As a regular to the beaches along Highway 30A in Walton County, Florida, I have been to the original Stinky’s Fish Camp more than a few times. It’s an icon on the highway in Santa Rosa Beach, so I was curious how this coast-adjacent restaurant would translate inland.
Unlike the Florida version’s waterfront hangout vibe, this incarnation is inside the Baton Rouge Marriott, with uninspiring decor except for a scattering of fish paintings and sea life hanging on the walls. Flat-screen TVs are in abundance.
During our visit, we bypassed the exhaustive oyster menu and zeroed in on Crawfish Hot Tamales. Unfortunately, while the appetizer was featured on the online menu, it was no longer available at the restaurant.
Instead, we chose Firecracker Shrimp at the suggestion of our server, who described it as “our version of Bang Bang Shrimp.” Aptly named, these babies packed some heat with a hint of sweetness from the sauce and the shrimp. Finished with black sesame seeds and served with a bright and tasty slaw, this dish kick-started our meal with plenty of flavor and spice.
On left: The Catfish Meunière is served with brabant potatoes and sauteed baby green beans.
On right: Chef Matthew Farmer worked at New Orleans restaurants Apolline and Trenasse before becoming a corporate chef for the restaurant group behind Stinky’s.
Moving on, we ordered Stinky’s Fowl Gumbo and The Wedge salad. As all gumbos should be—but rarely are—this version had heaping hunks of poultry and sausage in a gravy so dark and pungent that it made the rice almost unnecessary. As for the salad, who knew all that was needed to jazz up a basic wedge was substituting a tangy green goddess dressing? Blue cheese, tomatoes and bacon rounded out this fresh take on the classic.
For a variety of flavors on one plate, The Taste of Stinky’s entree is unequaled. Included were an enormous crawfish pie—typically available as an appetizer or entree itself—along with catfish meunière and shrimp and grits, which are both also offered as standalone entrees.
The pie’s super flaky, buttery crust encapsulated crawfish étouffée and created a darn-near perfect crawfish pie. The catfish was nicely pan sautéed, maintaining a crisp crust and moist meat. The sauce in the shrimp and grits was heavy on the cream, and though too rich for me, my friend adored the creaminess as well as the bell peppers and gargantuan shrimp.
Another big plate, the Vegetarian 2 Course presented a swath of dishes that appear elsewhere on the menu on their own. As an appetizer, the fried green tomatoes are prepared with crawfish étouffée, but on this entree it came with jalapeño rouille and an overly oniony corn relish with no sweetness to the corn. The cauliflower steak was topped with rich St. Andre cheese that would have been improved with a pass under the broiler. Still, the cheese gave just enough oomph to what can be a very bland vegetable. Completing this seafood alternative platter was a hearty angel hair pasta tossed with a punchy and bright sauce with parsley, lemon, garlic and pepper flakes.
To complete our dinner, we added a side of Crawfish Hushpuppies—because why not? While we expected the usual crispy rounds, these misshapen nuggets were soft and mild. There was little cornmeal flavor and the crawfish seemed in short supply. The remoulade sauce helped, and an included slaw added crunch, but overall the dish wasn’t what we were expecting.
For dessert, the Heaven and Earth offered multiple frozen layers of sweetness molded into a large square. A thick layer of compressed chocolate cookie crumbs on the bottom was followed by creamy layers of chocolate and vanilla ice cream and finished with another layer of cookie crumbs on top. The vanilla layer was more like cake frosting in sweetness and texture while the chocolate was a firm, dark bittersweet mass. We kept trying to love it but never quite felt Cupid’s arrow.
Another dessert, Key Lime Pie in a Jar, was exactly as named. Tart and incredibly creamy with a faint amount of graham cracker crumbs on the bottom, it was a great representation of a traditional Key lime pie.
The bland decor aside, we found the food at this inland take on Stinky’s a delight. The dishes were superb with pungency and zest. Service was equally outstanding and attentive. Though I still love the coastal decor and setting of the original, this local outpost is a wonderful stand-in for my Stinky’s cravings.
THE BASICS: The Florida favorite opened a Baton Rouge outpost in 2017 inside the Baton Rouge Marriott off Corporate Boulevard. Known for its casual vibe and seafood-centric dishes, the restaurant also serves as the catering arm for events at the hotel.
WHAT’S A MUST: Firecracker Shrimp for an appetizer with a kick; The Taste of Stinky’s entree to sample a crawfish pie, catfish meunière and shrimp and grits all on one plate; and the Key Lime Pie in a Jar for a unique take on the refreshing dessert.
EAT AT STINKY’S
5500 Hilton Ave.
Breakfast: 6 a.m.-10 a.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m.-11 a.m. Saturday-Sunday
Lunch: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. daily
Dinner: 5-10 p.m. daily
Our food critic’s name may be false, but the credentials are not. This gastronome has studied the history, cultivation, preparation, science and technology of food for more than 30 years.
This article was originally published in the July 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.