Georgia Sea Grill's catfish brings a new Father's Day flavor to the table (2024)

Jun. 16—Few things are as Southern as catfish served up on a steamy summer night. At Georgia Sea Grill on St. Simons Island, that's certainly what's on the menu.

The restaurant, located at 407 Mallery St., has been serving up fresh catfish from Satilla Ponds, bringing even more local flavor to the restaurant. Owner Zack Gowen's family has had the Satilla Ponds property for years. It was a dormant catfish pond, so he decided to do something with it.

"The ponds weren't being utilized for the past 10 or so years," Gowen said. "I've always wanted to do something with it since I bought the Sea Grill, but I didn't know how."

So the farmer, Sam McPherson of Potlikker Farms, which Gowen also owns, introduced him to Eric Miller. He's a teacher at Camden County High School but also does a lot with aquaculture.

"He kind of care takes, feeds, does all the maintenance — everything that is catfish, Eric takes care of, and he's done a phenomenal job," said Georgia Sea Grill executive chef Tim Lensch. "He and Zack both have done a great job of revamping what was there before. It started about two years ago, and they've added more since the initial."

The catfish at Satilla Ponds like most people eat. The team makes sure they only produce the very best. They are a hybrid between a blue and channel catfish and are fed incredibly well.

"We're organically feeding them. We have a company, and I believe they're out of Minnesota, that made this feed for us," Gowen said. "As far as I know, we're the only place in Georgia that's organically feeding their catfish."

Starting this time last year, Lensch and Miller began going out to the ponds each Sunday to catch the fish.

Three aerators are continually moving the water among the ponds, and Lensch said there are no gasoline boats allowed. They don't use cast nets either. Instead, they line catch each individual fish.

"So it's been cool to see the process of the growing and getting them distributed and cooking them," Lensch said. "It's a super clean flavored catfish. It's a little different from other farm-raised — I don't know if it's the feed, the care or the love."

Lensch also loves taking his two daughters, 11-year-old Bryar and 7-year-old Margaret with him.

"Fishing is something I love and grew up doing — hard not to around these parts," Lensch said. "I enjoy taking my daughters Bryar and Margaret with me to pass the love onto them in hopes they enjoy it as much as I do. I enjoy seeing their reactions when they catch something; it's a true joy."

Gowen said he doesn't take his daughters to the ponds often to fish, but Father's Day is one of his favorite days of the year.

"It's usually just a laid-back day with a big dinner at my folks' house on St. Simons," Gowen said. "Last year, I was honored with a trophy for the 'King of Dad Jokes,' a title I take great honor in and that was well earned."

On top of using the fish they catch at the Georgia Sea Grill, and other restaurants have gotten some too, like Tipsy McSway's, Southern Soul Barbeque and Reid's Apothecary. He's even shipped some to a few Atlanta restaurants.

Gowen said the end goal is for these products to be for everyone, not just his restaurant. He wants to be able to diversify his product and send it everywhere.

Gowen said he wanted to cut out the middleman and know where his products are coming from — that not only goes for Satilla Ponds but the Potlikker Farm as well.

"One of my things was ... I need to tell a story. I need to figure out how to pull it all together and what we're about with Potlikker and Satilla Ponds — it just kind of made sense," he said.

Right now, Lensch has two catfish dishes on the menu. The first is a blackened catfish taco and the other is a fried catfish entree on a bed of grits.

"One, we do a blackened catfish taco. So we blackened a piece of catfish, and we serve it on a grilled soft corn tortilla," Lensch said. "Then I have a cilantro slaw that goes on there, some really good black beans from a company called Rancho Gordo, and then some lime pickled shallot. It's real clean and crisp."

Lensch notes that when it comes to cooking this fish, don't to be afraid to branch out.

"Stick to what you know, in a sense, but don't be afraid to try a different sauce. I mean, everyone's still hooked on fish and grits, and I don't blame them. I mean, I put it on the menu, but as far as you know your sauces go, don't be afraid to try catfish blackened and try it other ways than just fried," Lensch said. "If you get a great product, a great catfish, there's no sense of trying to mask it up with heavy breading and co*cktail or tartar sauce."

Catfish Marinade


2 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup Crystal's Hot Sauce

1 tablespoon celery seeds

Directions: Mix together and pour over catfish and marinate overnight. This recipe will cover a few pounds of catfish.

Tasso Gravy

4 cups diced Tasso

1 cup of diced sweet onion

1 cup of diced celery

1 cup of seeded and diced red pepper

3 cups of heavy cream

1 tablespoon of canola oil

Directions: In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, head add canola oil followed by celery, onion and red pepper. Cook vegetables for 3 to 5 minutes. Add Tasso and stir, cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Add cream and turn heat down to low. Simmer for 30 minutes. Using a blender, blend the mixture a little at a time. Start on the lowest setting and work up to high. Use a towel over the top of the lid of the blender as a safety precaution. Continue this until everything is blended and smooth.


2 cups stone ground grits

1/2 pound of butter

2 cups heavy cream

6 cups of water

salt to taste

Directions: In a medium sauce pot, bring water, cream, butter and salt to a boil. Add grits and stir continuously for 3 to 5 minutes. Bring down to a simmer and stir occasionally until grits are done.

Red Pea Salad

2 cups red peas

1 tablespoon of minced parsley

1/2 cup of small diced sweet onion

1 cup of peeled and small diced green tomato

1/2 cup seeded and small diced red pepper

1 seeded and minced jalapeño (1 each)

1/2 juiced lemon (1 each)



3 Bay leaves

Crystal's Hot Sauce to taste

Directions: Rinse the peas and place into a medium sized sauce pot. Fill with water, you want to cover the peas with about 2 inches of water. Salt the water to taste. Add a shot or two of your favorite hot sauce. Add three bay leaves. Using medium high heat, bring to a boil. Once at a boil turn heat down to reach a simmer and let cook until soft. Turn off heat once done and let peas soak for half an hour. Drain, cool and mix the rest of the ingredients.

Bring the food together: Pour over fried catfish that you used with your favorite fish fry mix.Place grits onto plate followed by the fried catfish, top with Tasso gravy and red pea salad.

Georgia Sea Grill's catfish brings a new Father's Day flavor to the table (2024)


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