Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Goodbye, Clyde Phillips, I'll Miss You Most of All

   By the time this posts, I'll be making my final drive back to Tennessee from North Carolina.  Last year at this time when I moved back to Tennessee, I had no intention of ever returning to the Jacksonville, NC area.  It is different now.  I'm not dealing with a husband who is delpoying; his getting out of the USMC.  I'm not moving back in with parents; we have a huge house to move into (and fix up.)  I'm not going to be looking for my career job, just something to make a little money while I work on food.  The prospects of moving home are so much better this time around, but the move itself is much more bittersweet.  I've really grown to love some of the places around here.  It didn't sink in about how much I love them until I came back in March.

   Without a doubt, my single favorite location in Eastern North Carolina is Clyde Phillips Seafood Market.  It's a little salmon colored plaster shack on the White Oak River in Swansboro, NC  Absolutely unassuming with the weathered exterior and jumble of boats docked behind it.  Those boats are my favorite part.  There is nothing better than walking into a place to buy seafood and the trawlers are still wet from the morning's shrimping expedition.
   The small shop area is low key and utilitarian.  A cement block resevoir filled with ice serves as the cooler display case in the center.  Along the back wall is a long, shallow, stainless steel cleaning bench.  A few failing rocking chairs serve as the waiting area.  Each day the selection varies.  Generally it is filled with mullet, croaker, flounder, and shrimp.  Sometimes they'll have crabs, clams, oysters, drums, grouper, snapper and scallops (depending on the season, tides, and weather.)

Mullet in the front.
Croaker in the back, a flakey, buttery, mild white fish.

Beautiful red snapper

Creamy white bellies of flounder

My favorite item: huge, fresh shrimp.
16-20 per pound, an absolute steal at $5.50/lb (head on) in season

   Even with buying shrimp about once a week, I can't get enough.  I am going to miss the fresh seafood so much; I am actually crying about it a little right now.  While I wish Jacksonville, NC and I had never met; I fell in love with Wilmington, the Outer Banks, Bear Island and Swansboro.  Clyde Phillips caught my heart the moment I pulled into the gravel lot the first time:  the boats, the breeze, the estuary islands in the river, the seafood.

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