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Stephen Brown serves Southern specialties, with the help of his mother, Linda Brown, and the rest of his family at Freshwater Fish Company near Conway.
Photo by Becky Billingsley
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Down home catfish stew
Stephen Brown offers a zesty twist on catfish stew. See the recipe below.
Motorists en route to Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand may be surprised to learn that some of the best seafood in the Palmetto State is found inside a humble cinder-block building near Conway—miles away from the ocean.
Freshwater Fish Company, housed in a former juke joint off S.C. 701, is a combination fish market and casual eatery owned by Stephen and Aprelle Brown, but when you sit down for a made-to-order seafood dinner with all the fixin’s, chances are you’re enjoying the work of the entire Brown family.
Stephen’s son, Jonathan, presides over the market side of the building, where the clear eyes of whole spot, croaker, catfish, salmon and flounder peek through the ice. On the restaurant side, Aprelle, Stephen, his mother Linda and a host of other Brown family members draw on family recipes to serve up fresh grilled and fried seafood with home-style grits, hush puppies and Aunt Paulene Chisolm’s raisin-studded coleslaw.
Stephen developed two of the house specialties himself. His signature glazed salmon (each steak is hand cut from a whole fish when you order) and zesty catfish stew offer tasty new twists to classic seafood entrees.
Not into seafood? You’ll have plenty of other family-style Southern specialties to choose from, including Miss Linda’s lima beans and rice, fried chicken, hog maws and the always popular pork chop sandwich. A family cousin, La-Ruth Jordan, provides the restaurant with crackle-edged pound cakes and the occasional sweet potato or pecan pie.
Locals line up for the special Sunday buffets ($10 for adults, $8 for children), which usually include chicken bog, seafood salad, stew beef, field peas, meatloaf and collards along side a mountain of fried fish. On Saturday nights, the entire family is usually involved in preparing the feast.
Stephen and Aprelle’s daughter, Jonica, makes strawberry shortcake, Stephen prepares macaroni and cheese from scratch, Aprelle whips up pans of banana pudding, Linda handles candied yams, steamed cabbage and bread pudding, while an aunt, Brenda Graham, squeezes lemons for fresh lemonade.
Stephen says he isn’t happy unless customers leave feeling they’ve received more than a great meal.
“The one ingredient that makes a difference is you have to love it,” he says.
“I was cooking a couple of days ago, and there was a friend standing at the window, watching. After it was plated and we got it to the table, he said, ‘I see now why it’s so good.’ I asked him, ‘What do you mean?’ and he said, ‘There’s love in it. The preparation, it’s like you want it to be perfect.’ And that’s a big part of what we do.”
Freshwater Fish Company
4640 S.C. 701, Conway
Hours: Tuesday–Thursday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.;
Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m
Down home catfish stew
3 pounds fresh catfish, cut away from the bone and into 1- to 2-inch chunks (keep the bony pieces to include for flavor)
4 tablespoons cooking oil
1 medium or large onion, chopped
1 medium white potato, peeled and cut into
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper (or to taste)
8 cups water
2½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons hot sauce (or to taste)
½ cup canned stewed tomatoes, sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
Rice or grits, cooked
Dip half of catfish in milk and dredge in breader, leaving the other half unbreaded, and then pan-fry it all together in oil until done. In a medium saucepan, saute onions with white potatoes for 1 to 2 minutes. Add catfish to onions and potatoes with salt, pepper and water. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, tomatoes and sugar to mixture. Cover and simmer 10 more minutes. Serve over rice or grits.