DISH PICK: Fried Grouper Sandwich at Champs Sports Grill
For me grouper sandwiches are old Florida and who would have thought a sports bar in Lakeland, Florida could serve up a grouper sandwich that rivals some of Tampa Bay’s best!
Right now Champs Sports Grill if frying up fresh Florida Red Grouper and sticking it in a toasted Keiser roll. They have their own twist in that they deep fry the grouper in Panko breading giving the grouper a crispy outside texture leaving a meaty, flaky inside. Panko breading is used in Japanese cuisine as a crunchy coating for fried foods. It is made from bread baked by passing an electric current through the dough which yields bread without crust. It has a crisper, airier texture than most types of breading found in Western cuisine and resists absorbing oil or grease when fried, resulting in a lighter coating.
I am a grouper fan because it is a meaty, mild tasting white fish that benefits from a little added zip absorbing the flavors of the seasonings. It all starts with the fresh grouper, but the special sauce is the tarter sauce. Champs has created their own house-made fresh tarter sauce that actually has flavor as compared to some restaurants that use a standard food supplier’s tarter sauce with mayo and ingredients that are hard to pronounce. Without giving out their recipe you can actually taste the dill, onion and pickle relish. It looks like it has some chopped up carrots, and probably a little sugar in it. Their in-house tarter sauce is delish! I probably use too much on my sandwich, but that is the way I like it.
The piece of fish that I had during this Dish Pick review I swear was 7 to 8 inches in length and about 4 inches wide. Only half the fish fit into the bun and at $9.99 you almost feel guilty. It comes with lettuce and tomato like a traditional grouper sandwich, but I like to add a little onion to mine. It is served with your choice of chips, fries, apple slices or house-made coleslaw. I chose fries to go with my grouper; a classic that never gets old.