Food & Wine // 6 min Read

A Fish Camp on Tybee Time

Written by Palmetto Bluff

Nov 23, 2015

On Tybee Island, just about anything goes. You can wear just about anything, say just about anything, do just about anything (within legal parameters, of course) and fit right in with the wonderfully eclectic mix of people that frequent this beach.

A small barrier island located only 18 miles from Savannah, Tybee Island is a hub for native Savannahians and tourists alike. On Tybee Island you can buy an airbrushed t-shirt of the sunset, or sing karaoke at Benny’s Tybee Tavern, tour the historic Fort Pulaski, drink frozen drinks made with grain alcohol like old times. Or all of the above. The possibilities are nearly endless. You can also do all of these things while wearing a tank top, making this beach truly one of a kind.

Despite the religiously casual nature of Tybee, a foodie can still feel right at home thanks to the gourmet grandeur of local restaurant Fish Camp. Owner Kurtis Schumm set out to cultivate an inimitable dining experience in a destination that is unique itself. As the owner of Tybee Island Social Club, a successful, bustling restaurant located near the beach, Schumm knew he wanted to create another restaurant equally as appetizing as his first brainchild, but remarkably different in look, feel and taste.

“We followed business 101, and looked at what was needed on the island,” Kurtis remarked. What he found was that an easygoing island and eating well were not mutually exclusive. In fact, starting a restaurant with a surprisingly sophisticated menu and interior décor could serve as a destination unto itself. With this in mind, Kurtis and his wife Sarah began searching for the restaurant’s location. When they happened upon an old cottage as salty as the breeze coming off the ocean, they knew they were home.

“[Fish Camp] is in a 1950’s cottage, and we fell in love with how quaint it was,” Kurtis noted.

As opposed to Tybee Island Social Club, which is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week and seats a parade of people, Fish Camp is “much more controllable,” according to Schumm. “We could swallow doing another [restaurant] because of its small size.”

With seating for 30 inside and a little more than that outside, Fish Camp’s comfy eatery is open from Wednesday to Sunday, and only for dinner, keeping its operation much more flexible, allowing Schumm to foster a beautiful intimacy and individuality within the restaurant.%GALLERY%The Element of Interior Surprise

In conjunction with the name Fish Camp, Kurtis and Sarah worked together on the design of the restaurant to create a cozy, cherished feel for guests – a place that felt like a real respite from the outside. Sarah is an interior designer by trade and Kurtis has a background in construction, so with these professional backgrounds they combined their forces to build a restaurant that is as beautiful as it is delicious

“We wanted it to look like a real fish camp, with mismatched napkins and silverware, and different furniture – a man’s escape. The things the wife doesn’t want in the house,” Kurtis laughed.

In typical Lowcountry fish camp fashion, the restaurant’s interior is eclectic and layered, like the possessions inside were collected over a lifetime of memories, which enlists both a sense of quirkiness and disarray. But don’t be fooled – the details of this restaurant are anything but out of place. From the aged wood-paneling on the walls to the charming fold-out dining tables to the mint-colored handles on the Laguiole knives set at each quaint place setting, the devil is clearly in the details at Fish Camp. Capitalizing on his construction expertise, Kurtis did the renovations to the restaurant in addition to painting all of the strikingly beautiful portraits gracing the walls of the cottage, further proving there is no shortage of talent at this cozy little hut.

A Menu that Changes with the Tides

And because you don’t just go to a restaurant for its décor, the food at Fish Camp is equally as persuasive as the interior design, delighting the senses with a refined and fresh selection of seafood and locally sourced ingredients that are sure to please. The creation of the menu is a collaborative process, and sometimes includes a glass of wine or two. Kurtis and Fish Camp’s sous chef Taylor Robertson meet at the restaurant around noon on days when the restaurant is open, and then start planning the menu, which changes as much as the weather on a sweltering Lowcountry summer afternoon.

“We have a revolving door of ingredients, which requires us to stay on our toes and keeps us really sharp,” Schumm said.

Together Kurtis and Taylor investigate the specialty foods they can procure from their local purveyors. Based on that day’s selection, the pair loosely crafts a plan of what food they will serve that evening. Then they start cooking. And tasting. And then cooking and tasting some more. And they do this until each dish is just right.

“I make everyone taste everything,” Schum said, who makes sure to surround himself with employees whose palates he trusts. This way the group can discuss ways to tweak and polish each dish.

“We’ve got a good team,” Kurtis added. “And [the restaurant] is so small, there’s no room for bad attitudes!”

Despite the ever-changing menu and larder, there is one dish that will always remain on the menu: the Lobster, Mushroom & Shrimp Risotto. A wonderfully creamy and savory dish, this risotto is assembled with fresh Maine lobster, poached to perfection, wild mushrooms, and local Georgia shrimp, when in season. The combination of the barley and corn add just enough bite of grain to complement the luscious lobster and silky mushrooms, which are topped elegantly with a long, single chive. The buttery smooth sumptuousness of this risotto is an experience that is not easy to forget.

“I can’t take full credit, it was Taylor’s idea,” noted Kurtis. “Its texture makes it fun and interesting.”

And speaking of interesting, the varied channels through which Fish Camp procures its fresh ingredients is a curious endeavor as well. Kurtis’ brother runs the Agnes Marie, the only wooden shrimp boat on Tybee, and any time Fish Camp serves fresh Georgia shrimp, it’s from the old world nostalgia of the Agnes Marie.

“We also serve other stuff that gets caught in their nets, like stone crabs and octopus,” added Kurtis, demonstrating that despite the spontaneity of the food, the deliciousness and freshness of each ingredient is certain.

Schumm also calls upon the maritime prowess of a local offshore fisherman who knows where and how to catch – wait for it – a hog fish. These giant, hog-like fish offer great-tasting, fatty meat, not unlike the valuable fatty bacon from hogs. This anonymous fisherman also knows all the great spots to snag a warm water lobster, which in Schumm’s opinion are nothing short of spectacular.

What’s Next

On the horizon of Schumm’s world of fish camps and tourists, his next venture is a Vietnamese restaurant that delivers. Yes, that’s right – now not only can you eat well in your tank top at Tybee, you can eat Vietnamese delivered to your door in your tank top at Tybee. Alas, the options are truly endless, as is Schumm’s commitment to his craft and business.

“We really pour ourselves into what we do… When we interview people, we let them know this is a family, and this is how hard we work,” Schumm noted. “We are very, very passionate about what we do.”

Written by Anna Jones

palmetto bluff builders

Architecture & Design / The Palmetto Bluff Builders Design Process

Behind the Design with Jason Kimes & Leighann Markalunas In the heart of the Lowcountry, where the gentle sway of Spanish moss-laden trees meets the tranquil embrace of the coast, lies a unique community: Palmetto Bluff. Their approach to home design capt...

Sep 2023

Food & Wine / Fall Recipes From Buffalos

Your Pine-ness Cocktail Recipe Before delving into the ingredients and recipe for Buffalos’ delectable Ricotta Meatballs and Sauce, it is imperative that the chef has an excellent cocktail for cooking. Pairing the sweetness of pineapple with the woody flavo...

Sep 2023
palmetto bluff neighborhoods

Real Estate / Waterfront Neighborhoods in Palmetto Bluff

Coastal Palmetto Bluff Neighborhoods Palmetto Bluff, a private community nestled along the South Carolina coastline, presents a harmonious blend of luxurious living, recreational spaces, and a vibrant atmosphere. The meticulously designed Palmetto Bluff neigh...

Sep 2023
wilson landing

Waterways / Behind the Bluff with Marina Captain: Thomas Shanahan

Meet Captain Tom of Palmetto Bluff’s Wilson Landing  In the tranquil embrace of Bluffton's Lowcountry, where rivers wind their way through nature's masterpiece, an extraordinary tale unfolds at Wilson Landing of Palmetto Bluff. The story belongs to Captain Th...

Sep 2023
luxury kitchen design

Architecture & Design / Designing the Southern Kitchen of Your Dreams

Your Guide to a Luxury Kitchen Design The kitchen has long been the heart of the home, where cherished memories are cooked up and shared. When it comes to Lowcountry living, a well-designed kitchen is not just a place to prepare meals but a space that encapsu...

Sep 2023
summer bucket list

Culture / Summer Activities to Check Off Your List Before the Fall

10 Activities You Have to Cross Off Your Summer Bucket List While the days are long and the sun hangs high in the sky, summer offers a golden opportunity to create lasting memories and partake in a variety of thrilling activities. Before the cooler breeze of ...

Sep 2023

Conservation / Water Way

Palmetto Bluff is an ecological wonderland, with its maritime forest and tidal rivers, its salt marsh and abundant wildlife. But perhaps one of the most unique features of this wedge of Lowcountry is the impressive inland waterway that wends through the landsc...

Aug 2023

Artist in Residence / Places Around Palmetto Bluff to Paint Plein Air

Plein Air Painting and Our August Artist in Residence Palmetto Bluff is a paradise for art enthusiasts and nature lovers alike with its breathtaking landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and serene atmosphere. With that being said, the Bluff is the perfect canvas f...

Aug 2023
coastal living

Waterways / Experience Health and Happiness By Living on the Coast

5 Health Benefits of Coastal Living Did you know that life by the coast is not only the most idyllic way to live, but it also improves your health? All in all, coastal living is a rejuvenating experience for the mind, body, and soul. From the cool, salty bree...

Aug 2023
south carolina lowcountry

Culture / 9 Enticing Facts About the Lowcountry

Discover the Charm of the South Carolina Lowcountry Where history and nature intertwine with effortless grace, the South Carolina Lowcountry is a region that allures visitors and residents alike with its timeless beauty, enchanting landscapes, and diverse cul...

Aug 2023
Community Villages
Palmetto Bluff Club
On The Water
The Arts Initiative
About Us