That Food Guy
Monday, April 26, 2010
  Bass Champions, Salt Springs, Florida
Click to enlarge - The sign out front you have to watch for to find Bass Champions. Click to enlarge - A small, off the highway restaurant that is easy to miss.

Bass Champions Restaurant and Lodge
25011 N.E. Highway 14
Salt Springs, FL 32134
(352) 685-0000

We had the good fortune to go RV camping at Salt Springs Recreational Area in the Ocala National Forest with some friends last month. It was an enjoyable week. There are many leisure time activities available in the Ocala National Forest. Our friends, Dick and Cheryl, have been there several times and the experience had brought them back once again. One of their discoveries from previous visits is a small local restaurant, Bass Champions, just a couple of miles down the road from the Salt Springs campground. We would be lucky enough to sample their offerings on two different nights. The menu features beef, pork and chicken dishes but the emphasis is on seafood, fried seafood at that. Click to enlarge - All you can eat shrimp, first round, with French fries and hush puppies.
Click to enlarge - Fried scallops, sides of fried zucchini and eggplantThe restaurant is a small building off the side of the road and you have to look closely for the colorful sign out front. Dick says that when the cooking grease gets hot you can follow your nose to the restaurant. They are closed Sunday and Monday. They open the rest of the week at 4:00 PM for dinner service, closing about 9:00 PM. When they open their doors there will already be a line of people waiting to get in. Those waiting in line include many local residents as well as vacationers and sportsmen Click to enlarge - Regular order of fried shrimp including French fries, fried zucchini and hush puppies.who frequent the area and know about Bass Champions. Lots of return business is a positive sign you are in for a good meal.
Although the largest part of the menu features seafood, there are a good selection of salads, salads, and fresh vegetables and side dishes. The menu lists many side dishes but you have to check the slate board for all the vegetables and side available that day. Dinner selections include a choice of baked Idaho or baked sweet potato, salad or cole slaw, hush puppies or garlic bread. Shrimp, fish oyster, scallops, chopped steak, chicken nuggets combo platters or lobster tail (to name a few) cost from $10 to $18.
EClick to enlarge - All you can eat catfish filets, hushpuppies and greens.arly bird and senior specials are featured (daily until 6:00 PM) and include shrimp, flounder, chopped steak, grilled chicken and a 7-ounce NY steak and cost from $8 to $9. Among other weekly specials, Tuesday features all you can eat shrimp, Wednesday all you can eat fish and chips, and Thursday all you can eat catfish. The weekly specials are a “you make it” dinner because you get a choice of two of the large selection of side dishes.
What could be better than all you can eat shrimp? That’s what I ordered. I found out first-hand what some of the people we talked to while waiting in line told us. Bass Champions serves large portions. Most people have to ask for a “doggie bag.” When I finished my first batch of shrimp I was full. But I wanted more shrimp, after all it is all you can eat! It was so good. In the end, gClick to enlarge - Grilled flounder and scallops with two sides and garlic bread.luttony won out over common sense and I asked for just a half order of shrimp. Our energetic and ever smiling server, Michelle, told us how they hand batter their fresh seafood as needed. Not too much, not too little. It helps to explain the quality of their product.
The four of us, on two different days, and each ordering different things, gave us a good sampling of the menu selections. Of the side dishes: The corn chowder was excellent. It had a lot of large pieces of white chicken meat, unusual for a corn chowder but very tasty. The hush puppies were crispy fried on the outside, moist and soft in the middle. The cole slaw was good, the dressing tart-sweet, not too runny nor to thick. The texture was a nice and crunchy but not like raw cabbage from a just maClick to enlarge - Grilled boneless pork chops (hiding behind the bowls) with two sides, one of fried okra and some garlic breadde salad.
On my second visit to Bass Champions, I ordered the fried scallops with sides of fried zucchini and eggplant. Nicely battered, cooked golden brown, the scallops were excellent. The fried zucchini was excellent and I loved the fried eggplant. Those are two sides you don’t usually find in a restaurant.
The restaurant opens with a waiting line in place. It doesn’t take too long to finally get a seat. The dining room is busy. The servers are going back and forth all night long. It is pretty much on the go from opening to closing. The servers maintained an even keel all the while we were there, quick to keep glasses filled, always with a smile when called to the table. We certainly enjoyed our two visits to Bass Champions and will come back again on our next camping trip to Salt Springs in the Ocala National Forest.

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