Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp’s grilled salmon is hands down the best thing on the menu, in my book. The perfectly prepared, tender and flavorful salmon was cloaked in a tangy garlic cream sauce with capers, notes of dill, green onions and a squeeze of lime.

Seafood Enchiladas

The Seafood Enchiladas at Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp are a real treat, stuffed with mozzarella, baby shrimp and crab and smothered in pepper jack cream sauce, fresh blackened scallops and jumbo shrimp — one of my favorite dishes.

Spicy Beef Nachos

The Spicy Beef Nachos are a heaping mound of homemade chips topped with charro beans, seasoned ground beef and a river of queso and melted cheddar jack cheese, with jalapeños and salsa on the side. These nachos are so good that what initially began as my friend and I politely removing chips from our respective sides of the plate quickly devolved into us greedily grabbing the most cheese- and meat-laden nachos we could extract.

Blackened Shrimp and Crab Bread Bowl

Our server recommended the Blackened Shrimp and Crab Bread Bowl, and my friend and I could immediately see why. He cut into the bread bowl and extracted bites from that covered in the exquisite mix of their pepper jack cream sauce and melted mozzarella highlighted by blackened shrimp and bits of lump crab meat, while I enjoyed dipping the buttered bites of toast and homemade tortilla garnishes into the fondue.

Roast Beef Poboy

Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp’s roast beef poboy is fantastic, with a buttered baguette that’s soft on the inside yet crisp enough on the outside to hold up under the mound of perfectly tender and blissfully salty seasoned roast beef, a nice blanket of melted mozzarella and a delicious au jus to tie it all together.

Sopapilla Cheesecake

The Sopapilla Cheesecake is a creamy vanilla cheesecake ensconced in a cinnamon-dusted sopapilla and topped with a strawberry sauce and piped whipped cream that tasted like icing — a dessert so good I’ve finished my meal with it on each of my five visits.

Blackened Seafood Nachos

The Blackened Seafood Nachos with shrimp and crab are an impressive pile of homemade tortilla chips, shrimp and bits of crab, spicy blackened seasoning, melted mozzarella, mild white queso, pico de gallo, guacamole, jalapeños and a bright, fresh salsa. The freshness of the shrimp struck me first, followed rapidly by the kick of the spices. Each bite just gets better as your palate adjusts to the heat and you dig down into the bottom layers, where chips lurk softened as they soak up the queso.

Blackened Redfish Pontchartrain

The fresh, flaky Blackened Redfish Pontchartrain had great flavor, with a salty, slightly spicy seasoning, light mushroom sauce and bright pineapple pico, sweet shrimp and their tender veggie mix of squash, zucchini and red bell peppers that is often the spiciest thing on the menu.

Crab cakes

The crab cakes at Tia Juanita’s are light, fresh and perfectly delicious — hands down the best crab cakes in town for my money. They’re also a safe choice for those who can’t handle a lot of spice, as long as they stay away from the remoulade on the side, which I loved, but which definitely has a kick. The crab cakes with just a squeeze of lemon alone, however, are also perfectly delicious.

Shrimp and Grits

I ordered the Shrimp and Grits to go for a friend, who kindly allowed me to sample it. The sweet jumbo shrimp in a garlic and tomato sauce is fantastic, but the perfectly creamy pepper jack cheese grits dotted with diced jalapeños are one of the best things on the menu.

Jalapeño Cheese Grits

I’ve ordered a side of the Jalapeño Cheese Grits each time I’ve dined at Tia Juanita’s since first trying them, eating half at the restaurant, where they’re mildly hot, and taking half home to marinate in the fridge and eat later, when the jalapeños really begin to kick in and shine through.

Foodies have been curious about Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp since the fall, when its owners began transforming the former Barnhill’s/Posado’s Cafe building on the south loop into the funky, sea foam green eatery with a long list of disciples at its other locations in Beaumont, Lake Charles, Lumberton, Port Arthur and Winnie.

And after its opening earlier this month to much fanfare, word-of-mouth, packed parking lots and sometimes hour-plus-long wait times for a table, those who haven’t tried it yet are likely wondering whether it’s worth all the fuss.

Brie Bradford is a pseudonym for the food critic of The Lufkin News. Her email is

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