While away a summer day at Jake’s Fish Camp
By Jennifer Kornegay
While the name of Jake’s Fish Camp is a little misleading — there is no fish on the small menu, and it’s run by a friendly guy named Frank — the place is pretty straightforward about what you will find there: tasty burgers, barbecue and sandwiches; cold beer; and on most weekends in the spring and summer, live music, all in an environment that gives new meaning to the term “laid back.”
Sitting on a dark muddy slip of Pintlala Creek flowing to and from the Alabama River, Jake’s was once a marina in addition to a restaurant/bar that welcomed all kinds of characters for more than 30 years. When its namesake passed away a decade ago, the place died with him. But Jake’s son Frank re-opened Jake’s two and half years ago, much to the delight of those who’d once frequented the joint as well as its many new fans.
It’s not much to look at: a small cabin painted the color of the pines around it with a covered side porch boasting a water view and an overhead sprinkler system to cool things down in the heat of summer; a pool room up front; a bar and a few tables in the back room lit by neon beer logos; and an outdoor stage out front. Its proximity to the creek is a constant threat, but one that Jake and now Frank have always taken in stride. It’s all been completely underwater several times (look for the notation above the front door showing how high the water got in 1990), which explains a lot. “Dad never really bothered fixing the place up too much since we flooded so often,” Frank said.
But the food is good, the service is friendly, and Theo the wiener dog — Jake’s unofficial mascot — greets all who come with a tail wag and a loud bark. Frank likes to call his spot “a little Flora-Bama,” and the description is accurate. It’s nothing fancy, but the experience is all about fun.
Frank is particularly proud of the musical acts he’s been bringing in, a slew of the Southeast’s most popular and prolific bar bands, and they’re bringing in the crowds. On a weekend in April, 60s star Billy Joe Royal played at Jake’s. And later in the month, Brandon Self (who’s opened for David Allan Coe) drew more than 200 people with his country music crooning, despite a downpour that pushed the show inside.
Even when there’s no musical act scheduled to perform, visitors find their way to Jake’s (and there’s always a juke box playing good-time tunes). They come by land and they come by boat. The spot is definitely off the beaten path, but the drive through countryside or ride down the creek to get there plus the relaxed vibe courtesy of its semi-hidden spot on a bank lined with silvery moss-draped trees is a large part of the appeal, as is the humble but hearty food.
It may be simple, but some folks swear that Jake’s hot ham and cheese sandwich is the best they’ve ever had. Frank smokes barbecue out front that’s earned rave reviews from diners, too. But it’s the Jake’s Cheeseburger that is not to be missed. It’s basic and not too big, and the secret to its deliciousness lies in the toppings. Fine chopped onion and shredded lettuce covered in coarse black pepper add crunch and kick that complement the juicy beef patty blanketed in melty American cheese. Enjoy it all with an icy can of Coke or a brew while watching the creek roll by and listening to some grinning guy picking a guitar, and you’re well on your way to a perfect summer day.
Jake’s Fish Camp
125 Jake’s Landing Road
Check out Jake’s Facebook page to see upcoming bands and events.
If you’re using your phone or a car navigation system to find Jake’s, you may get thrown off course. If you’re coming from around Montgomery, head away from downtown toward Maxwell AFB on Day Street and go past the Air Force Base entrance. Not far after that, take a left on Old Selma Road. Follow that for eight miles and look for Jake’s Landing Road on your right.