Sep 22 2015

From Family Table to Restaurant Staple

The Thai Fry from The Clam House has gained popularity since it's menu debut.

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Kyle and Deanna Brinkley are the kind of people that do everything. As if a successful restaurant with charm like that of a next door neighbor isn’t enough to keep them incredibly busy, they also own a clam farm (that recently added a crop of oysters that will be ready next fall) and wholesale business. Kyle designs and builds boats. And on top of that, they raised a family on Joe Island.

One thing is clear when you meet Kyle: he attributes a large portion of his success in commercial fishing, clam farming, boat building and family-rearing to having great mentors along the way. One particular mentor, a sushi chef and customer of his fishing business from over 30 years ago, hosted a dinner and served up something so delicious that it has stayed with he and Deanna all these years.

The Thai Fry

As it happens when you are a fisherman and clam farmer, his mentor asked Kyle to bring fish to the infamous dinner party. Freshly caught mangrove snapper came with Kyle and Deanna to the party. Cleaned, fried whole and served to hungry guests, the simple preparation meant that every bit of the smaller, harder to fillet fish was enjoyed with minimal preparation and waste. Similar dishes of whole fish are common in Thai cooking, and when Deanna began replicating the dish at home with the fish Kyle brought home each night, the Thai Fry was born. Perfect for hungry, growing boys with massive appetites, Deanna began serving the Thai Fry to her family around their kitchen table on Joe Island.

When the couple opened The Clam House, it didn’t take long for Deanna to test the waters and offer the Thai Fry on the menu. Since it is prepared with game fish that aren’t commercially viable, the Thai Fry is a nightly special with a highly limited supply. Each night, Deanna prepares a single Thai Fry list that all servers share that lists the available fish for that evening – including the quantity of each type of fish and their respective weight. Since the first night, it has been such a hit that regulars call in advance to reserve not a table, but their very own fish. Once a fish from the Thai Fry list is ordered, it is crossed off for the night.

The Thai Fry varies each night depending on Kyle’s daily catch – but you can often find hogfish, mangrove snapper, vermillion snapper and sheepshead on the ever-changing list. Difficult to catch commercially, regular customers know that the same good people preparing their favorite Thai Fry catch in the kitchen of The Clam House are the same ones who caught it in the gulf that day. Prices are set by the pound and the Thai Fry is served with fresh sides made with locally sourced ingredients.

The Dish That Named a Boat

With the success of The Clam House and an increasing demand for fresh fish to serve up every night, Kyle set out a build a boat. Much like The Field of Dreams, he built it. And people came to the restaurant to enjoy his harvest of clams and all sorts of seafood. Custom designed and built by hand, he named his fishing vessel the Thai Fry, an homage to a dish that has sustained his family for more than 30 years and is now one of many things that makes his restaurant special. A hybrid design of an offshore racing and fishing boat, the intuitive design is perfectly built for the types of fish that Kyle is out to catch for the nightly Thai Fry, and to make the trips from 15-80 miles off the coastline quicker. Taking over two years to build, the Thai Fry is a vessel that feels as personal to Kyle and Deanna as their restaurant does.

Locally Owned and Full of Charm

While the Thai Fry is a little bit of family tradition served up fresh each night at The Clam House, other traditional favorites are a big part of the menu. Generous seafood platters, wild caught shrimp, smoked amberjack dip and of course, Joes Island clams are served fresh each night. For more exotic cravings, hand rolled sushi is made fresh to order and offers complex and satisfying flavors of seafood made with simple ingredients.

These meals and the Thai Fry are served nightly at The Clam House in Palmetto. For more information on their restaurant and hours of operation, visit their website at


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