One Tank Travels: Celebrating National Catfish Month

I’m a little late getting in on this but I just found out August is National Catfish Month. Being a true Southerner, I love fried catfish…but it has to be done right. I’m not a big fan of battered fish; I prefer the pure Southern method of using cornmeal.

You can find catfish just about everything in The Natural State. As I travel, I usually order catfish just to compare the different offerings. There is an art to frying this staple and not have it turn out to be a greasy mess.

This One Tank Travels blog is going to highlight some of my favorites around the state. It is, by no means, an inclusive list. There are some of the restaurants that I have visited and enjoyed catfish. Sadly, there are eateries known for their catfish that I didn’t get to visit before they closed, such as the Georgetown One Stop. But there are enough on my “to do” list (restaurants that have been recommended to me or I’ve read about) to keep me busy for years to come.

What is your favorite place in Arkansas to eat catfish? Here are a few of mine.

Madea’s Soul Food Kitchen
,  West Memphis — These people know what they’re doing. Their soul food buffet would make any true Southerner cry when seeing all they offer, plus there are a few surprised thrown in for good measure. If you go on Friday, you can partake of All-You-Can-Eat-Catfish. It’s a good thing I don’t live closer to West Memphis or I’d be there just about every day. Their catfish is very light and crispy without a hint of greasy taste. The soul food is awesome also. It’s worth the drive.

Nick’s Bar-B-Q & Catfish, Carlisle – One of my favorite Arkansas restaurants. Like Madea’s, they have a wonderful menu. Everything I’ve ever had here is just plain good. Great fish with all the trimmings.

Cotham’s – Both the original at Scott and the Little Rock version offer good fish; crunchy without being messy and tasty hushpuppies. Throw in some of Cotham’s famous onion rings and you’ve got yourself a meal to remember.

Doe’s Eat Place,
Little Rock and Fort Smith  – Another multiple location eatery, these are the only two where I’ve dined. Though Doe’s claim to fame is usually its steaks and tamales, their catfish is something to be proud of as well.

Papa Joe’s,
Humnoke – A very popular destination in this small south-central community, especially for duck hunters. A varied menu comprised of family recipes handed down through generations includes some very good catfish. Don’t miss the desserts.

Cajun Boiler’s
and Fisherman’s Wharf & Oyster Bar, Hot Springs – My favorite thing about these two Spa City eateries, besides their food, is that they are both located on Lake Hamilton and are accessible either by vehicle or by boat. Who doesn’t love looking out over a lake while eating? Cajun’s Boilers features a huge array of seafood including shrimp, oysters, catfish, crawfish, and crab. Fisherman’s Wharf also have a variety of seafood offerings, such as crab cakes, all types of shrimp, scallops, tilapia, mahi mahi, salmon, frog legs, swordfish, grouper and more. Of course, they both serve excellent fried catfish.

Some of “my places to visit” list includes:

The Catfish Hole
, Fayetteville  and Alma. I’ve heard rave reviews from various radio personalities who attend the live University of Arkansas football coach’s show during the season. It’s also been recommend in Saveur magazine (March 2009) as one of six favorite catfish houses by Ben Mims. Pretty good credentials.

Catfish N, Dardanelle. Any restaurant that has won over 16 Arkansas Times Reader’s Choice Awards for best catfish has to be good. Can you believe they have an “all you can eat” buffet which has, among other items, catfish fillets, fried chicken, boiled shrimp, fried popcorn shrimp and hushpuppies?

Dondie’s White River Princess Restaurant,
Des Arc – The building alone intrigues me since it looks like a paddle wheel riverboat. But, from what my sources tell me, the food is the draw. Dondie’s also has an “all you can eat” buffet with catfish, crawfish, ribs, and chicken.

Cadron Creek Catfish House
, Bee Branch – Ever since this place popped up on U.S. 65 north in the Ozarks, I’ve wanted to try it. Unfortunately, it seems like I’m always traveling the highway during the day and they’re only open at night. I will not be deterred however. I will make it. Another buffet-oriented menu, it has over 40 items showcased and serves only U.S. farm-raised catfish.

Uncle Dean’s Catfish & Such
, Cabot – According to a review I read on Yelp, the owner told some diners that his wife catches all the catfish they serve – Arkansas catfish! You can’t beat that! Recognized by the Catfish Farmers of Arkansas.

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