3085 E. Van Buren
By Rachel Birdsell
TFW Contributing Writer
It’s a new year, a fresh start and I am on a quest. I’d like for you to join me.
Keep in mind this isn’t particularly a noble quest. At times, it may not even be very dignified. But it’s a quest, nonetheless, and everybody loves a quest, right?
I invite you, my most stellar Eat It readers, to join me on The Quest of the Holy Catfish.
I’ll travel high, I’ll travel low. I’ll even travel thither and yon — as long as it’s in Northwest Arkansas.
I’ll go to catfish restaurants throughout the year (hopefully, you’ll help by suggesting some places) searching for that catfish dinner that has me speaking in tongues and slapping everybody’s momma.
At the end of the year, I will announce the restaurant that wins the Holy Catfish award.
Maybe I’ll make them a plaque or something equally useless.
My first venture on the quest was to Catfish Cabin in Eureka Springs.
Food for Thought
I had the regular catfish plate with fries. There were six pieces of catfish — not whole fillets, by any means, more like filletlets. Each meal comes with green tomato pickles, coleslaw, brown beans and hush puppies. The side dishes are served family style, so you’re forced to share them with the people you’re eating with.
The catfish was really good. The cornmeal and flour coating was crispy, seasoned well and a little powdery. I think one of the most important aspects in cooking fried catfish is frying it to the point where the cornmeal just starts to change flavor. It’s a tiny window, but when you hit it, it has a very definite taste and it’s delicious.
However, at the same time the cornmeal is getting to that stage of perfection, the fish also has to be cooked just right. You don’t want it so raw it ends up being down-home sushi, nor do you want it cooked to the point of being fish jerky. I can’t imagine either being very tasty.
The cook at Catfish Cabin has extremely good aim and hit the window of perfection dead-on.
I was a little disappointed the hush puppies didn’t taste sweet at all. They were good, but I think that with a little sugar in the batter, they would have been perfect.
The brown beans were inedible. They tasted like menthol. I have racked my brain, and I still can’t come up with anything that tastes like menthol other than menthol. I also can’t come up with any reason why you would season brown beans with menthol.
The fries were your typical albino frozen French fries, but the coleslaw and the tomato pickles were both very good. In fact, I’d say that the green tomato pickles were some of the best I’ve ever had, and I may or may not have eaten the entire bowl without sharing.
Atmosphere: 3.6 cedar sporks with tiny whiskers on the handle
The decor at Catfish Cabin is fishing cabinesque. There’s a lot of wood: wood floors, wood ceilings and wood walls adorned with fishing nets, minnow buckets and lures.
To my dismay, there was also cursed country music playing, and I was directly underneath the speaker. It could have been the soundtrack of my worst nightmare, but thankfully, it was playing very softly. As long as I kept talking, I could drown it out, and I have no problem keeping up a running dialogue.
Food: 3.9 deep-fried sporks
The catfish was really, really good. I’m not sure it’s the Holy Catfish, but it was worth the visit. A couple of the sides could be improved, but I definitely had enough food to fill me up.
Staff: 4.85 super shiny sporks with rhinestones on the tines
The staff was more than competent and kept everything filled and checked on as needed.
Dollars spent: My ticket was a little past the $13 mark. You can also get the all-you-can-eat catfish, shrimp (boiled or fried) and crab legs for $26.99.
Chance of returning: I’ll go back to Catfish Cabin. While I’m not convinced it’s the Holy Catfish we’re searching for, I think it’s decent enough to check out if you’re in Eureka and happen to be craving catfish.
If you know of a great eating place, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll check it out and let you know what I think.