A view from my side.
There are certain things that, while available elsewhere, only taste “good” in certain places. For example, I can find good pierogies anywhere, but for me, they have to come from Kramarczuk’s (where they are called Varenyky) in Minneapolis. I can get decent BBQ brisket any number of places, but I will only be truly satisfied if I’m getting it somewhere in Texas. I’m sure you understand what I mean. For me, one of those foods that can’t be had out of the south is Fried catfish and hush puppies.
Recently, I helped move Kid#1 to Auburn where he will be attending school in the fall. For a variety of reasons, he needed to be there early, so off we went. He didn’t have much furniture to take with him so I was able to talk a good friend into hitching up his trailer and helping me haul it down there. Kid#1 was already there, having stayed after orientation. I promised my friend I’d buy him a catfish dinner if he’d do the driving and off we went.
On the drive down, we were sure to pass by a fish house. They are as ubiquitous here as gas stations. So off we went, taking the road through the small towns that would surely give us our choices. We figured we would take note of each on the way down and make our choice on the way up. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
It turns out modern life had intervened on that old route to Auburn. The road we were on no longer went through the hearts of these towns to be slowed by traffic lights and quaint, small town shops. No, no, no…it was basically a 55-65 mph trip that by-passed the places we had counted on seeing. We decided on the way back we would pull over in Alexander City do what any person would in our situation. Ask some local folk where they went to eat catfish.
The answer was Sho’Nuff BBQ. We got directions and headed off. It was typical. Down this street till you have to turn. Turn left and into the parking lot of the shopping center. Go to the back of the shopping center and park. Get out and walk through the back corner of all the stores and that’s where we’d find what we were looking for. We followed the directions and sure enough, there it was.
Neither of us thought about ordering anything else. There were two choices for us really. The first was did we want 1 or 2 catfish fillets on our plate. The second was which sides. I went with 1 fillet, fries and okra. My buddy chose 2 fillets, fries and slaw. We both had unsweetened iced tea and we sat down to wait, assured our fish would be freshly cooked by the counter girl who shouted out “Drop three cats” and told us to have a seat.
As we waited, the place was a constant influx of people. Many came in to pick up orders they had called in. Others placed orders to go for the BBQ and other foods that were already cooked up and waiting to be served. The smells coming from the back were a mix of the South. She called our number and my friend picked up our plates.
Setting them down at the table, I took a moment to take it all in. The sights and smells of my meal made my mouth water. The hush puppies were a good size and there were 3 of them on the plate. The catfish was a nice fillet, perfectly fried. The okra looked good and the fries…well, I didn’t really care about those, I was focused on the fish and hush puppies.
Some things just don’t get any better. I love to take trips like this and head off the beaten path to where the locals eat. I can get food from a chain anywhere. But Southern Fried Heaven…well, that you have to seek out.