Catfish is king in the Mississippi Delta, said Hunter Lewis in Saveur. Some 28 species are indigenous to North America. The catfish is so named because of the whiskers, or barbels, with which it searches for food along river bottoms. Today most catfish is farm-raised, and it may be “the only widely consumed fish” that tastes better farmed “than when caught in the wild.” In a recent tour of the South, I discovered six catfish houses especially worthy of attention.
Carmack Fish House
“A rural Southern treasure.” These catfish are raised in limestone ponds and fried up as steak-thick filets. 24973 Highway 35, Vaiden, Miss. (662) 289-5082
This popular eatery sells more catfish than any other in the state. Served with “excellent homemade hush puppies.” 4127 W. Wedington Drive, Fayetteville, Ark. (479) 521-7008
Try the fried catfish and fried potatoes cooked with onions and bacon grease. 20248 State Highway E., Bloomfield, Mo. (573) 568-2250
Their cornmeal-crusted catfish filets equal those in the Mississippi Delta. Other favorites are Cajun shrimp and country fried steak. 2811 South Trail Drive, Denison, Texas (903) 337-0033
Famed for its “ultrathin, melt-in-your-mouth fried filets.” 30160 Highway 51 S., Akers, La. (985) 386-6666
Just eight miles south of Oxford, this favorite of Ole Miss students serves up cornmeal-crusted filets flecked with black pepper. 4A County Road 338, Taylor, Miss. (662) 236-1716