Okay so I went M.I.A. for a bit. Had to get back to work and get my life going in that forward motion again. I have had plenty of new dining experiences to share, like my latest and most adventuresome one to Bills Catfish in Waurika Oklahoma. Seeing as I've been gone and it's the freshest in memory lets start there.
I first heard about this out of the way place from my mom, who in turn heard about it from my brother. I'm the last person you might expect to get excited about a Fish joint. I can say seafood is my bane! Which sucks actually because I think it often makes the most interesting looking and sounding dishes. But I keep an open mind while venturing out, they ALWAYS have something on the menu you can eat. I'll eat off the kids menu if that's what it comes to. Not the case here tho, I heard they had frog legs on the menu and I knew I was there!
As I often do, and highly recommend, I looked Bills up online. All the reviews where positive and a couple even offered some photos. One common mention in each one was the decor. "Don't go for the decor, there is none." And so I took the next step and asked everyone I talked to about it. Nearly everyone had heard about Bill's or had been there. Again all positive word of mouth. I happened to get a Saturday off so I rounded up my family and we made a day of it. Isn't that what its all about? Or should be at least. Good food and good company.
As we set off on our culinary adventure I was excited. The weather was beautiful and the company had me laughing most the way there. The drive was over before I knew it and I was reminded instantly of the common thread in all the reviews. "Don't come for the decor." The small restaurant looks like what I'm sure is a converted house. My favorite type of place. Why? Because it's just like walking into a friends house, sitting at their table and enjoying a home cooked meal. Recipes the chef learned from their mom, dad, grandma, and grandpa. Not some tweak on something learned form Le Cordon Bleu, made more to look than taste good.
Walking thru the door you almost get the sense that maybe you made a mistake, "Is the place closed?" It was just an empty lobby closed off by a windowless door to the dining room. This is where on most evenings rain or shine people wait on an average of a half hour for a table. That speaks volumes in today's rushed society that people wait in an empty room to eat a meal. (My phone had limited online access as well, what do the teens do while waiting?) The dining rooms give almost a cafeteria feel, like I'm at a fundraiser with collapsible tables and metal chairs. But that's not what its about in a place like this. Simple atmosphere because the food is the star. Really do leather booths and neon lighting make the food taste better? No. Granted it can add to the over all experience but that's not what Bill's is about. Its a local favorite where most lunch customers are known by name and the hustle of life takes a backseat for just an all to brief moment.
We took a seat and were greeted by a friendly server and our meal began. The menu was to the point. We fry catfish and a variety of other tasty morsels. You can get whole or half orders of catfish, chicken & steak fingers, frog legs, chiken gizzards and livers, shrimp, scallops, clams, and even "Calf Fries" or as I know them, "Rock Mountain Oysters". Bull testicles. Yep that's right. Don't knock it. The texture is liver like if i remember correctly, its been a while. The flavor is intense beef, a true carnivores paradise....
I'm sure I missed some of the items on the menu but you get the point. I went with the frog legs and chicken livers, my mom went catfish, my brother went steak fries and my sister in law went with a fisherman's platter which was essentially a sampler of sorts. To start the meal the server drops off a basket, heck yes a basket no fancy china needed, of hush puppies and we each get a small bowl of coleslaw. The hush puppies where awesome, great flavor and cooked perfectly. Not much worse than a doughy hush puppy. The coleslaw was tasty tho I'm picky when it comes to slaw.
The main course was served in a basket as well. My chicken livers where crunchy morsel's of hand battered goodness with a country style gravy that ranks high on my list served on the side. The frog legs where another story. I'm gonna be the first to telly ya I have no knowledge of how it should be prepared but it will be a while before I work up the nerve to eat them fried again. The batter was somewhat flavorless and the meat was not seasoned at all. It taste of deep fried frog. No spice. I was not turned off completely I'd try them cooked some other fashion. But who am I to say? I don't know how its supposed to taste it may just not be for me, I suggest you try them for yourself and be your own judge.
The namesake catfish was astounding. Yea I C.J. will make a trip up to Bill's for my own platter of catfish. That's why I say try it. The worst thing that can happen is you don't like it. The cornmeal batter was refreshing after all this beer batter everything. It reminded me of when I was a boy and we lived at Lake Henshaw in the back country of San Diego. (Yes San Diego has a Backcountry, with four seasons including high possibility of a white Christmas.) We would fish with friends and family for bass, crappie, and catfish. Go to someones home and make a meal of it. One bite and BOOM! just like that I'm back at the lake having some of the best fish ever. There was a time I enjoyed fish, burned out maybe.....
Whatever its about the perfectly seasoned and battered fish. It was well worth the trip for the small taste I had off my moms plate. No doubt they go thru tons and for good reason. The corn meal dose not trap and hold the grease like the beer batter will. This results in a clean crisp finish that taste of a blend of spices contrived by a genius and a fresh form the lake fish flavor. Not a hint of the fishy flavor I'm becoming convinced I'm just burnt on form all my time on the lake. I highly recommend you take the trip and experience it yourself. And remember its not decor or fancy china. Chances are you'll wait for a table, look at the photo of cars parked two deep early Saturday afternoon. Its about the trip there and being with those that make you feel good when they are around. Its about simple home cooked food and a new place to relax with friends and family and "LET" things be simple for an all to brief moment...