Second Helpings: Catfish Hunter

You like catfish? Do your friends know you as "the one who eats catfish"? Have we got a "Second Helpings" for you.

The weekly Chronicle feature "Second Helpings" offers readers the opportunity to sample tasty, bite-sized restaurant listings compiled from new and previous reviews, guides, and poll results. This week's entries were updated by Chronicle Cuisines editor Virginia B. Wood from an original publication date of 10/01/99. When you need quick, reliable information about Austin eateries, check here.

Mr. Catfish

1075 Springdale, 927-6666

Mon-Thu, 11am-9pm; Fri, 11am-11pm; Sat, 11am-10pm

The mouthwatering lunch specials attract a crowd to this casual restaurant every weekday, and we can see why. Everything is made from scratch, and nothing hits the spot like home cooking. Catfish and seafood dinners with side dishes come in different sizes depending on your appetite. The Big Cat ($7.95) is a butterflied whole catfish in crisp cornmeal coating with sides like hush puppies, fries, cole slaw, beans, fried okra, or gumbo to round out the meal.

Catfish Hill Restaurant

Wolfe Lane, off Hwy. 71 E. in Garfield, 247-2528

Fri-Sat, 6-10pm

A new generation of the Washington family operates this small catfish farm and country restaurant, but the fish is as wonderful as always. Order a whole catfish or several filets and they'll arrive in a lacy cornmeal coating, crisp and crunchy on the outside, sweet and mild within. This is one restaurant where you can taste for yourself that the main course was raised with tender, loving care. Worries that the proximity of the new airport would spoil the bucolic charm of Catfish Hill thankfully proved to be unfounded.

Catfish Parlour

4705 E. Ben White Blvd., 443-1698

Mon-Sat, 11am-10pm

11910 Research Blvd., 258-1853

Daily, 11am-10pm

These two large, informal fish houses have been serving up satisfying family-sized catfish meals as long as we can remember. Just leave your tackle box in the garage. When the gang's hungry, take a crowd to eat in, call ahead to order tubs o'cats by the pound with all the trimmings, or arrange to have them cater your next outdoor fish fry. They'll fry you up a mess of fish, shrimp, chicken, or chicken fried steaks complete with hushpuppies, fries, slaw, beans, and all the necessary condiments regardless of the size party you need to feed.

Bay-Seas Seafood & More

2039 Airport, 499-0529

Mon-Thu, 11am-8pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-midnight

Bay-Seas offers a wide variety of well-prepared fish dishes based on the availability of the catch. The menu details several selections each of trout, catfish, shrimp, and red snapper in portions from individual to family-sized in a variety of combinations. We sampled a very good seafood-and-sausage gumbo and a catfish sandwich on white bread with a side of absolutely perfect hush puppies. Based on the flavor of those choices, we'll go back to sample more entrées and try the cook's boudin. Casual atmosphere with sports on the television and a jukebox with selections as inviting as the menu.

T.J's Seafood

1900 E. Seventh, 469-9038

Mon-Thu, 11am-9pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-10:30pm

This casual Eastside restaurant next to the Huston-Tillotson campus is equipped with a drive-thru window for seafood lovers on the go. The menu here is a hybrid of Southern American and Asian fried foods, offering shrimp, catfish, crawfish, oyster, and whiting in all manner of combinations with sides of fries, salad, and shrimp fried rice. We're partial to the catfish po-boy and fries with a small order of plump, cornmeal-crusted crawfish as a chaser.

Terry's Seafood Company

1805 Airport, 477-3233

Scheduled to re-open in late Feb.; call for hours

After years at the same corner location, the owners of Terry's leased their valuable spot to a national fast-food chain and moved their popular family restaurant up the street several blocks. They were still in the city permit process at press time but expect to be open again this spring. Once they open the doors, you can count on a steady stream of customers stopping by to enjoy very credible samples of the Southern frymaster's art, or take-home boxes of perfectly fried catfish fillets, shrimp, or chicken with all the trimmings.

Cherry Creek Catfish Company

5712 Manchaca, 440-8810

Mon-Thu, 11am-9pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-10pm

Cherry Creek is a comfortable family restaurant with something on the menu to please everyone. There's a burger for the non-fish eater, dieters can order boiled shrimp or fish from the grill, while fried food lovers can choose from catfish (filets or whole), shrimp or oysters alone or in combo platters with hush puppies, fries, cole slaw, and pinto beans. Southern-style po-boys come on a toasted roll dressed with tartar sauce, lettuce, and tomatoes, and make a full meal with an order of fried green tomatoes as an appetizer.

Springhill Catfish Company

Hwy. 71 W. & RR 620, 263-3244

Sun-Thu, 11am-9pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-9:30pm

If that visit to Lake Travis makes you hungry for fish, the Springhill folks will be happy to do all the work for you. The crew can all relax with a cold brew or a bottomless tankard of iced tea after a long day on the water and eat their fill of fish. Steer clear of the gumbo (it was bland on our last visit) but chow down on the very reliable catfish featured whole, in fillet dinners, or tasty nuggets with the traditional Southern sides of hush puppies, fries, cole slaw, and beans. Several good choices for non-fish eaters, as well.

Dixie's Red Hot Roadhouse

6901 I-35 N., 451-5008

Sun-Thu, 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat,11am-11pm

Dixie's is a sparkly bright, cheery chain outfit that works very hard to create an atmosphere of rural Southern charm. The service is friendly and efficient and the menu extensive. Choose from wood-fired steaks, fried seafood platters, fresh seafood topped with Louisiana-style sauces or Southern roadhouse entrées such as meatloaf, fried chicken, and Coca-Cola BBQ ribs. Dixie gets an A+ for the rich, spicy crawfish bisque and a giant catfish po-boy on a crisp French baguette dressed with remoulade sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles that comes with a tangled mountain of matchstick fries.

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