When Good Restaurants Go Bad… Or… The Cardinal Sin of Frying Catfish

Golden Brown Catfsih? YES! Floppy Yellow Catfish? Please Tell Me You're Kidding..

Every now and then I take full advantage of being a web publisher, writer, and restaurant reviewer to vent a little. You know, get a few things off of my mind in the hopes of helping misguided souls get back on track.

If all this sounds a little dramatic – to the tune of life and death – it’s only because it is. It is… after all… about food. Come on, people, FOOD. This is serious stuff!

All kidding aside (or mostly aside), I had a massive disappointment recently. For the second time in a row, my husband and I went to what has LONG been a favorite restaurant only to walk away wondering how they fell from glory. SO far. SO fast. The last few times we went, it wasn’t that great either – but we thought maybe it was a fluke. We figured they’d been so great for so long, we’d give them one more shot.

At one time, this restaurant had the most unbelievably big, onion-flavored, and golden delicious hush puppies known to man. The past few times, they’ve been puny, dry, and neither one of us could find any flavor – no matter how hard we tried.

To make matters worse, they’ve forgotten everything they ever knew about frying catfish! Now, if you know me, you realize that this lies somewhere between a cardinal sin and crime against humanity.  Fried Catfish is one of my reasons for living. Maybe I should say GOOD fried catfish is one of my reasons for living.  BAD fried catfish just makes me want to cry.

We’d always gone out of our way to go to this particular restaurant – partly because of me.  I’ve always loved their food, their people, and the whole ambiance of their restaurant. It’s quiet, friendly, and very homey.  Other similar restaurants in the area aren’t quite as friendly and no where near as quiet.  I’d always championed “the little guy” even though my husband preferred the other’s.  Then the little guy went and made me look bad.

That hurts!

Over the course of about 10 years, this is the second previously fantastic catfish restaurant we’ve seen lose their mojo.

Why does this happen? Do restaurants begin cutting costs by getting their supplies from cheaper companies? Do they cut costs by cutting out ingredients.. like, I dunno… flavor?

Now I don’t have a business degree – heck, I don’t even have a business or money-making oriented mind. Just ask my husband, he’ll tell you.  I’m ALL about spending it, not making it.  Yet even I know that making your food WORSE isn’t good business.  Giving your reputation a black eye isn’t smart.  Oh, why mince words now? It’s just really stupid.

Treating loyal customers as though they’re nothing more than billfolds and wallets sitting around your tables is a certain death.  It’s a sure-fire way to make sure these same tables soon find themselves empty.

Come on Kentucky restaurants, you’re better than that!

Why even bother mentioning it? Why not just cross these backsliding restaurants off my radar and head for other restaurants?

I’ll tell you why. I care. I have a very soft spot in my heart for locally-owned and operated businesses. In the restaurant kingdom, these restaurants and businesses are the Davids – in a land of giants (chain stores and restaurants).  The giants have massive amounts of money behind them. Someone with very, very deep pockets takes care of the food supplies as well as the promotions.   Locally owned businesses are, literally, our neighbors trying to make a living.

You think I don’t want to do all I can to help them?!

But here’s the thing. If their proverbial “give a dang” is busted, mine will be right behind it.

As I’ve pointed out in previous articles, one of the smartest things you can do is provide comment cards. Heck, even inexpensive index cards laid in front of a  sign that says, “Let us know how we’re doing!” could help.  Frankly, when a server – who has obviously been on his or her feet all day – asks how everything was, few people have the heart to say anything other than, “Fine” or “Good.”

On our most recent (and probably last) trip to this previously favorite restaurant, when the server asked how things were, I desperately wanted to tell her, “You’ve been wonderfully sweet and it probably isn’t your fault, but the coleslaw wasn’t as good as usual, the hush puppies are dry and lack flavor, and the catfish was so under-cooked that it tried to eat my baked potato.

This was the second time in a row that this restaurant sent out floppy, yellow fried catfish. When you pick up a piece of fried catfish, it shouldn’t instinctively do a back bend. It also shouldn’t be more yellow than it is golden brown.  Blach! I hate fried catfish like this! Some places will fix fried catfish this way for Fried Catfish Sandwiches…. then, if you go to the same restaurant for dinner, they actually fry it all the way to a golden brown.  I always wonder what prevents them from doing it right on the lunch menu.  The bread doesn’t mind…  fry the catfish all the way!

Let’s end floppy yellow fried catfish once and for all. It’s just gross.

Restaurant managers, owners, chefs, and every staff member should have one goal: Making the best food possible – NOT making the cheapest food they possibly can.

Oh! And another pet peeve that I mention just about every time I rant and rave about restaurants (and will continue to do so until people stop the madness) – please, please, please tell your hosts/hostesses to stop sitting people at tables right on top of one another!  Sure, diners want to enjoy good conversation – but not other people’s.  This same restaurant  had a young hostess with an “I’d rather be anywhere but here” expression that tried to wedge us into a tiny corner between a wall and a full table of people – even though there were countless other tables empty.  My husband asked, politely of course, if we could have a table more in the open.

It’s just not that difficult. Think of the customer first or it just may be the last time you see them.

I saved the picture below for the end because I didn’t want anyone (for one second!) to think this came from a “Good Restaurant Gone Bad.”  I wanted to use this picture as an example of outstanding fried catfish.  We’ve been to The Feed Mill in Morganfield, Kentucky dozens and dozens of times and, you know me, I order fried catfish just about every single time.  It is consistently amazing, consistently golden brown, and consistently perfect.  I’ve never detected any alteration to their wonderful menu items. They are consistently excellent. Beyond excellent, really.

Could they cut corners? Of course. But they don’t. They have too much pride in what they do and too much respect for their loyal customers.  They’re a 10 every single time.

Just look at that golden fried catfish!

Fried Catfish at The Feed Mill in Morganfield, Kentucky

 The Feed Mill Restaurant in Morganfield, Kentucky: Consistenly One of the Best Restaurants in Kentucky

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