Fried Catfish & Picked Green Tomatoes from Soul Fish Cafe

Some of these entries will be for things I have eaten in the past, and this is one of them. However, I’m of the mindset “pics or it didn’t happen”, so I will only be ticking things off the list for which I have photographic evidence. Also, sometimes posts with intersect, as is also the case with this one.

#36 on 100 Things to Eat Before You Die – Fried Catfish

#37 on 100 Things to Eat in Memphis Before You Die – Fried Catfish from Soul Fish Cafe

#71 on 100+ Things to Eat in Memphis – Picked Green Tomatoes from Soul Fish Cafe

This gastronomic adventure took place on the 31st of July, 2010 (according to my flickr account). Summertime in Memphis. I had recently proposed to my then fiancée (now wife), Mary, and we were going out to eat lunch with some of her friends who had recently celebrated their 1 year anniversary.

Soul Fish Cafe

photo by ilovememphis

The name threw me off for a start. “Soul Fish Cafe“. To me, cafés were places where you drank coffee and ate pastries, maybe the occasional sandwich. My schema for the word café has been defined by hundreds of trips for coffee with my mum in New Zealand. This was clearly a restaurant. Why was it trying to trick me?

Mary had advised me that Soul Fish Cafe was known for its catfish, so I had to give it a go to rid myself of my horrible memories of the dual-species beast.

My first experience with catfish was when I was around maybe 10 years old. There was a catfish pond near the airport where you could bring a fishing rod and fish for catfish. If you caught one, you could pay to have the on-site restaurant cook it for you, or you could take it home to cook yourself. As money wasn’t in abundance for us in those days (nor these days, either), we took it home. We put it in salt water to try to kill it… didn’t work. Fresh water… didn’t work. Hammer to the skull… didn’t work. Hammer to the skull 8 times in a row… done.

Preparation of the fish was left to my mum. She came out of the kitchen 45 minutes later with a dish that did not appeal to me at all. Granted I was very much a chicken nuggets and fish fingers (fish-sticks, insert Kanye joke) child, but I think the trauma of trying to kill that zombie of a fish scarred me. So from that day until the 31st of August, 2010, I had not looked at another catfish.

Over time I developed a love of new foods, and so I was ready to give catfish another go. What made it even better was that this catfish was breaded and deep-fried! Apparently this is usually the way people eat catfish in the south… southern food became even more appealing.

Catfish, Picked Green Tomatoes, and Cajun Cabbage

The catfish at Soul Fish Cafe is delicious in an ambiguous way. The breading is similar to what you might find on fried chicken – crispy, savoury, and moreish. What distinguished the catfish from chicken, though, was the tartare sauce they provided. Creamy, with a little tangy bite to it. I’m not sure if it’s house-made or not, but it was enough to make it a seafood experience.

The picked green tomatoes were a revelation. My tomato experience at that time had been limited to the colour red, and either left raw, canned, or made into salsa or sauce. These picked green tomatoes sweet, sour, tangy and refreshing. They were unlike anything I had tasted at that time, and the perfect accompaniment to the heavy catfish dipped in creamy, rich tartare sauce.

As you can see in the photo, I also had the Cajun Cabbage as my other side, another delectable treat worth a taste if you ever make it out here. We also got an order of pickle chips for the table, which I loved and my wife hated (she hates pickles).

I highly recommend taking a trip to Soul Fish Cafe at 862 South Cooper, Memphis, TN 38104, ESPECIALLY if you’ve ever had a bad experience with catfish. It will change your mind on the half-breed zombie-fish.

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