There’s a little catfish joint on Curry Ford Road. It’s called The Catfish Joint. But that wasn’t it’s first name. It opened a couple of years ago as Big Mike’s Catfish. I stopped in back when it was new and was thoroughly underwhelmed. There wasn’t a thing about the place that I could recommend, and because it was such a small, unnoticeable place, I chose not to write about it. Places like that have a way of disappearing without any help.
I guess it did in a way. About a year ago, the restaurant was sold and the name was changed to The Catfish Joint, although you couldn’t tell that from the outside. The small space in the Winn-Dixie shopping plaza has only the word CATFISH emblazoned out front.
I was unaware of the ownership change when I stopped in recently. I was passing by and thought I would see if the food had gotten any better. It wasn’t until I started asking questions that I learned it was no longer Big Mike’s.
And it wasn’t until I tasted the catfish that I discovered the food had indeed improved, a great deal. I selected the catfish basket, which got me two fried fillets, a couple of hush puppies, also fried, and a side of my choice. I chose cole slaw, which wasn’t fried (variety!).
The fish was delicately flavored, so delicate that I questioned at first whether it was indeed catfish. But the earthy characteristics, though subtle, were there. The breading was light with a slight crisp, and it was impressively ungreasy.
The fritters were also quite good. The puppies had a thicker shell of a crust with a smooth-textured doughy inside. And there was just the slightest hint of sweetness. The cole slaw was good, too, though it had been Robocouped to a near pulp.
While waiting for my food, I watched the staff member who took my order answer the phone, dole out change and write a receipt. The worker then popped back into the kitchen where the cook had placed a couple of orders in the window and picked up a some hush puppies and plopped them into the baskets. It was only then that a hand-washing maneuver was executed. Sure, that sort of thing happens in kitchens all the time, but when you’re in view of the dining room you should at least make a better effort.
The Catfish Joint is a small joint with a few tables for dining in, plus one or two on the sidewalk out front. One wall of the dining area features scrawled comments and signatures from previous diners. Decorating by graffiti.
The Catfish Joint is at 2950 Curry Ford Road, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. The phone number is 407-896-8544. Here’s a link to the Web site, but it is still “under construction.”