First and foremost, this is not a fishing article. To be perfectly honest, I have never even been fishing and the only kind of lure I'm familiar with are enticing food photos that, on occasion, have been known to entice folks to dine out. My dad used to go fishing with our neighbors, the Wons, who lived across the street. They would take out this huge white boat into the San Francisco Bay and bring home fresh salmon and trout, but it wasn't till I moved to New Orleans that I finally tasted catfish.
Since I've been here, I've enjoyed many different preparations of catfish. Baked, blackened, sauteed and poached, I'm sure I've tried them all, but my favorite would have to be fried. Pan-fried or deep-fried and battered in seasoned flour, panko or cornmeal, I love it all and I'm certainly not alone in my adoration.
Thankfully, there are tons of places to get great catfish in the Greater New Orleans Area, and since it's plentiful, the going price for a tasty fried fillet is most definitely within my budget. For example, just recently I ventured out into the burbs to have my fill (and then some) from Hobnobber Cafe. Located on W. Metairie Avenue, this neighborhood gem is owned and operated by Troy and Cindy Timphony who have been in the business of feeding New Orleanians for over 35 years. In addition to favorites like red beans, trout amandine and crab cakes, Hobnobber Cafe offers a killer, 11-inch fried catfish po-boy for only $9. Add a side of their baked macaroni or sweet potato fries and not only will your wallet survive, you'll likely have leftovers enough for another meal.
If you stay in "metry" and head out to Lakeview, you'll discover The Blue Crab right at the water's edge. The entire neighborhood is seeing a grand revitalization after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina and this restaurant, built on towering stilts to survive the rising tides, is a delicious part of the renewal. Climb several flights and request a table outside to take in the stunning view and breathe the salty air rising off Lake Pontchartrain and to work up an appetite for their huge fried catfish platter that will only set you back less than $16. The fillets can be grilled, but you know I'd choose to have them fried in their batter composed of both seasoned flour and cornmeal Plus, the platter comes with a mountain of French fries, buttered French bread and some crispy, jalapeno hush puppies.
Head into the city and point your steering wheel towards Freret Street and High Hat Cafe. A delectable part of this now-bustling corridor, High Hat Cafe offers a slightly-more modern take on traditional Southern cuisine. The portions tend to be a bit smaller and the flavors are a bit brighter, but you can't beat a bowl of their rich gumbo ya-ya and you shouldn't deny yourself a taste of their crispy-fried catfish plate either. For $14, you can score a 4-piece, "U.S. pond-raised" catfish plate that comes with their own, fresh coleslaw, hush puppies and fries. Or, for 50 cents less, you can get a whole catfish, fried to order, in addition to the above-mentioned sides. Finish your meal with an Abita Root Beer float or a slice of their chocolate chess pie, and you've got yourself one hell of a meal.
Last, but certainly not least, skip on over to the Treme and visit Willie Mae's Scotch House. Although this immensely popular soul-food joint is very well-known for their wet batter-style fried chicken, Willie Mae's also happens to serve a killer catfish plate that comes with your choice of side for only $12. Plus, after over half a century, Willie Mae's recently opened a second location Uptown on the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Cherokee Street. So, if you want to avoid waiting in the long line that invariably exits on a daily basis in front of the original location on St. Ann, you can hop on a streetcar and head Uptown to get your Willie Mae's fix. Though, I can't promise you there won't be a line there too!