Legendary Louisiana restaurant Middendorf’s is re-opening their indoor dining room this Friday, following four months of extensive renovations. The lower half of the restaurant was raised to prevent flooding, a problem that had plagued the massively popular seafood spot in recent years. Although the restaurant, located in Machac, Louisiana, remained open during the renovations, patrons often had to deal with long wait times, as the restaurant struggled to accommodate its huge local fan base, as well as tourists drawn by Middendorf’s reputation. The return of the dining room will allow more visitors, and short or nonexistent wait times, and the renovations guarantee that diners won’t have their feast interrupted by water soaking their shoes.
Middendorf’s opened in 1934 to little fanfare, but rapidly earned a reputation for serving consistent, generous portions of fried seafood. Their claim to fame is their “World Famous Orignal Thin-Fried Catfish,” which remains the most popular item on the menu. The dish, made with catfish fillets sliced into pieces less than a quarter inch thick and dredged in cornmeal and seasoning, is an eye-catching treat; due to its massive surface area, even a small portion fills a plate with little room to spare. The famous dish was declared “the best fried fish in the world” by Southern Living Magazine, and has been referenced in numerous cookbooks and novels. Along with other favorites like turtle soup and alligator bites, the catfish continues to attract people to Middendorf’s, which has expanded to include a huge outdoor area with a separate bar and two levels of indoor seating. The restaurant now has a dock attached, where diners can gaze across two majestic lakes, Maurepas and Ponchartrain.
Although the view is an undeniable attraction for diners, the proximity to the lake has also caused problems for Middendorf’s in recent years. After making it through Hurricanes Katrina and Rita relatively unscathed, the restaurant’s bottom level was flooded with more than four feet of water during 2008’s Hurricane Ike. This came six years after the restaurant initially started to fortify itself against flooding, in 2002, and right in the midst of their efforts to add a cooled kitchen. The restaurant flooded twice more over the next few years, leading to closures that shut down the whole restaurant while its lower portion was restored to working conditions.
Owners Horst and Karen Pfeifer, frustrated with the constant intrusion of water into Middendorf’s lower levels, announced their plans to renovate in July of this year, raising the restaurant’s lower half to prevent future floods. It was the first time that part of the rapidly expanding restaurant had been renovated since 1967. They expressed their interest in maintaining the atmosphere of the old (but vulnerable) dining area, using the same wood and materials in rebuilding.
Remarkably, this complex project was completed on time. The immensely popular restaurant will welcome diners into its newly completed lower half on December 2nd, honoring the promise they made in signs around the restaurant explaining the long wait times. The restaurant was able to maintain its normal dining hours during the renovations, thanks to the other dining areas it offers, and keep up with planned events like September’s Fettucine Frenzy. As always, the newly renovated restaurant will be open from 10:30 a.m.- 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.