Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Southern Fried Shout Out to the Lowly Catfish

Little Libby’s Catfish
234 Lime Quarry Rd.
Madison, AL

I feel obligated to defend the honor of catfish.

Let me guess?

You consider the bottom dweller of the South’s muddy waters to be lower class food.


Reality TV shows featuring rednecks “noodling” in swampy waters for giant catfish with their bare hands probably do nothing to help catfish’s rep.

But the fact is, fish of all kinds have gone from poor man’s food to the most expensive protein at your local Piggy Wiggly.
Wild caught fish goes for $12 to $25 per pound retail in our current Bernanke Bubble economy.

Even lowly species like catfish now can cost more than New York Strip.

So I think it’s about time catfish gets its due.

Besides, almost all catfish you eat these days comes from carefully regulated farms here in the American South.

Normally, I not a big fan of farm-raised fish, but in the case of catfish, which will eat just about anything in the wild, including the fists of fat sweaty bubbas on TV, maybe it’s not such a bad idea.

I’ll take farm-raised fish from right here in Alabama over farm-raised fish like tilapia raised in China -- any day.

Maybe I’m a bit naïve, but I trust the good-ole boys here in Alabama to know how to properly raise a tasty catfish more than a bunch of Commies half way around the world.

Little Libby’s, here in Madison, Alabama, is a bustling joint tucked behind the interstate near the Huntsville Airport.

Damn convenient for Suit757. And a nice oasis in this thriving metro area in northern Alabama.

Huntsville is so freshly scrubbed and gleaming and thriving, it’s easy to forget you are even in Alabama.

Unfortunately, progress in America usually means lots of traffic, well-manicured medians, landscaped strip malls and national chain restaurants as far as the eye can see.

In Huntsville, all this “progress”, so called, is financed by a steady flow of federal tax dollars.

Thanks to NASA and multiple federal military installations and contractors, “Rocket City” gets more than its fair share of slop from the federal trough.

So, if nothing else, a stop for lunch at Little Libby’s provides a welcome return to real Alabama.

While catfish is no longer a bargain, at least Little Libby’s gives you your money’s worth.

For $16, I got an overflowing plate of two big fried catfish filets, two small deviled crabs, a pair of hush puppies, a bowl of cole slaw and a pile of onion rings.


At least I won’t have to eat again today.

The catfish were moist and flaky, encrusted in a crunchy, mildly seasoned corn meal batter.

Pretty tasty. But even better with a few dashes of Louisiana Hot Sauce.

The deviled crabs packed a flavor wallop.

Deviled crabs are a Southern specialty. Two tiny hard crab shells encase a crab-flavored breading that is deep fried.

Kinda like a really bready, spicy crab cake stuffed into a crab carcass.

Admittedly, the actual crab is an afterthought here. The overwhelming flavors are onion, garlic and celery salt.

Any true crab connoisseur from the Chesapeake Bay used to big clumps of white delicate crab meat would probably shrink away in horror.

But I would dare Mr. Crabby Pants to tell me deviled crab doesn’t TASTE good.

You can’t tell me it doesn’t -- despite the fact that there isn’t much actual crab within deviled crab.

The cool, crunchy cole slaw was decent. The onion rings were just okay.

The hush puppies were a disappointment. Doughy and bland, they were just taking up precious stomach vacancy.

Overall, Little Libby’s Catfish was an adequate lunch stop on the way to the airport, a nice taste of Southern fried seafood in an otherwise soulless boiler-plate North Alabama metropolis.

I was glad I stopped by.

I set out with two goals.

Feed my face.

Defend the honor of catfish.

On both counts, mission accomplished.

Rating: Would Wear a Free Shirt.

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