Great on the pole and on the plate

Story by Johnny Sain

Photo by Liz Chrisman

Mackey’s Catfish

2300 West Main Street, Russellville

The flavors of summer in the South are tethered to the land. June’s juicy blackberries and July’s zesty tomatoes, the smoky sweetness of your barbecue in every bite of whatever meat came off the grill.

But one of the more iconic Southern summer delicacies comes from our waters, a whiskered denizen of our rivers and lakes that makes a statement on the fishing pole and on the plate. Catfish are a favorite of many and for many reasons.

Fried catfish is actually a combination of two summer staples — the fish, of course, and corn. Good Cornmeal is absolutely essential to delicious fried catfish and, too, its most important accompaniment — hush puppies. Round it all out with coleslaw and fries. On a sultry evening, there is no finer eating to be found. There is no more quintessential flavor of the South, and especially of a river town.

But you don’t need to set a pot of oil to boiling for the experience. You just need to go to Mackey’s Catfish in Russellville.

Flakey white meat (red meat is always trimmed away), the perfect blend of seasonings in the cornmeal, and hushpuppies that’ll have you swiping extras from a friend’s platter. Add some slaw and fries, some fried pickles and scrumptious dessert. Enjoy a timeless meal with hardscrabble origins as the lightnin’ bugs flicker on a warm August night.