The Catfish Barn in Calera, Oklahoma, is small and not so much a barn as a side building seating about 20. Having heard some good things about it, I gathered a friend and headed across the river last weekend to give it a try. We got there a little after it opened at 4 p.m., and it did not take long to figure out what was what.
They are open only on Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and they serve catfish and a little more buffet style, but with a minor but useful twist. The catfish fillets, fries, okra and hush puppies are cooked to order, or at least on order, for each customer. That’s a nice twist, as too often, fried foods that hang out on steam tables are at less than peak taste. While waiting for the fish and all, you can take your pick of a small selection of other offerings.
A review from the web suggested boiled, fried and cold shrimp, chicken strips and slaw were in the mix. All we found were fried shrimp, medium sized, well cooked — and the best thing on the plate — and boiled shrimp with half cobs of corn. The boiled shrimp were OK, but for my dime, boiled shrimp, unless huge, are more trouble than they are worth.
They also had pork spare ribs. The meat was tender and had some flavor — you add sauce if wanted — but like most spareribs, they were fatty and messy to eat. The customer might be better served if they went with a St. Louis cut rib. They also had beans, rice and a pot of pretty good sausage gumbo, which certainly was not expected.
The salad bar was an afterthought, with two kinds of potato salad, some cold macaroni and a few add-ons. At the end of the very short line was a tray of bundt cake slices and apple cobbler that was cold.
I got some shrimp, gumbo, a rib and got started. After a few minutes out came the catfish and sides. The disposable aluminum tray was well loaded, more than the two of us could eat, and the food was hot and tasty. The hush puppies were crisp with not too much onion, the okra was excellent and the catfish, smallish pieces, was tender, mild and lightly crusted. My friend likes his fish very crisp and had asked for that, but apparently the word did not reach the kitchen, and that did not happen. Still, he declared the catfish acceptable and then went back for more fried shrimp.
Because the Catfish Barn is a weekend only business open for only eight hours, I suspect that most, if not all the food, comes from standard restaurant suppliers cooked but not prepared on site. That does not mean it can not be good, but it usually means it is not remarkable either. I could be wrong on this. If so, if someone will let me know, I will note it in a future review.
Overall, the Catfish Barn was OK, nothing really negative, but nothing really exceptional. It is about as minimalist a buffet as you can get, and the choices, at least on this visit, were very limited. The prices at $15.95 were about standard for a evening meal outside the world of fast food but a shade high considering the choices. Give them a call. If you like the options beyond the fish and fixins that day, give them a try.
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