Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Off the Hook

12636 Missouri 21
De Soto, MO

http://www.offthehookfish.net/

Saturday:
I’d been parking at the top of our driveway, about four hundred feet from the house, since Wednesday’s snow storm. Angel and Adam had cleared the area nearest the house but for several days there was only a shovel-wide path cleared between the house and the car. Saturday was my first chance to clear the rest. There was about four inches remaining, crunchy and icy underneath. Using gravity whenever possible I started at the top and scooped the snow to one side or the other until the drive was completely clear. It took three or four hours. A friend of mine once did the calculation, determined how much snow was moved, four hundred feet long, eight feet wide and four inches deep. I forget the number, but it’s a lot. It’s the equivalent of moving a large house, I think, one half square foot at a time . I don’t mind really, it’s actually quite therapeutic, calming, and when done there is a verifiable measure of accomplishment. It does lead to a healthy appetite. I burn more calories clearing the drive after one significant snowfall than I did for the entire decade of the 1990’s. As dinnertime arrived, I was a bit achy, but I had managed a nap and my tummy was growling.

The Place:

Adam got to pick, and his choice was satisfying to all. Off the Hook is not a chain, and it’s not in a shopping center. It sits alongside the road between Hillsboro and DeSoto with a parking lot that slants in several directions at once. The building is only a few years old and is early-American, almost barn-styled. It’s kind of like a country kitchen without the kitschy general store part. The place was only about half full, we were seated immediately. The floor plan is large and open with a high ceiling, decorated with all things fish and fishing. In the center of the floor is a large aquarium filled with fish that are not on the menu. The wait staff, all wearing logo’d tee shirts were bustling about, all female except for the guy clearing the tables. At this place the women take orders and handle the money, the men do the dirty work, cleaning up the inevitable mess, not unlike many marriages.

The Food:

I didn’t need to stare long at the menu. Though they offer other things, like chicken fried steak, fried chicken, burgers and such, the only thing I really want there is the catfish. I chose my sides and waited for Angel and Adam to make their picks. Our teas and Coke were delivered, Adam needed a few more minutes.

Finally, after being sighed at repeatedly, he made his choice and the young lady took our order.

I asked for the catfish with slaw and baked beans. Angel, the catfish, slaw and white beans (just to be contrary). Adam asked for the Angus burger with extra cheddar cheese and bacon. The catfish plates also came with hush puppies and home fries.
Hushpuppies, a southern staple allegedly got their name by hunters. They would carry some fried cornmeal batter and toss them to their dogs while the hunters enjoyed the actual catch of the day. Runaway slaves would do the same to silence guard dogs. Thus a cheap, readily available food to 'hush the puppies.'

As we waited, Adam and I discussed alternative snow removal techniques and ideas. I like to start shoveling as soon as possible, before it turns crunchy. In fact I told Adam that if I could, I would start shoveling before it even started falling, that way I could use the shovel to swat the snowflakes away from the driveway before they could accumulate. He thought about it and agreed, in theory, to the idea. We also discussed installing guided lasers to destroy each individual snowflake as it fell, though there were questions about the cost of such a device, as well as concerns of possible collateral damage.

We’d ordered an appetizer as well, OTH has a fantastic selection of appetizers. We opted for our favorite, the fried corn nuggets. It’s whole kernel corn, fresh from the can, squeezed together with a light and binding corn-bread batter then deep fried to a golden brown. These things are simply awesome. We scarfed them down quickly as we continued our discussion.

Soon our meals were delivered and all went quiet as we dug in.

Angel and I each got five ‘nuggets’, each one about five inches long and an inch thick. Coated with a thin, crunchy cornbread batter and fried perfectly, the fish was moist and flaky. The fries and hush puppies were perfect as well, though I held one puppy in reserve. The beans, home made and sweet were served in a small bowl, as was the sweet, but not-very-creamy coleslaw.* Angel thought the slaw could have been a bit sweeter, but I was quite satisfied, especially after last week’s blue cheese slaw (blech!) at Ruby Tuesday’s.**

There was no way I was going to be able to eat it all, but that was not a problem. They’ll give you a box (as long as you don’t order the ‘all-you-can-eat’ offering) and saving back a hushpuppy, two of the nuggets and a few fries makes for a great Sunday lunch.

Adam’s burger and fries disappeared quickly, Angel stopped eating at about the same time I did. We discussed the food and found no flaws. This was our second or third trip here and agreed that the quality of the food and service was very consistent and very good.

Summary:

The place is very well managed, clean, efficient and the food is, without exception, of excellent quality. The price was very reasonable. The whole thing including the appetizer and more food than we could eat, came in at thirty seven dollars. This is roughly half the price of a similar meal at the chain restaurants. I’d put this place up against any chain restaurant in the area. They’ve got it all figured out, a casual atmosphere, excellent food, affordable prices and a great staff. They manage a lot of traffic without any noticeable sign of distress or disorder.

If you come to visit us, we’ll probably take you there. They offer ‘family style’ meals for large groups so every one can dig in as much as they like. Highly recommended!
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*Not-very-creamy coleslaw. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Some coleslaw, like KFC's uses buttermilk to add creaminess, other places simply use vinegar, sugar and mayonnaise, and some use just vinegar and sugar. It's a tradition/taste thing. I prefer the creamy stuff, but I'm not married to it.
** I have sent 'Feedback' to Ruby Tuesday's about their awful, awful slaw. If it is stricken from the menu, as it should be, you'll have me to thank.

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