Monday, March 30, 2015

Off The Hook

12636 Highway 21
DeSoto, Mo.
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My choice, last minute. 
We were planning to pick some stuff up from HoneyBaked Ham. Then we found out they close at six and we hadn't even figured out what we wanted late in the day. We'll try again in the near future. Why?
Earlier in the week I got an email via the 'Email Me' button on this page. It goes to a specific account so I can keep track of how someone finds me.
The email was from Erin Peacock. (I looked him up, he's a PR guy.) He invited me to try HoneyBaked and asked if I'd like a $50 gift card. I forwarded the email to Angel
and received a "Why yes, yes I would." reply.
There were no strings, he never mentioned why he wanted me to try it or what he wanted in return. Which is good,  since I won't write a positive review just for $50. My bribe minimum is closer to $100 since I'm a professional. But he asked for nothing, so sure, why not? I can't recall a HoneyBaked meal, though I'm sure I've had one or two somewhere along the line. The card(s) arrived Friday via UPS.
This was part of a Easter promotional thing, even though we don't do Easter stuff.
So, upon hearing the news that they closed at six, I scrambled for an alternative. I scanned through the blog archives to at least pick something we haven't had recently. It's hard to keep track of that sort of thing. I came across OTH. Mmmmm, catfish.
The Place:
An open ceiling, barn-type structure, cluttered with a kitschy but tidy fish/fishing/boat motif. In the middle of the floor, behind the counter is a huge aquarium with several large fish. The kids love this. Several of them planted their greasy, sticky, germ-laden mitts on the glass. The tables are ample and spaced pretty well. We were led to a four-top by a window. The tables are wood, laminated with ads for local businesses along with a list of common trivia questions. The answers are spread out around the ads. Clever. We'd already cracked this game though, they haven't changed out the tables in several years. It was about half full on a sunny, yet chilly Saturday evening. There was just enough crowd chatter to drown out the awful country music. The steel guitar, Satan and Hitler's favorite instrument, pierced the din occasionally. Had the music been any louder, I would have busted up the joint.
Menus were dropped off and drink order taken by . . .  I forgot to take down the young lady's name. Too bad, she turned out to be great and I'd love to tell her so.
Tea, sweet tea, Pepsi. 
I already knew what I was going to get, it's pretty much the reason I picked the place. In fact, when I'd told Angel earlier, "I feel like catfish." She replied "Oh, Off the Hook then." Her and Adam browsed though the menu and seemed to decide on things pretty quickly as well. 
The Food:
When the delightful young lady came back, we ordered. Angel started. Catfish, salad, green beans and mashed potatoes. The server asked if she wanted four fillets or two. "They're pretty good sized aren't they?" Angel asked rhetorically. "That's why we offer the choice." the server said, then added: "We call the two piece choice the Senior Meal." She immediately blushed. "I didn't mean to imply you're old. . . " Angel just laughed it off, she knows she's old. Then she asked for the four piece.
"I'll have the senior." I piped up. "I'm not ashamed of my slowing metabolism and declining appetite." 
I added the salad as well. Seniors only get one side. Of course I knew it would be plenty, the fish came with fries and hush puppies. It's pretty filling.
Adam asked for chicken and dumplings. I don't personally care for such a thing, but I knew he did. 
Since our last visit, when I complained a little about the salad they served, I'd noticed they had opened up a salad bar/boat. Kitschy, I told you so.
Yeah, they built a small salad bar into a Jon boat. Trailer, outboard motor and all. Cute. 
We also ordered, as I already knew we would, the corn poppers as an appetizer. Those tiny dough balls of delight arrived first.
We fell in love with these little taste bombs from the first time we tried
them, several years ago. The dough is not heavy or greasy and they use the sweetest whole kernel corn I've ever had.We have to be careful with these things, they will spoil your appetite if you don't stop eating them at some point. Also, they are always delivered fresh out of the deep fryer, piping hot on the inside. "Ow, ow, ow." Angel muttered as she ignored common sense and bit right into one as soon as they were delivered. Seriously, I'd take a mouth burn or two myself for these things.
We all maintained self control and did not finish off the generous supply.
Then the salad plates were delivered. "One trip only." We were warned politely. 
No problem. It wasn't that robust a salad bar. Don't get me wrong, it had the basics covered. Just not as wide a variety of items that you can find at Ruby Tuesday's. 
It was all very fresh looking though. Iceberg lettuce, spinach, red onions, green pepper, boiled eggs, chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese and about a dozen different salad dressings. I piled it on pretty high. I topped mine with a little 1000 Island and a 'Sweet Onion' dressing. I often mix two or more dressings, just a little of each, even at home. You ought to try it. It gives a simple salad a few extra flavor notes. The bar/boat was a little harder to work with than a traditional salad bar, the counter between the food and the edge of the boat was wider than at a normal bar.
Everything was clean, fresh and bright about the salad itself though.
After that, it wasn't very long before the main courses arrived.
Still sizzling, golden brown fish fillets.  The hush puppies were there too, I love those things. The fries? Meh. 
On our last visit, I'd asked to forgo the fries. I just forgot to do that this time. Not that I don't like fries, but look at that plate. Deep fried starches. That's a lot of high-carb bloating food. Angel had replaced hers with mashed potatoes and gravy, hardly an improvement, but her job requires a lot of getting out and moving around. I sit hunched over a computer all day and get safety briefings asking us to get up and move around occasionally. Then I'm in the car for nearly three hours a day. Hardly a high energy lifestyle. I have to watch my intake rather closely to maintain my adorably girlish figure. I had a few fries, but only a few. I gorged myself on the awesome, crunchy and yet moist and flaky fish and pups.
The server had delivered four condiment containers of tartar sauce in their own little green basket. It was pretty good as far as taste, but packaged for storage and server convenience more so than for than for the diner's ease of use.
The fish was indeed incredible, it too served fresh from the fryer. I broke it open first to allow some of the internal steam to escape. Crispy on the outside, moist, flaky, tasty on the inside. The hush puppies were good as well, just right. I've said it before, the crew that OTH has on the deep fryer are absolute masters of the method.
If my plate looked hefty, Angel's looked positively deadly. Twice the fish, enough mashed potatoes and gravy to satisfy a work crew.
Angel loves her gravy.
There was no way she'd finish it all, that was part of her plan. Take-home is always an option. OTH catfish reheats nicely and makes a superb Sunday lunch sandwich.
"The fish was wonderful." She said. I agreed. It's not the best I've ever had, but it is more than adequate.  The best ever was at a buffet outside Eureka Springs Arkansas. that was twenty years ago, I'm not even sure of what it was called or if it is even open anymore. All you can eat, biscuits, catfish, hush puppies, etc.
From Adam's first bite of his chicken and dumplings, I could tell something was amiss. he made an odd face, then cocked his head like a curious spaniel.

"Something wrong?" I asked.
"It's weird, I can't quite say what it is. It's not bad, just not what I was expecting."
He plopped some onto his mother's plate. She sampled it. "Sue Bees canned Chicken and Dumplings." She said. We looked up this memory later, she probably meant Sweet Sue. At any rate, she compared OTH's chicken and dumplings to a canned version. That's not really a ringing endorsement. Adam only ate about a third of it. He didn't mention the corn, but it looked a little pale and overdone to me.
True to prediction, Angel only managed two of the four fillets, we asked for a box.
Well, we eventually asked for a box. Once again the back end of the service at OTH was slow. Our server, who had done a splendid job all the way through the meal, was now working a table of ten or twelve adults on the other side of the floor. I don't blame her, she was obviously doing a fine job, answering questions pointing at things on the menu and scribbling down the orders. We waited and waited. We finally waved down a passing server. She brought the box quickly enough.
Summary:
We boxed up the fish and the remaining corn poppers and took our leave. At the counter, the bill came in at just under forty dollars. I padded the tab with a few bucks for a tip. 
All in all the meal and the service was pretty good. Sure, Adam didn't care for the dumplings, but he admitted that it wasn't bad, just not what he had expected. A taste thing. Our fish was superb, as were the hush puppies. The new salad bar was excellent if not especially large. Our server, I really wish I'd gotten her name, was very good. Polite, sharp, attentive and ready with the refills. 
OTH could probably work on some of their recipes, the corn, the dumplings, etc just didn't seem fresh. Otherwise, you can get a very good meal there, at reasonable prices. Still the best place in the area for catfish.



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