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This was my choice. Well, not exactly. My first choice was to go to Fountain City Grill, a nice little place that we wish we went to more often. Angel invited Adam, he said he'd love to tag along but Saturday would be tough because of his work schedule. We agreed to delay a day and go Sunday. Adam visits pretty often, at least every other week. We have a secret weapon to get him here frequently, a washer and dryer. He's been to laundromats, he'd rather drive for a half hour or so each way and visit with us than go back to a soul-sucking laundromat.
So Sunday afternoon, while I was doing important cemetery stuff on the computer I had a thought. Is the Fountain City Grill even open on Sunday? Yes, most of my thoughts are indeed italicized, I don't know why.
Well, how about Bistro on the Square? Pretty nice, decent food.
So what IS open?
Off the Hook (OTH) is sometimes billed as a seafood joint.
This is Missouri, almost as far away from an ocean as you can get in the continental U.S. Sure there are some places in the city that probably fly in the catch of the day, but this is not one of those places.
Inside, the walls and shelves are stuffed to the gills (pun intended) with boat and fishing geegaws and gadgets. From small wooden sailing ships to a real live Jon boat in a trailer that has been converted to a salad/soup bar.
There's a large, occupied aquarium behind the counter, nets, fishing poles, etc, etc, etc.
It's a bit much really.
The place is spacious though, especially if it is only one third occupied as it was this evening.
The young lady at the counter told us to find a table and a server would be by shortly. Sure, why not. We picked a table by a window on the west side. We ordered drinks, I ordered tea, knowing immediately that this was a mistake. I had rememberies of the tea at OTH.
We scanned the menu, not that I needed to. There's only one entree that drags me to this place,
You simply must start with an appetizer, specifically the corn poppers. These are battered, deep fried balls of whole kernel sweet corn. It is an absolute requirement. You won't be disappointed.
Angel ordered a chicken or country fried steak. I am aware that there is a difference, but it is a difference without a significant distinction in my book. So there, Clarkson Wells!
(One, country, is flour battered with brown gravy, the other is egg battered with a creamy gravy)
She ordered some sides, I forget what exactly, but there's a reason for that.
Adam ordered grilled chicken, blackened, also with some forgettable sides. Me, the reason I go to this place?
Catfish. Corn meal breaded, deep fried catfish. Mmmmm, that's good Mississippi River seafood.
OTH boasts that their's is All American, red, white and blue, USA farm raised only. I'll take their word for it. USA! USA! USA!
I had another remembery and mentioned to the lady, "No fries please." By default the fish comes with
I wanted the fish, that's all that mattered. I asked for white beans, slaw and corn. (since I nixed the fries I was offered a superfluous third side as part of the meal.)
She took our order and we waited, which means like a normal family we turned on and stared at our personal electronic devices.
The poppers were wonderful, seriously good, but be careful, they are hot, hot hot!
The place wasn't filling up, spotting a crew member was rare, very rare. In fact we noticed that there were some un-bussed tables just sitting there, un-bussed (and they stayed that way). At a few points
I assumed that a couple of the staff had called in puny, such a pretty day and all.
The entrees arrived, we dug in. The catfish was as good as I hoped, crunchy, flaky, moist, savory. Not at all gamy or fishy, just better than cod.
The sides, well, the white beans were better than I expected, the mild seasoning they were hosting blended in with the creamy, dare I say mushy, beans. The veggies all appeared to be canned or frozen, seasoned with something, bacon, onions, maybe, and very overcooked. Southern style over cooked, just like Grandma used to make. She slaw was the vinegary
There were indeed, four large fish fillets. An entire school of fillets. Much, much more than a man my size should, could or would ever eat, even without a pound and a half of fries.
The sides were pretty much all a fail.
Angel thoroughly enjoyed her steak, "It's small, but in a good way." She pondered for a moment and added: "If it were any bigger the saltiness of the gravy would have been overwhelming."
Adam didn't have much good to say about his chicken breast. "Peppered, but not much flavor, and it was tough (dry)"
In the end I finished two fillets, most of the white beans, both (overcooked) hush puppies, and not much else. I did not ask for a box, fried catfish does not reheat well.
I love the catfish, none of the other stuff really mattered that much to me at this meal. It's hard to find good fish in this area, especially a good catfish.
I've had the same complaints about OTH nearly every time. 1. The tea is simply awful, too weak, too old. 2. The portions on some of the meals are simply twice as large as they need to be. I imagine a great deal of food gets tossed or taken out. I would have happily paid the same price for two fillets as I did for four, less guilt about wastefulness as well. Offering a sedentary, middle aged midwesterner a plate of four breaded and fried fish fillets, two hush puppies (deep fried cornbread) and a pile of fries, plus add two more sides, you are not just a restaurant, you are an accessory to suicide.
3. Please, please find some fresh veggies for sides and stop boiling the life, color and flavor out of them.
As for the staffing issues and there were several, I'm going to play nice and give them the benefit of the doubt. It could have been a shortage day, a couple of people called in puny or cars broke down, though a couple of more times with that many disappearances could indicate significant staffing and management issues. I thought about this particular problem again as I stood at the counter waiting a few minutes for a staff member to appear and take my money, fifty dollars and change.