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Keep Fishin’: Reeling Them In at an American Legion Fish Fry in Little Axe

Sailing down the eternal Highway 9, I spotted some signage on the side of the road that rang my bells: Fish Fry, it said in strident red lettering.

"Oh man. I haven’t been to a fish fry in probably…three decades?" I thought to myself.

When I was a mere adolescent in the small-town Texas of Blooming Grove, my law-enforcement father would work some Sundays for the local Baptist church, making sure the town’s racist contingency—the “good ol’ boys”, if you will—were kept way out to allow the good folks in.

After the service, of course, the church would provide a blessed catfish feast for our immediate family for lunch. When I think about it, it was one of the best times of my culinary life.

On a lazy Saturday, somewhere around Lake Thunderbird, I took a twisty road to the 2020 S. Peebly Rd. and, seemingly out of nowhere, the Little Axe American Legion Hall appeared.

An organization of U.S. war veterans, the smell of patriotism and deep-fried catfish was rampant outside the doors, the scent clinging to my clothes for the rest of the day.

Through to the threshold of the Great Hall, the tables and chairs were ready to go with orderly people lining right up to the wire. For only $15.00, you were entitled to all the eats you want, including hush puppies and coleslaw. I gleefully gave the lady my money and got in line, my drool starting to pool around the crevices of my winter-chapped lips.

From the corner where I stood, a thoroughly-seasoned man dumped a large bowl of freshly fried catfish into the assembly line, while next to him, a young woman spooned-out some more slaw out of a large container.

I told the man plating the victuals this was a to-go order; so he proudly set me up with a styrofoam container, filled with all the fixins', and a cup of simple water for refreshment.

When I left the serving station, I had to crack a peek at the treasure inside! Singing to me like an old Baptist hymnal, there were golden French fries, crispy onion rings, plump hush puppies, bulbous fried okra, slightly acidic coleslaw, and, of course, the epitome of aquatic taste, large pieces of battered catfish, streaming up to my nose and down to my belly.

From the start, the fries and onion rings did their work, the flavorful coleslaw was tremendous, and the hush puppies were a corn-breaded treat—but, the okra was the star of the sideshow, a crispy and tasty masterpiece that put all others to shame.

But, really, I was here for the immortal catfish; heavily breaded and spicily dusted, the handy pieces were ecstatic with malted vinegar, fancy ketchup, and of course, the beloved tartar sauce, which was more than incredible, making this a perfect meal to remember.

As I bought a few small desserts and was about to mosey on, an intellectually-disabled man, probably my same age, gave me a rousing high-five and told me that the fish was “pretty good”—I don’t know about you, but that’s good enough for me!


Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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