Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Middendorf's - Akers, LA

It’s been taunting me for years. Every time I make the drive to New Orleans, I pass it. Yes, Middendorf’s, the seafood restaurant in Manchac, I read its billboards advertising thin fried catfish. John T. Edge wrote about the fish in his article for “Garden and Gun”, but every time I’ve had an excuse, mostly the location. Situated so close to New Orleans, with Middendorf’s, it’s been one of two things, either “I’m this close to New Orleans, I’ll just wait” or “I just ate in New Orleans, why should I stop now?” Well, for this trip down I-55, I decided it was time to pay Middendorf’s a visit and see what thin fried catfish is all about.

Pulling off 55 and into the parking lot, I was hit with the smells of fried seafood and brackish water. Inside the fried seafood smell continued and for good reason. Middendorf’s seems to be a popular lunch spot and it looks like everyone had a plate of catfish in front of them.

Looking for something to go with the catfish, I was torn between oyster stew, house made turtle soup, and one of the three gumbos. With our waitress recommending the turtle soup, I was ready for a taste of rustic Louisiana cuisine. Unfortunately, my soup arrived after the fish. Looking past this minor annoyance, I dove into the turtle soup.
I was a little disappointed in what I found. It was a thin soup, but with a tomato flavor and littered with greens and tiny chunks of turtle meat.
As expected this was a very rustic version, but with a few liberal doses of Louisiana hot sauce, I was pretty happy with the results. I’ve had better versions of Cajun turtle soup, but with plenty of meat, trinity, spice, and hot sauce, it was a solid soup.

Of course the real reason I stopped at Middendorf’s is their Special Fried Thin Catfish. From what I’ve read, slicing the catfish thin is a throwback to the depression where it made a little meat stretch a lot farther.
At first glance, this large order of Fried Thin Catfish looks like a mountain of seafood, but I’d wager there’s barely more than a single filet on the plate.
With each piece there was the crunch of a relatively thick batter and the taste of a thin ribbon of catfish. I was an immediate fan of the textures, but I was at a loss for the seasonings. These catfish slices needed salt and something else. I tried various combinations. Lemon and tartar sauce improved it a little bit, but it needed something else.
Eventually I found that my favorite was a combination of ketchup and the vinegar based heat of Louisiana hot sauce.

Helping make that mountain of catfish a little higher, there was a base of French fries and hush puppies underneath those thin slices.
The French fries aren’t really worth mentioning, boring, limp and bland.
The hushpuppies were simple and a nice companion to the catfish.

It’s a relief that I can say I’ve finally stopped at Middendorf’s, but I felt the catfish were missing something. Maybe there’s a secret combination of lemon, tartar sauce and hot sauce that I’m unaware of, but outside of the delightful crunch I can’t say that I’m completely sold on the idea of Fried Thin Catfish. Still, the Thin Fried Catfish are worth a try.

Middendorf's Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Bradley said...

Wow, I feel like you gave Middendorf's an odd review. My family has taken me there every year as a child on the way home from Saints games. I had not been to the restaurant since i was probably twelve because like yourself I wanted to eat in New Orleans. I went last year with a large group and tried everything off the menu and I found nothing to be particularly pleasing. Perhaps you went on a good day or I went on a bad day, I'm just surprised that you were so positive.

Ashley Albright said...

If you look around Middendorf's you will notice a full parking lot and not a town in sight. Thats because those of us from New Orleans are happy to drive thru the swamp to get true Louisiana country seafood. Its not creole or cajun... just fresh and wonderful. If you don't get it you should be eatting at the Red Lobster..or any place made for tourists. Its 40 miles from New Orleans, 20 miles from Hammond, and 35 miles from Baton Rouge so you must really like it to drive that far... and we do, and have for 40 years.