HOPKINS COUNTY, KY – I am somewhat adventurous when it comes to food. I will try most things and find something I like about most of them; however, I also know what I do not like or will not try.
Tongue, for instance, is supposed to be one the tastier cuts of beef if prepared correctly. If offered to me, I would say I have no taste for it. (See what I did there?) I have found what some people call a delicacy is often nothing more than a crazy foodie attempting to bring the rest of us into the asylum. I must confess that my opinion on the culinary nuthouse residents is not always accurate. Sushi is little more than bait to me and yet I will eat it from time to time. What is worse, I enjoy it.
On the list of foods I will reject out of hand are catfish and coleslaw. I can hear my readers gasping already. I have never been a fan of fresh water fish and catfish in particular. I have endured all of the pro catfish dishes cooked to change my mind; but, I did not prefer fried to baked, or this recipe over that. The bottom line has always been a solid “No thanks.” The fate of coleslaw in my life has followed a similar path.
Shortly after I began writing this column I had a sleepless night envisioning plates of catfish and coleslaw placed before me at every restaurant I planned to visit. I knew it would happen sooner or later. As things turned out it happened sooner. When I asked owner Terri Bostick to bring me the house specialty she did not have to think about it long. Before I knew what hit me I had a good sized portion of coleslaw, catfish, corn bread cakes, and fried potatoes.
I may have mentioned that I am not particularly fond of catfish. In reality I cannot remember ever finishing a plate of catfish in my lifetime. I can assure you I was not looking forward to this review. I have had catfish from ponds, lakes, rivers, and farms. I have never cared for it. I decided to be as objective as I possibly could. I took a tentative bite. What I found was this: the thick filets were cooked perfectly, the corn meal batter was light and crispy, and the bite was perfectly seasoned. I could not believe my own assessment so I took another bite. It was true, that was my assessment. As I ate my meal my wife paused and watched my research in stunned silence. I just kept going back to confirm that this catfish I was eating was in fact this outstanding. She tried to help with my research once, but saw the look in my eyes and the fork in my hand and thought better of it. When I relented and gave her a small piece she went a little bug-eyed and reached for more. Brave girl. Terri serves the fish with tartar sauce and a lemon wedge so I used them as well but the fish is good without augmentation. I still cannot believe I just wrote that.
A lot can go wrong when frying. Even more can go wrong when frying fish. Some folks have the knack some do not. Ter Ter’s has the knack and then some. I ate every last crumb of that fish. I give the catfish at Ter Ter’s a solid 9 out of 10 whiskers. I seriously doubt if I will order catfish at another restaurant because I will be comparing it to Terri’s and that just isn’t fair.
The coleslaw was good too. Not as surprising as the catfish but I ate it and that is a shocker. It has a very crisp fresh feel and is not overdressed. I think she adds a bit of sugar. It is just a hint but makes for a very nice flavor profile. I would give the slaw a 7 out of 10 heads of cabbage. My wife is the coleslaw connoisseur. Her report is “it is very good.” She gets a little wordy sometimes, sorry.
The fried potatoes and cornbread cakes play supporting roles to the meal and are good. When I looked down at my plate and catfish had disappeared I knew we would not be talking much about supporting roles.
Usually I let my friends and family wait for the review, but this could not wait. I called my grandfather from my chair shortly after the first piece had mysteriously vanished and the second was well on its way to doing the same.
For dessert we had the banana split cake. Holy cow! This is pure comfort sweet stuff. I give it 8.5 out of 10 bananas. Nothing more need be said, just try it.
Terri worked as a server for Denny’s for nearly twenty eight years. Denny’s loss is Madisonville’s gain. Statistics show something along the line of ninety in every hundred restaurants (perhaps more) fail before the first year. After talking with Terri and seeing the atmosphere in her diner I can say without a doubt it would be a tragedy for this to happen.
Ter Ter’s has the added handicap of not being easy to see from the road. They are easy to find though. On the corner of Kentucky and Noel is a grey block building. On the Noel side of the building you will find the door to the place all good catfish go when their time on earth is done. I could not help thinking of the restaurant statistics and the reasons they are true. The competition for our dining dollars is fierce. Those who make good food alone will not survive. Those with just a good atmosphere will not survive. Those with just good service will not survive. I say “just good service” but I think we all know what has happened to good service. People were walking to the diner on a day when the temperature was around 35 degrees. That says all that needs to be said about the food. We were all treated as guests in her home. When Terri wasn’t taking care of us Desiree was. I asked how she liked working there and she just smiled and said, “We have a lot of fun. It is great” That’s says all that needs to be said about the atmosphere and service. As I sat at the table, doing my best to slow down and savor the fish, I found myself rooting for Ter Ter’s. Not just because of the catfish, but because of Terri and what she is building in our town. The diner is a small place with mismatched chairs and look that says’ “We are still working on the look.” I think this is part of the charm.
Terri has daily specials as well. Give her a call at 339-9334 to find out what is offering today. Luckily the fish can always be had. She has been open since January and I hope to see you there next January.
Thanks for reading.
Disclaimer: This is just my opinion. If you agree with me I am glad. If not, thanks for playing. Keep trying new items and I will try to find something for you next time.
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