Eat My Catfish founder Travis Hester, raised in rural Saline County, began his dream job in
2008 with a case of catfish, a sack of crawfish, a used food trailer that was bought on credit and a vision.
His vision included serving customers the freshest food available, cooked by following Maw Maw Wilkerson’s recipes. Today, his little food trailer on the side of the road in Saline County has blossomed into five brick-and-mortar locations in Central and Northwest Arkansas. And Eat My Catfish is now the largest provider of its kind in The Natural State.
“I grew up on a multigenerational farm,” Hester said. “Maw Maw had a huge garden and canned everything. She made home-cooked dinner for friends and family every evening, and on Fridays we had a catfish fry.”
I am sure that many of you, just like me, were raised in this same type of atmosphere. If you were not, be jealous, as the memories are precious and treasured. Hester has worked to ensure that each restaurant reflects the family values and an atmosphere of guests entering his home to enjoy a great lunch or dinner.
“We take care of everyone the exact same way and treat them like family,” he said. “From the booths to family photographs on the walls to my family’s recipes, my family is ingrained in our restaurants.”
The first item I sampled during my recent visit was the Catfish Dinner. With my first bite of the perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned catfish, my taste buds triggered a string of great memories of family fish fries while growing up in northeast Arkansas. The never-frozen, USDA catfish was the freshest that I have had in many, many years. I swear I could taste the love in every delicious morsel. Freshly breaded fried okra and homemade hushpuppies rounded out the dinner, which is the top seller. When you go, do not forget to get a few containers of Maw Maw’s homemade tartar sauce.
My new favorite appetizer is the Willie’s FGT’s. This Eat My Catfish original features pickled fried green Cajun tomatoes coated with the fabulous family breading. These unique nuggets featured a hint of sweet heat, served with tangy, house-made ranch. The Fried Pickle Chips are also excellent. The Boiled Gulf Shrimp appetizer is also a must-try.
A new item, the Blackened Cajun Combo, has proven to be a great catch. This healthy and flavorful grilled entrée includes three fresh catfish fillets and four shrimp seasoned with secret, top-notch blackened spices and seared on a grill. They are layered on a bed of moist Cajun rice and are accompanied by spicy corn on the cob and two hushpuppies.
If you like po’boys, you will love the offerings at Eat My Catfish, available with shrimp, catfish, chicken or crawfish. Just make your choice, and enjoy it on toasted, New Orleans-style French bread, topped with the family-recipe Firecracker Sauce and homemade coleslaw.
For dessert, Eat My Catfish serves several flavors of fried pies — apple, peach, strawberry, chocolate and coconut — that are supplied by partner Flywheel Pies of Prescott, an Arkansas staple for more than 30 years. I enjoyed a chocolate pie during my visit and savored each bite.
I would be remiss not to mention that during crawfish season Eat My Catfish offers some of the best boiled crawfish I have ever had. Travis and his team have mastered a blend of spices and seasonings that will make you feel like you are at an old-fashioned crawfish boil with family and friends.
Pick the location nearest to you (Benton, Little Rock, Conway, North Little Rock or Fayetteville) and enjoy a great meal with the Eat My Catfish family. Tell them Uncle Rob sent you.