Some restaurants are just special. Not only to the towns, but to the customers and even to the employees. Such is the case with O’Keefe’s Fish Net Family Restaurant in Caddo Valley.
Ronnie O’Keefe began operating the institution in 1985 and did so until his untimely passing in December 2021. The restaurant remained closed for four months, until
his daughter, Jenifer O’Keefe Spears,
who grew up working in the restaurant, reopened it in April 2022. She had a career and family in Dallas but felt led to carry on her dad’s legacy. So, she and her family endured a commuting situation until November 2023, when they moved to the Arkadelphia area.
The Fish Net celebrated its 38-year anniversary this year, and I was overjoyed to sample the longtime, favorite dishes.
The Fried Green Tomatoes appetizer is wonderful. The team hand-batters the tart slices of fruit in a secret concoction of breading. The slices of fried goodness are served piping hot with house-made ranch dressing. If you want a healthier appetizer, then try the Grilled Shrimp on a Skewer. I had mine blackened and enjoyed each flavor-packed bite.
O’Keefe’s Fish Net serves only USDA, American farm-raised catfish. And, for catfish lovers like me, you can always taste the difference. The catfish options are plentiful with grilled, Cajun, lemon pepper, bronzed, blackened and fried options. You can get just catfish, or you can order a combo of almost endless options that include chicken, stuffed crab, fried shrimp, boiled shrimp, clam strips, breaded oysters, gumbo or étouffée. I opted for the deep-fried catfish and stuffed crab.
Before my fish arrived, I was surprised by “The Set Up,” as it is named at the Fish Net. This array of fixings includes freshly made coleslaw, spicy tomato relish, homestyle pinto beans and fresh, homemade hush puppies. The Set Up arrives a bit before the fish, so it is a wonderful pre-entrée treat.
The catfish and stuffed crab were excellent. The fillets were huge strips of golden perfection. The cornmeal-based breading was spot-on, and the flavor of the stuffed crab was very nice.
The Pan Seared Tilapia is a must try. This handsome entrée features a tilapia fillet coated in Parmesan breadcrumbs that is topped with shrimp in a light cream sauce on a bed of rice. The flavor combinations of this dish will cause your fork to return for “just one more bite.”
Steak at the catfish place? Don’t question it. Just enjoy. And yes, I got The Set Up with the Ribeye Steak, too. The team at the Fish Net are not only master fish fixers, but they also have a strong minor in beef. I was served a beautifully prepared hand-cut, USDA choice angus ribeye that gave the catfish a run for the blue ribbon. The steak was tender and had a charbroiled flavor that you can’t find everywhere. There are also sirloin and tenderloin options.
The Salmon Salad was a lighter option that I enjoyed. It featured a North Atlantic grilled salmon fillet tenderly placed atop a bed of fresh mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and chopped onions.
I was treated to a few desserts by the very attentive staff. My server and the manager smiled as they presented two warm fried pies that were dressed up for the show. The pies are from Flywheel Pies in Prescott, but the Fish Net adds a loving touch to the pies. I enjoyed the chocolate and cherry.
Spears, Manager DeAnne Douin, Kitchen Manager Josh Gershmer and the rest of the team will ensure that you are treated like friends and family. You’ll leave with a smile, a full belly and a promise to come back.