Sunday, May 04, 2014

Catfish Dewey's: Neighborhood Joint with Great Service, Lots of Carbs, Less Flavor

If you are a vacationer who wants to visit a seafood restaurant where the locals go, add Catfish Dewey's to your Fort Lauderdale things-to-do list.

You will need a rented car or plan for a taxi ride that, in my experience, could easily be $30 or more.

No local restaurant has been able to equal the fried oyster po' boy at King Neptune in Port Salerno, but I keep trying.

My first choice was the 15th Street Fisheries. On this sunny South Florida Sunday, I could think of worse things to do than eat on the water.

The parking lot at the marina is small, and the line for valet parking was long.

So I turned around. I don't like crowds when I eat. I headed along to Catfish Dewey's restaurant in Oakland Park.

I figured it would be a family restaurant; all-you-can-eat catfish usually is, and I had plenty enough of that in Georgia. I don't bother with AYCE menus, because my appetite is small. Quality matters more than quantity.

The first dish was conch fritters that arrived along with my iced tea. These were perfect -- warm and tasy. Conch can be tediously rubbery. The serving was generous, probably around eight. I couldn't finish my portion.

The coleslaw arrived next, piled high -- so high, I had trouble forking it up from the small, shallow side bowl. It lacked seasoning, but I give this Florida restaurant props for the generous portions.

Some eateries skimp on the slaw, and I can't understand that. Cabbage is cheap.

The owner of an Italian restaurant once told a friend that one secret of his success was generous portions of spaghetti. "It's cheap," the restauranteur explained, and diners love you for it.

Catfish Dewey's subscribes to this philosophy.

My waitress -- and I'm sorry I didn't pay attention to her name because she deserves a shout-out -- was solicitous without being obtrusive.

This is not the kind of restaurant where the server introduces herself and acts as if you are going to be BFF from then on. You are more likely to hear, "What can I get you, hon?"

She kept my tea full, got the tartar sauce I asked for promptly, and delivered the check in a timely way without even having to catch her eye.

The oyster sandwich and old-fashioned southern greens I got (kale, I think) were also generous. There were seven or eight juicy plump oysters on the roll, lightly battered and fried exactly as the menu promises.

I prefer more seasoning on everything, so I dumped a lot of Louisiana hot sauce on them before dipping them in the tartar sauce, also not spicy enough for me. I skipped the huge role.

The greens were not the most flavorful I've ever had -- low in salt and not enough bacon or pork fat or whatever it is that makes this dish often taste so good.

Catfish Dewey's is a large dining hall with rustic red-check tablecloths and wood floor. Plenty of people were eating when I arrived toward 3 p.m.

I prefer to eat when the crowds are light, so my timing was excellent. There are always cars parked out front when I drive past, but there is more parking in the rear. Cars in the parking lot is a sign of a potentially good restaurant. I have tried a few restaurants whose parking lots are empty; invariably, people were avoiding them for good reasons.

Many Americans like restaurants with plentiful if somewhat bland servings. I cannot fault Catfish Dewey's as a seafood Florida restaurant that is easy on the pocketbook and has good service. Even though I prefer spicier food, Catfish Dewey's is an experience worth recommending among Fort Lauderdale things-to-do.

No comments: