Friday night I ended up in Sallisaw, Oklahoma on our way to my sister’s graduation commencement at Carl Albert State College. Everyone was going to Shad’s Catfish Hole for dinner, and we soon found ourselves a few miles off the highway at an un-assuming blue building with a large catfish painted on the front. A horse, his head poking through the fence to get at the tall grass on the other side, was the only one to greet us in the gravel parking lot.
We entered through the swinging front door and immediately saw a dimly lit interior with country themed fishing decor on every wall. The tables were simple and many of them had to be pushed together to accommodate all fourteen of us. We sat at the table for a moment before our waitress arrived and took our drink order. Soon the “fixins” arrived: bowls of roasted pinto beans, flavored to perfection, golf-ball sized hush puppies, sliced onions, pickles, and cole-slaw that was light on the mayonnaise and slightly sweet. I think the practice of bringing out “fixins” as an appetizer is an Oklahoma tradition…probably the naming convention of including the word “hole” in the title as well. I have also eaten at The Eaton Hole in Stigler and The Rib Joint and Catfish Hole in Lexington.
The menu had all-you-can-eat catfish, but also had a selection of other seafood options such as clams, crab legs, and even trout. I supposed that if I were to come to a place called Shad’s Catfish Hole I had better try the catfish. Most of us ordered this dish, and we were not disappointed. They soon brought out scores of catfish filets that were corn breaded and fried to perfection. The catfish was light, flaky and did not taste like pond water which alludes to its freshness. The service was fantastic and our waitress was extremely kind and helpful.
If you are out on State Highway 59 in Sallisaw any time soon on Tuesday through Saturday evening, pop on by this little hole in the wall. It has great food, great service, is exceptionally clean and has some of the best fried catfish I have ever eaten… in a hole or otherwise.