I have lots of dishes that I have loved over the years at Chestnut. But when I look at the lunch menu, there is one dish that always calls my name. It is the Corn Fried NC Catfish. The fish is farm raised by Carolina Classics Natural Catfish.
Both my grandfathers loved catfish, so it has prominent place in my childhood memories. How they came about their favorite fish was quite different, however.
My Papaw Gib lived on Lake Okeechobee in Florida (you took a left on Lemon and right on Lime to get to his house). He spent much of his time out on the water. When he was back in town, he had a favorite place called the Catfish Café that he took me to when I was visiting. The thing was, the fish were fried and served whole. It was a bit of tough thing to swallow – no pun intended – for a kid of 12, but once past the appearance, the fish was fresh and delicious.
Papaw Lackey would take me fishing on the French Broad River out past the Craggy Prison. He would catch several catfish each time, among other things. I remember him hooking a massive turtle and fighting that thing for about 30 minutes before it straightened out the hook and got away. I was secretly wishing the turtle would get away, so a wish fulfilled. We would then go to my grandparents’ house, nail the fish to the tool-shed and he would clean them and we would have catfish for dinner.
I think of both these men when I have the catfish at Chestnut. The dish here has collard greens, Adluh cheddar grits, honey mustard and a molasses drizzle. It is such a wonderful melding of flavors that I have to make myself slow down when eating it. Come by and try it. I think you will love it too.