This review originally appeared as a guest post on Kevin Shalin’s wonderful blog The Mighty Rib as part of our monthly series called He Said, He Said. Here it is again, but with additional photographs and my expanded thoughts. I like to think of these as my director’s cut. I hope you enjoy it.
There are a lot of catfish places around, so let’s just cut to the chase: you go to Lassis Inn for their unique cuts of catfish that you don’t find elsewhere: catfish steaks and big bone buffalo ribs. But I think there’s more to call you to Lassis—the folks that own and run it are really nice people. So nice that they might even invite you outside to pick and take home some pecans that have fallen from their trees. In the end the combination of well-cooked unique cuts of catfish and down home hospitality makes Lassis Inn the kind of place where I want to spend my catfish eating money.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The food is good. Really good. Let’s start with the fish. You have a choice of boneless filets (that’s what you usually see at a catfish joint), catfish steaks (cross cut portions of the fish, a small serving has three to four steaks), or big bone buffalo ribs (six to a small order).
I’d try something new, so don’t jump for the catfish fillets. Instead try the catfish steaks, which have big medallions of catfish on either side of the spine.
I think the big bone buffalo ribs are a tease; they are skinny fish fingers that have a long thin bone that runs up the middle, and not a lot of fish on the outside.
So, they’re a lot of work for not a lot of fish. Moreover, the catfish steaks are $0.25 cheaper than the big bone buffalo ribs. I think the catfish steaks are just a better deal overall.
Whatever fish you choose, it comes fried with a cornmeal, salt and pepper crust. They don’t hammer it when they fry it, so you don’t get just a hard, crunchy coating and overcooked fish, one where you can’t tell where the coating ends and the fish begins. No, at Lassis you get an appropriately crispy crust, lightly golden and crunchy, but which is cooked quick enough so that the fish is still moist and soft inside. That’s the kind of fish you serve when you have 29 years of fish frying experience.
Your plate will come with two hush puppies of an appropriate crunch and creamy softness inside. I liked that they were made with little bits of onion which balanced the sweetness with a perfect pinch of savoriness. Honestly, I don’t know why they don’t offer a side of just hush puppies. I could snack on those any day.
Lassis offers several sides: coleslaw, french fries, tomato relish and fried okra. I’m a believer in contrasts, so I avoided the fried sides. The coleslaw is my regular choice. It’s fresh made and has a nice balance of sweetness and tartness. I do wish more came for the $1.50 I spent on it. As for drinks, I get the lemonade. Nothing special, it’s a mix, but there’s something just right about that all the same.
Lassis Inn is a unique, old time, down home place. Each spot inside is a bench and table combination. The benches can be tight since they look like they were from the 1940s. And most definitely, there’s No Dancing.
I get here around 1 and often have the place to myself. It feels a bit like you’re eating in their home kitchen. The owners Elihue and Marie Washington are very kind people, who are very happy that you stopped by. On my last visit, Elihue took the time to show off his Arkansas Food Hall of Fame award and his Senate Citation.
Lassis Inn brings good food, and I think you’d be remiss to pass this by. And if you get into a conversation with Marie and Elihue, they just might invite you to take home some pecans from their trees just outside the door. On my last trip, I spent a good bit of time picking pecans with Elihue and just talking about life.