The Lake: Lake Catherine
The Restaurant: Mr. Whiskers
When catfish are too cold to bite and crappie are ignoring your line, head to shore and drive over Highway 270 to this counter-service, black-and-white tiled, John-boat green painted family joint. The interior is bright, the Whisker Sauce is spicy and the black beans are even spicier. The catfish is always fresh and golden-fried. Once located in Hot Springs, you’ll now find Mr. Whiskers out in the gap between the Spa City and Malvern.
Mr. Whiskers * 4195 Malvern Road * Hot Springs * (501) 262-3474 * greatcatfish.com
The Restaurant: Fish Net in Caddo Valley
Miss out on black bass on your day out? Come back in and head over to Caddo Valley, where area mainstay O’Keefe’s Fish Net Family Restaurant continues to serve catfish and Cajun-influenced fare, including Boom Boom Shrimp and farm raised gator bites. This restaurant doesn’t just stick to fresh-water seafood – it also serves crab, oyster and shrimp as well as steaks, chicken and burgers. The catfish is salt-and-pepper battered and the hush puppies are long and extruded. A good place to try out when you're staying at DeGray Lake Resort State Park.
O’Keefe’s Fish Net Family Restaurant * 5000 Valley Street * Arkadelphia * (870) 246-7885 * fishnetfamilyrestaurant.biz
The Restaurant: Fisherman’s Wharf
There are few places on the Diamond Lakes where you can pull up, dock and dine. Fisherman’s Wharf caters to landlubbers and boaters alike, with its own pier by Scenic Highway 7. Inside, its dark-wood walls are covered with photographs and maritime paraphernalia, and its menu is covered with the likes of crab legs, fresh oysters and jumbo shrimp. Grouper, salmon and mahi-mahi are all stars on the menu, as well as local favorites like American-raised catfish and frog legs. It also has one of the most extensive side menus in the area, with selections such as broccoli salad, Kosher salt boiled red potatoes, black-eyed peas and mango coleslaw.
Fisherman’s Wharf * 5101 Central Avenue * Hot Springs * (501) 525-7437 * facebook.com/5101spacity
The Restaurant: The Shack in Jessieville
Arkansas’s largest lake is a bass fisherman’s haven, but there are some days nothing at all is biting. So head to the east end, pull out and roll over to Jessieville for one of the most legendary plates of catfish you’ll find in Arkansas. Fresh American-raised catfish fillet, seasoned and only marginally battered, come two or four to a platter with fries and coleslaw. Don’t care for fries? A large salad alongside is also a popular option. Beware – if you’re planning to visit The Shack, it gets very busy when school lets out in the afternoon.
The Shack * 7901 N Highway 7 * Jessieville * (501) 984-5619 * no website
The Restaurant: Mt. Ida Café
One of the region’s oldest restaurants, Mt. Ida Café has been serving customers since 1934. Though the building may look plain on the outside, within it’s filled with kitsch and area memorabilia. Catfish comes well-seasoned and with fries or baked potato, hush puppies, salad and a choice of tartar or “red” sauce – crusty fillets that overload the plate.
Mt. Ida Café * 132 Highway 270 East * Mt. Ida * (870) 867-2283 * no website