Southern fried soul food. It means something more than just fried in oil or battered in flour. It means more than just food to fill a belly and provide energy. Southern fried soul food is a tradition and heritage that fills the body and the spirit. Soul Fish Café on Main Street and my guest, Rex Nelson, understand and represent Southern fried soul food.
Rex Nelson walked from his office down Main Street to meet me at Soul Fish. We greeted each other in the white tile lobby, while we waited on the rest of our party: journalist and brother-in-law-to-be Chris Bahn. After Chris arrives, we’re seated at a nice wooden table in the large dining area. Rex is very popular with not only the other patrons, but service staff as well. His jovial demeanor attracts everyone to our table and he has great banter with anyone. I have known him since college, when I worked at Southwest Sporting Goods in Arkadelphia and he would frequent the store before Ouachita Tiger football games where he has been “the voice of the Tigers” for over 30 years. He did have to take a short hiatus while he was working in Washington, D.C. There’s a great story behind how he got the job, which he tells us as we order fried pickles and smoked catfish dip appetizers.
Chris got the Blackened Catfish Caesar and I ordered the shrimp basket, but Rex ordered the Whole Catfish without even looking at the menu. His dish consisted of two whole catfish dusted with seasoned cornmeal and fried golden brown, served with French fries, hush puppies and coleslaw. His plate made ours look like children’s orders. My shrimp was good and filling, Chris’ salad looked great and healthy, but Rex’s fried fish stacked on top of golden fries was gorgeous and mouth watering.
Be sure to check out Rex Nelson’s column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and his blog at rexnelsonsouthernfried.com. Invite him to Soul Fish and you’ll hear some amazing stories while you fill your belly with their spirit-lifting food. Just be warned, you’ll feel inferior if you don’t order the Whole Catfish.