There’s no denying that TJ’s Catfish and Wings is a sports bar. Nearly every inch of available space is covered in photos of famous players and team logos from all over the country, and there’s a TV — or three — wherever you look. The real kicker, though, is the section of stadium-style bucket seats near the entrance.
It’s also true that no one would mistake TJ’s for Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine or Ellerbe Fine Foods. Still, this southwest Arlington spot has lavished time and attention on perfecting its own specialties: fried stuff.
A guest and I kicked off our meal with a basket of golden, deep-fried crinkle-cut pickles. Coated in a piquant mix of cayenne pepper, black pepper, and cornmeal, the fiery slices were splendidly complimented by ranch dressing. The only problem was textural: The cooks weren’t exactly generous with the batter, which meant the pickle juice ran everywhere, transforming what should have been a crispy, crunchy dish into a soggy mess. But it wasn’t a huge problem. We just used our forks.
Next: chicken wings, and there’s no shortage of flavors to choose from. Along with the typical choices, TJ’s also offers caliente pepper, Jamaican jerk, and (our selection) teriyaki. A mix of five large wings and drumsticks came out in a thick, sweet, salty sesame-kissed glaze. The sauce had the perfect consistency — moist enough to coat your mouth but not so over-reduced that it caked onto the meat. Fortunately, there was an ample supply of paper napkins at the table.
For our entrée, we tried the fried catfish, TJ’s “all-time favorite dish,” according to our server. Served with tasty hushpuppies, both bulging fillets had a nice, firm shell of cornmeal, and the fish was as fresh as it was mild. Each bite was augmented by scoops of the scrumptious homemade tartar sauce (lots of dill and some mustard) and mayonnaise-y but light coleslaw.
TJ’s also serves up hearty sandwiches. The Cajun-style chicken consisted of two large tenders on a hoagie bun with lettuce and tomato. Ladled with a sauce heavy on the cayenne pepper and chili powder, the bird was eyes-wateringly delicious.
There’s only one dessert at TJ’s, and after trying it, we knew why. The fried cheesecake looked kind of like a jumbo egg roll. Its shell sprinkled with powdered sugar, it had a rich, sweet filling, and every bite was kicked up a notch by a little of the raspberry syrup that came on the side.
The service was quick and polite, and the TVs weren’t overly loud. Sports bar it may be, but TJ’s also offers a family-friendly dining experience.
TJ’s Catfish and Wings
4261 W Green Oaks Blvd, FW. 817-572-1600. 11:30am-8:30pm Sun, 11am-9pm Mon-Thu, 11am-10pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Two-piece catfish dinner ……….. $6.49
Spicy pub pickles ………………….. $4.99
Fried cheesecake …………………. $3.49
Five-piece wings ………………….. $3.49
Cajun-style sandwich and fries . $6.99