Belzoni’s Catfish Café, 110 N Jim Wright Fwy, White Settlement. 817-386-0714. 11am-2pm Mon-Fri, 4-7pm Fri, and 12-4pm Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Belzoni’s Catfish Café wasn’t going to make it easy for me to visit. The 4-month-old eatery’s strip-mall locale sits on the northeast side of 820 and White Settlement Road — about as far west as you can travel and still feel like you’re near Fort Worth. The Mississippi-style fish fry is open only for short windows during the afternoon six days a week and until the extravagant hour of 7 p.m. on Friday. In other words, if you’re a 9-to-5 schlub who doesn’t live or work in the area, the trip might take some planning. Luckily, the food was worth the logistical gymnastics.
On a recent Saturday visit, I arrived a few minutes before the posted opening time of noon and was excited to see that there was already a line forming at the front door and two cars idling in the drive-thru — a promising sign, indeed. As soon as I stepped through the door, I was greeted by a large digital menu board that hangs at the entrance and an enthusiastic man behind the counter who wore a genuine smile.
Belzoni’s — named after a town in Mississippi that apparently owns the curious title of “the farm-raised catfish capital of the world — offers a straightforward menu of a few appetizers, fried catfish, burgers, chicken tenders, traditional soul food sides, and dessert specials.
The man behind the counter was friendly and helpful with plenty of recommendations. All the sodas on offer are in bottles, as is the water, apparently. When I asked for a glass of tap water, the polite man told me the place offered bottled water only. I opted instead for the syrupy sweet house-made sweet tea.
The dining room consists of only nine tables, a small shelf of community condiments, and a single bathroom in the corner. Judging by the friendly and frequent conversations between customers and staff, even after just four months, Belzoni’s has developed a good number of regulars who lend a homey feel to the place. After about 10 minutes, my number was called, and my appetizers and entrees arrived all at once.
I started with a red plastic basket generously filled with fried dill pickles. Coated in the house cornmeal breading and served with a paper cup of ranch dressing, the crinkle-cut pickle slices were crunchy and tasted pleasant if unremarkable when dipped in what seemed like store-bought ranch.
The items on the standout Catfish Rounds appetizer, served six to an order and accompanied by a spicy tartar sauce, were also cloaked in the house cornmeal crust and filled with chopped jalapeños, tomatoes, and onions. The improbably crispy morsels had been plunged in seething oil and had emerged with a shrug of gold. Once bitten, the fish balls cast off their batter like a slinky negligee, revealing the perfectly seasoned, moist fish inside.
The catfish meals are offered with a single or double filet and served with three hushpuppy sticks and two generous sides of your choosing. I opted for the double filet with mac ’n’ cheese and turnip greens, but after seeing the portion sizes, the single would have been more than enough for a lunch. The fish was perfectly cooked with the standard batter on the outside and soft flaky fish within. The flavors were the embodiment of peak Mississippi Delta cuisine.
The turnip greens tasted as though they’d been braised for hours in smoky pork but not overcooked. Their seasoning hinted at a deft hand in the kitchen that isn’t afraid of a little spice. The mac ’n’ cheese was creamy and hot and tasted decent enough, but in a world of elevated mac ’n’ cheeses, Belzoni’s version isn’t the type to garner attention on Instagram. My one complaint was the hushpuppy sticks, which tasted like the heat-and-serve variety served in school cafeterias.
For those who don’t like seafood but are forced to tag along with your fish-loving friends, you have options. The ‘52 Chevy Burger 2.0 is served with lettuce, tomato, pickles, bacon, fried jalapeños, and pepper jack cheese, and it’s slathered in chipotle mayo. The flavors were a picture of harmony: The spice of the fried jalapeños played foil to the salty bacon and the buttery toasted bun. Unfortunately, my 8-ounce angus beef patty was so overcooked, I couldn’t overlook its charred flavor. Crunchy fries, lightly dusted in seasoning salt, cost an additional $2 and were well worth the price.
For dessert, I opted for the individual size sweet potato pie. The crust was clearly store-bought but tasted buttery and flaky all the same. The strong potato flavor was accented nicely by the usual spices (cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg). The confection was a pleasant end to an enormous, delicious lunch –– one that many of us day-walkers will have to wait until Saturdays to enjoy.
Belzoni’s Catfish Café
Fried dill pickles $4.89
Catfish Rounds $4.89
Catfish meal (double) $12.89
’52 Chevy Burger 2.0 $8.89
Sweet potato pie $3.89