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I have long heard about the fried catfish at Woods Place in Camden. The restaurant’s signature dish is supposed to be some of the very best in Arkansas, and it’s why I made the nearly 2-hour drive from Little Rock to the South Central Arkansas town. But here’s the thing, as my late Saturday lunch with four friends proved, the fried catfish only scratches the surface of what the restaurant offers.
And we did our best to try it all.
The eat-fest started with a complimentary basket of fried hushpuppies and fresh-baked yeast rolls. Why can’t every restaurant do this? Seriously, yeast rolls make me happy, and while the hushpuppies ended up being my least favorite item of the meal, I certainly appreciated their attendance. The hushpuppies also marked the first of many fried delights to hit the table within the next hour of our lives.
My dear friends understand what I do, and that includes the need to try a variety of dishes for a comprehensive review. With that said, we darn near ordered every fried item Woods Place had to offer. That included the chicken fried chicken, chicken fried steak, onion rings, sour cream fries (wedges), hand-cut fries, crinkle-cut fries, fried chicken tenders, and the beforementioned fried catfish.
Truth be told, it was nearly impossible to pick a favorite, but if I had to, the hand-battered onion rings may have taken the gold medal, with the cornmeal-coated catfish running a close second. The clean-tasting fish came out piping hot. I love breaking a piece in half to let out the steam, followed by a bite with a coleslaw chaser. That, too, is pretty fantastic at Woods Place. The simple, slightly sweet and creamy pulverized cabbage was an ideal complement to any of the table’s accompanying fried proteins.
The fried chicken tenders looked and tasted the part, as did both the chicken fried steak and chicken fried steak. And none of that frozen cubed steak garbage at Woods. Expect a tenderized steak fried just right and covered in peppery cream gravy.
In terms of the fries, the salt and pepper, hand-cut ones are the way to go. That’s no knock on the crinkle-cut or even the sour cream fries, the latter of which were wedges we all thought would be coated in some sort of a thicker ranch dusting.
In the end, we still only partook in a small percentage of Woods Place’s offerings. We missed out on appetizers like fried pickles, mushrooms, and green beans, as well as entrees like burgers, sandwiches, quesadillas, and fried chicken livers. There’s always next time.
It’s all served in a cozy, down-home setting by an attentive staff. Oh, and one more thing. Do not, and I repeat, do not pass on ordering a soft drink. Why? Because Woods Place has some of the best ice around. It sounds crazy, but I appreciate some good ice, and the soft, chewable pieces are what dreams are made of.
Woods Place is a special spot, and not just because of the fried catfish. Camden is fortunate to have this place.
1173 W Washington St (Camden)
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Closed Sunday
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