In the world before Hurricane Katrina, Barrow’s Shady Inn was on the map for great New Orleans food, though it still took a little doing to get to its door, tucked away down Hollygrove side streets.
But Barrow’s Shady Inn was the kind of place that people remembered. It was acclaimed for its fried catfish, in the way that other Creole soul restaurants are known for their chicken or their gumbo. Catfish, in fact, was all it served, washed down with lemonade, hazy yellow and sweet tart.
Dating back to 1943, it was among the city's oldest black-owned restaurants. It had a family vibe and it had Al Green’s "Love and Happiness" on heavy rotation in the jukebox. It had a way of drawing people back.
More than a dozen years after Hurricane Katrina closed it down, many of those people are now drawn to its successor. Barrow’s Catfish is a new restaurant from the same family. It opened its doors a few blocks away from the original and people have been streaming through ever since. It’s clear they have not forgotten.
Some exchange familiar greetings and cross the room for hugs. Others seem laser focused on connecting with one thing: that catfish. It’s a reunion for them too in a way.
Even if you never visited Barrow’s Shady Inn back in the day, when you taste this catfish, it’s likely you won’t forget it either.
It’s juicy and flakes apart easily. It tastes more like catfish than like fish fry. But most of all, what it tastes like is Barrow’s.
A pinch of cayenne gives it a spice that’s slow, easy and vital. Nothing extreme, just full flavored, and memorable.
Barrow’s Catfish has had the reception that most new restaurants dare not even hope for. But it’s also the kind that’s easy to predict when that new restaurant has such a vivid link to New Orleans past, and serving a community something more than a meal.
There’s no jukebox at Barrow’s Catfish, at least not yet. But it’s clear that love and happiness is still in the air here.
8300 Earhart Blvd., 504-265-8595
Lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat.