Uncle Larry’s | Chattanooga Catfish Lemon Pepper Style

Review by: Michael Stern

Ready to be Smacked?

I automatically like a restaurant that has a motto. While much soul argot puzzles me, I think I know what Uncle Larry’s means when it says it serves “Fish so good it will smack ya!” Yes, it did bowl me over. Whiting, perch, catfish, tilapia, and shrimp all come fried or steamed. The one that smacks the most is catfish lemon pepper style. When you visit Chattanooga, check it out. Even if you don’t think you like catfish, you will like this version! Just one other catfish in Chattanooga competes with it. For that one, check out Armando’s.

King Catfish

Order a dinner plate and you get two good-size catfish fillets. (Only one comes in a sandwich.) They’re soft and white with creamy marine character. This sweet meat reveals just how flavorful catfish can be. Surround that meat with a crisp crust set aglow by eye-popping seasonings. Lemon-pepper style crust reminds me of Henderson, Kentucky. Over there, cooks encase fried chicken in a similar potent jacket of spice. Pepper and salt and who-knows-what other seasonings swirl together. Bright, tart lemon juice ignites them. The crust is thin enough that one is tempted to peel it from the fish and eat it like potato chips. But that can lead to spice overkill. In concert with the gentle fish, the crust becomes partner in a brilliant oppositional duet. On the side, have some smack ’em tartar sauce.

On the Side

Available side dishes include white beans, turnip greens, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, and hushpuppies. Everything I’ve tasted is very good. Fish-frowners can get a hot dog, pork chops, or chicken fritters. Cake slices lined up in a glass case near the cash register include cheesecake, Italian cream cake, red velvet cake, and 7-Up cake.

Such a Friendly Place

Whether a regular or a first-time visitor, everybody who enters this small, family-run storefront is greeted, “Welcome to Larry’s!” No matter what mood you’re in when you push through that front door, and even if you don’t choose catfish lemon pepper style, chances are very good that you will walk out very happy.

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