Amy Chandler, owner of The Old Barn Restaurant in Goshen, has a secret recipe for her Southern-style catfish. That special blend of seasoning and breading earned her high marks from judges who dubbed her establishment Bama’s Best Catfish Restaurant.
In the inaugural contest sponsored by Alabama Catfish Producers, judges oohed and ahhed at the broiled and blackened catfish Chandler served. But it was her fried catfish filets that nudged her into first place, said judges who visited the restaurant in early August.
“August was National Catfish Month, and there was no better way to celebrate than announcing Bama’s Best Catfish Restaurant,” said Dallas County catfish farmer Will Pearce, Alabama Catfish Producers chairman who accompanied the judges. “We appreciate Amy and all the restaurant owners across the state who select U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish for their customers.”
The Old Barn Restaurant was among four finalists chosen from nearly 150 customer nominations. Other finalists received an engraved plaque from the Alabama Catfish Producers. They were David’s Catfish House in Andalusia, owned by Bill Spurlin; The Green Leaf Grill of Mentone, owned by Jimmy Rogers; and Pat’s Country Cuisine in Centre, owned by Pat and Ron Jackson.
Chandler, 38, and her husband Scottie opened the restaurant 11 years ago intending it to be a hunting lodge. After installing a commercial kitchen in what was once an old barn, they decided to try the restaurant business. They’ve enjoyed success in other contests, too. Last year, The Old Barn Restaurant won Alabama’s Best Steak Restaurant.
“We are so honored and excited to win,” said Amy, whose enthusiasm and attention to detail didn’t go unnoticed by the judges. “We put our heart and soul into everything we do. We won’t serve anything that isn’t the very best we can make it.”
The only requirement for a restaurant’s nomination in the contest was that it serves U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish. Judges for the event were Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan; WSFA-TV news anchor Judd Davis; and Alabama Farmers Cooperative’s Jim Allen.
“Judges taste-tasted catfish at the top four restaurants, and they had a hard decision,” Pearce said. “We want all of the restaurant owners in Alabama who serve what we grow to know we appreciate them.”
As the winner, The Old Barn Restaurant received a championship plaque and $250. Amy told judges serving anything other than U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish was never an option.
“We tried catfish from several different suppliers when we first opened, but we chose Kelley Foods of Alabama because its fish tasted the best,” Amy said. “There was never any doubt our catfish had to be grown in America. There’s a difference in how it tastes, and we know we’re serving our customers a food that’s safe.”
The Alabama Catfish Producers is a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation. Alabama farmers raise more than 100 million pounds of catfish per year with an annual economic impact of over $158 million to the state.
For catfish recipes and more about America’s catfish industry, visit USCatfish.com.