Opened last fall in the south Fort Worth suburb of Burleson, The Catch is a throwback to the classic fried seafood that many Fort Worthians consider sacred. Think of Zeke’s on Camp Bowie, Flying Fish, the old Zuider Zee’s. You won’t find gourmet embellishments at this fast-casual spot, just good fried seafood, most of it made from scratch.
The Catch is part of a mini-chain based in East Texas. Most of the stores are in smaller Texas towns: Lindale, Tyler, Longview. This location, which takes over a vacated Smashburger space, is the seventh, and the first in North Texas.
Some have different names but all share a similar menu of po-boy sandwiches and fried-fish quintessentials; down to the tartar sauce, mostly everything is made in-house.
Those who insist on healthier fare can have most of the fried food grilled instead. There’s also shrimp cocktail, clam chowder and salads.
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Salads, however, are not the restaurant’s strong suit, as evidenced by the blackened chicken salad ($7.99). Juicy and seasoned well with Cajun spices, grilled chicken tenders were the stars of this otherwise lackluster plate of iceberg lettuce, bell peppers, sliced cucumbers and hunks of sliced tomatoes.
I suspect the chicken is put to better use elsewhere on the menu.
A better nonfried option is the gumbo ($4.99 a cup, $6.49 a bowl), in which each bite revealed different ingredients and flavors: okra, sausage, shrimp and crawfish, the latter as tender and sweet as you could hope for.
Fried shrimp and fried catfish are the restaurant’s top sellers. A combo plate ($10.99), with fries and hushpuppies, allows you to sample both.
A lengthy catfish fillet came sheathed in a light cornmeal batter — airy in weight but heavy on good salt and pepper seasoning. The fish itself was soft and buttery, and not the least bit stringy, as catfish can sometimes be.
Two fried shrimp were likable, too, their golden shells sporting a healthy crunch. Round, thick hushpuppies had pleasingly dense cores and wonderfully salty exteriors. Thin, lanky fries were terrific, especially when dunked in the restaurant’s creamy tartar sauce.
Dessert consisted of an almost unbearably rich slice of housemade Key lime pie ($4.99), whose overly sweet flavor trounced any trace of tartness. I could have used a few more hushpuppies to drown out the sugar; any excuse, though.
The restaurant is in an end-cap space in one of Burleson’s many newish strip malls. The interior is inviting, though, with its nautical theme and old-school blue-and-white tablecloths.
It’s simple and appealing, much like the food itself.