Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lassis Inn – Where the buffalo … are fried.

518 East 27th Street, Little Rock, AR


A friend suggested that we go to the Lassis Inn, and mentioned en route that the menu was, essentially, binary, i.e., you had your choice of either catfish or buffalo (fish). No burgers. No wings. Just fish. And, as frequent readers will know, I have a fondness for fried catfish that would put a smile on the face of the most hardened cardiologist. Sometimes, I wonder if crack isn’t really crystalized catfish. But, back to our story.

The Lassis Inn is in a small, nondescript wooden building adjacent to Interstate 30, south of Roosevelt Road. From what the waitress told me, it’s been in business in or around that location since 1905. The present owners have had it for, I think she said, 26 years. It’s cozy inside, and, indeed, the menu consists of … catfish and buffalo. You can choose between “fish and bread” only (you still get hushpuppies), or opt for a dinner, as I did, with cole slaw, fries and a slice of onion. Drinks include beer, tea and the usual Coke products, though they were out of tea (?) when we ate there.

I told the waitress that I had never been there before and asked her what I should order. “Big-boned buffalo,” she immediately answered. Having never had that before, I smiled and said, “OK.” My friend (who, ominously, had tasted buffalo before) ordered the catfish and bread plate. The food arrived quickly after our glasses with ice and canned drinks, and I got an extra “bone plate” to go with my buffalo. Good thinking.

My first bite was a little off-putting. OK, more than a little off-putting. Imagine what a river bottom probably tastes like and that’s buffalo. I mean, you’re right down there swimming through the muck and tasting the water. But, I discovered that, the more I ate, the more I liked it. (See how that sort of validates my fried-fish-as-narcotic theory?) The strong flavor of buffalo isn’t for everyone, so keep that in mind. The servings consist of fried sections of the flesh around the fish’s ribs, usually in chunks of two or three ribs. And, each section is about the size of a BBQ pork rib. The waitress also wasn’t kidding when she said “big-boned,” because the ribs were thin but roughly five to six inches in length. The flesh is white, not pink, and the corn meal coating that they use at Lassis is pleasantly flavorful.

The cole slaw and frozen fries were like the building – nondescript. The hushpuppies, though, were pretty tasty. Nicely fried, and neither sweet nor tart. But, my fascination with the buffalo probably overshadowed everything else. I tried a bite of my friend’s catfish, and it was very nice. Evidently farm-raised, as opposed to my down-home, river-caught fish, with a nice mild, nutty flavor.

Our total for two soft drinks, his catfish and bread plate, and my big-bone buffalo dinner was $23.93 before the tip. A tad high for my tastes, but I suppose worth it for my buffalo experience. And, I’m thinking that once is probably enough for me. Fun to try, but not a future staple of my diet. I can’t imagine ever thinking to myself, “Man, what I would give to have some big-boned buffalo right now.” But, that’s me, and you may have a different experience altogether.

As a postscript, in Googling buffalo fish, I discovered that it’s one of the common fresh-water fishes used to make Gefilte fish for Jewish holiday meals. As the goyem but gutte neshome Circa Bellum often says, “Who knew?”


At 9:49 AM , Blogger Julie H said...

We saw this restaurant in Garden & Gun magazine. It's surprising how little information there is online, so thanks for this descriptive entry.

We just moved to the area and are going to be bold and go there this weekend.

At 7:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely love buffalo fish. I have it every Friday night. Here in Memphis it is not that jar to find. It's at ever local grocery store and it is usually sold at a very reasonable cost. Most of the times I will get big bone but I have had small bone and the tail ends pieces. I like it deep fried hard with cole slaw and spaghetti. Yes, in Memphis fish and spaghetti is considered a meal. I hope you try again. ;)


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