Rural Missouri - June 2011 - (Page 16)

O U T O F T H E W A Y E A T S Beaver Creek Paylake & Fish fry Catfish doesn’t get any fresher than this I by Jim McCarty t’s a typical Friday night at Beaver Creek Paylake & Fish Fry, and the crowd is drifting in. Outside on the banks of a 3-acre pond, anglers are bringing their catch for Leo Dowden to clean. Inside the little red, barn-like building that houses the restaurant, Leo’s wife, Becky, is already breading catfish fillets. Just hours before, the fish were swimming in a spring-fed tank shaded by one of the two dining decks. When it comes to catfish, you don’t get it any fresher than what these Laclede Electric Cooperative members provide. The paylake/restaurant concept came when the couple sought to diversify its 1,200-acre dairy and cattle operation. No strangers to hard work, the two built the spring-fed lake and a new road that takes guests high atop a ridge with a scenic view of the Beaver Creek before dropping into the valley next to the lake. When it opened in the fall of 2008, the restaurant was little more than a cook shack that served sandwiches and burgers to anglers who worked up an appetite reeling in catfish. “We finally decided that people might be more interested in catfish that’s already cooked than in catching them,” Leo says. Over the years, the eatery has blossomed into a full-service restaurant, with catfish as the key ingredient. “That’s the main menu,” Becky says of the 2- to 3-pound channel catfish Beaver Creek stocks every two weeks. “It’s USA farm raised, fresh daily, never frozen. It comes right out of our spring tank.” You can get catfish here three ways. The first is Becky’s hand-breaded fried fillets. She uses a cornmeal breading for these treats. Rivaling fried fish in popularity is the grilled version. “It’s seared on my flat top (grill), and I put Cajun seasonings on both sides,” Becky says. “It’s more like blackened, Beaver Creek Paylake style.” The third way is catfish nuggets, also breaded Becky and Leo Dowden started their paylake and restaurant to help diversify their dairy and cattle operation. Here, you can fish for catfish and feast on fresh channel cat fillets that are grilled or fried. homemade coleslaw, pickled green tomatoes, fireroasted corn and macaroni salad. Nothing here comes from a can. Sandwich lovers will want to try the catfish, shrimp or fried oyster po’ boys, served on a soft bun. Appetizers range from fried green beans to calamari and alligator bites. Whatever you have, save room for the delicious homemade desserts. Best sellers are the German chocolate cake, coconut cream pie and carrot cake, which are always available. On any given day, Becky will add a fresh fruit pie or cobbler made from whatever is in season. Also popular are the hand-dipped shakes that come in vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. The restaurant sits on the banks of the paylake, which is open the same days as the restaurant but from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. There’s no charge to fish, but successful anglers will pay $1.80 per pound for the fish. Leo will clean them and ice the fillets for $1 each. The fish average 2 to 3 pounds, although 6- to 8-pounders are not uncommon. The record catch was a 10-pound catfish caught by an 8-year-old boy. Only channel cats are stocked. Normally, the restaurant crew doesn’t cook what anglers catch, but there have been exceptions, such as when someone is on vacation and won’t be going home in time to eat the fish. Beaver Creek is way off the beaten path but well worth the effort it takes to find Leo and Becky’s piece of heaven. Come for the catching or just the eating. Either way, you’ll go home happy. and fried. “A lot of times when people talk about nuggets, they are talking about belly meat,” Leo says. “Ours are fillets that are cut up into pieces. We take the ones that are too big for the grill and the ones that are too small and make nuggets out of them.” But catfish isn’t the only fare here. The restaurant offers chicken tenders and pork tenderloins, both hand breaded. “I don’t get Beaver Creek Paylake anything frozen or pre& Fish Fry breaded,” Becky says. “I do all of it. It’s very pretty Specialties: Fried and grilled catstuff. It’s a mess and a lot of fish. Also frog legs, po’ boys, shrimp Manes work, but it’s good.” and hand-breaded chicken tenders. • On Saturday nights, you can feast on crab legs. Price: Entrées from $7.95 to $9.95; Shrimp is always popuCash, checks, Mastercard and Visa lar and served two ways: accepted. grilled with Cajun seasoning and fried, this time with buttermilk and flour Details: Open Friday and Saturday, 4 to 9 p.m.; Sunday, breading. Frog legs round 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. from late spring through late fall. Smokout the seafood offerings. ing allowed outside only. Seats 20 inside and 80 outside. Grilled dishes come Also open for special occasions; call for details. with lightly seasoned and grilled fresh vegetables, Directions: Located 25 miles north of Mountain Grove such as carrots, zucchini, on State Route AF. Detailed directions can be found on the broccoli and peppers. With web site. the fried catfish, you’ll want the thinly sliced potaContact: 417-453-6153 or toes that fry up crisp as chips. You’ll also love the 16 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - June 2011

Rural Missouri - June 2011
In the beginning
The Missouri Lyon hunt
Mail Bag
Beaver Creek Paylake & Fish Fry
Out of the Way Eats
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
In the middle of everywhere
Around Missouri
Restoring Stover

Rural Missouri - June 2011