Arkansas angler and fishing expert Billy Murray shares his extensive knowledge of the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas
Cock of the Walk won't knock your socks off, but you could do worse.We have vague memories of our parents going out to eat there, without us. And we'd never actually eaten there ourselves, or had a detailed conversation about the place with anyone who had.
So our first experience there got off to a bit of a strange start. Whatever Cock of the Walk is, it's not upscale. One of those faux-hand-lettered hillbilly-looking wooden signs outside the front door announces “eatin' hours,” or something along those lines. The shtick continues inside, where the decor is all wood paneling and meemaw curtains, the food is served family-style in crocks and cast iron pots, and you eat off tin pie plates. Which isn't a bad thing. It's not the restaurant's fault we were expecting something completely different. It is what it is, and the consistent attention its fried catfish gets — plus the sheer longevity of the place — proves that's just fine with plenty of people. One of our dinner companions described the fare as “nothing challenging — just food,” but it's mostly done reasonably well.
The menu certainly doesn't challenge. It's not really even necessary: You can choose any combination of catfish, chicken and shrimp, either grilled or fried, generally in the $11 range. That's it. Appetizers? A pot of collard greens, and/or onion rings and fried pickle chips. Dessert is either a brownie or fruit cobbler. Our group of four managed to sample everything the restaurant had to offer.
We'll start with the appetizers. The collard greens are apparently a specialty at Cock of the Walk, and our group ordered them for that reason alone. We'll give the restaurant the benefit of the doubt and assume that their collard greens were as delicious as collard greens get. We weren't raised eating them, so we don't know, but we'll pass next time.
On the other hand, the onion rings and pickle chips were fantastic. Hand-battered, crispy, delicious. You also get a crock of slaw and a pan of cornbread at the table (flipped in its cast-iron skillet by the waiter, a trick that would have packed more punch if he hadn't preceded it with, “Are you ready? Are you ready?”). The slaw was much more peppery than what we're used to, but it was a nice change of pace.
For entrees, our group ordered various combinations of fried and grilled, chicken, shrimp and catfish. Nobody had any complaints, and the restaurant gets bonus points for serving a fried-food combo that doesn't all taste the same.
Catfish is supposed to be the star at Cock of the Walk, and ours was fine, but nothing to write home about. Catfish is right up there with barbecue around here, as far as everyone having their own favorite and brooking no disagreement, and Cock of the Walk didn't change our minds about the one we claim as ours. It's hard to describe why — it's not that we didn't like it, we've just had better.
The fried chicken, though — a skinless breast fillet — was pretty damn good. We'd be tempted next time to skip the catfish altogether, and just stick with it, skinless though it is. The breading has got loads of flavor, and it's not too greasy.
For dessert, we tried all three choices: a brownie, peach cobbler and blackberry cobbler, all with ice cream. We expected, it being January, that the brownie would win out over anything made of fruit, but sadly, that wasn't the case. The brownie was thin and decidedly spongy — after a couple of bites, we left it alone and just ate the ice cream. The cobblers were much better, especially considering that they weren't made with fresh fruit. The blackberry was the unanimous favorite.
Cock of the Walk
7051 Cock of the Walk Lane,
Catfish is the usual attention-getter here, but we actually preferred the fried chicken. The combo appetizer plate — onion rings and fried pickle chips — is great.
5 p.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Moderate prices. Beer and wine. Credit cards accepted.
Wow...just wow... For literally years I've held my tongue about the quality of the of…