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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Number 18: Auntie April's Fried Catfish

Posted By on Thu, Apr 19, 2012 at 3:23 PM

click to enlarge Auntie April's fried catfish. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Auntie April's fried catfish.

SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition


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The subtitle to April Spears' Bayview restaurant is "Chicken & Waffles," but her signature dish is overshadowed by "Grandad's Fisher's catfish." If it seems like the easiest thing in the world to fry catfish properly, then you haven't done it recently. Batter's a reliable safety net, keeping the fish inside moist and steamy while the exterior gets crisp, but Auntie April's cooks simply roll catfish filets in spiced cornmeal, which means they have to stand over the fryer until the fish is cooked just so.

Which it is: The cornmeal fries up into a sandpapery, saffron-colored shell that refuses to soak up oil. The grains crackle and whisper when you bite into the fish, almost more of an illusion of crispness than a crunchy coating. And it's thin enough so that you don't taste the corn, you taste the fish underneath, barely opaque, with its sweet, freshwater flavor. (No taint of

moss and mud here.) The restaurant makes its own chile-infused vinegar, paler and more delicate than Tabasco, and you may find yourself painting the fish brighter and brighter shades of orange as you eat. If you want to eat the catfish with a waffle, they'd probably oblige, but greens and mac and cheese are fine enough for us.

Auntie' April's Fried Chicken and Waffles, 4618 Third St. (at McKinnon), 643-4983.

Other favorites in this series:

19: None but the Brave from Heaven's Dog

20: Saha's vegan kibbeh

21: Starter Bakery's hazelnut kouign amann

22: Pupusas at Cafe and Restaurant Montecristo

23: 2 a.m. apple fritter at Bob's

24: Le Sanctuaire's vadouvan

25: Crab louis salad at Nettie's Crab Shack

26: Soy sauce chicken from Happy Bakery & Deli

27: Locanda's Jewish-style artichoke

28: Local: Mission Eatery's asparagus-egg sandwich

29: Memphis Minnie's 18-hour brisket

30: Custard buns from City View

31: Mission Chinese Food's kung pao pastrami

32: Panisse frites from Frances

33: Izakaya Yuzuki's chawanmushi

34: Fatted Calf's chorizo

35: Silvanas from House of Silvanas

36: Linden Street Brewery's black lager

37: Aged oolongs from Red Blossom Tea Company

38: Broken Record's crawfish grits

39: Cebiche mixto from La Mar 

40: Nutella-hazelnut hand pie from Black Jet Baking Co.
41: Fifth Floor's burger
42: Perbacco's agnolotti dal plin
43: Iced coffee from Sightglass
44: Cypress Grove's Purple Haze Chevre
45: Lechon from Tastebuds Cuisine
46: Duck with beets from AQ
47: Tai nigiri at ICHI Sushi
48: Fish with explosive chiles from Spices! 
49: Baker & Banker Bakery's blueberry cream cheese muffin
50: Kufta tajine from Cafe Zitouna

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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