Fried Catfish at Daddy O's Cafe

Categories: Eat This
Jonathan Kauffman
Daddy O's fried catfish and collard greens, $12.95.
After more stops and delays than an Amtrak ride to Los Angeles, Daddy O's opened in the old Schnitzelhaus space last week. The giant steins of beer: gone. The antler lamp: gone. The lederhosen: sadly, too incongruous to dress the waiters in. The new owners have made the most of the wood paneling though, painting the rest of the space a purplish red whose precise shade could probably be identified in SFMOMA's "How Wine Became Modern" exhibit.

When the server told us that the fried chicken is the house specialty but we should really order the catfish, we followed her lead, sticking to the decision even after spotting braised oxtail on the specials board as she returned to the kitchen. Braised oxtail! The ideal food for a grim, gray week.

The plate came not long after we ordered it: fried catfish, greens, a sweet corn muffin, and one side ― diner's choice (we choose mac and cheese). The greens were threaded through with skeins of multicolored peppers and shredded pork; all right. The mac and cheese could have used a little more work. But the catfish, dusted in seasoned cornmeal, made the recommendation. With each bite, its sandy, golden crust crackled in a thousand tiny ways, as if one loud crunch had been digitally segmented into all its aural components. The fish had no mud funk to it, just a sweet, freshwater flavor. The flesh would melt away almost before the coating crunch dissolved into silence.

A few minutes after dropping off the plate, the waitress returned to the table to ask how we liked it. We'd just popped another oil-hot hunk of fish in our mouth, and so all we could do was mouth a silent "Oh!" with tufts of catfish steam emerging as we exhaled. The feat earned us a big thumbs-up.

Daddy O's Cafe: 294 Ninth St. (at Howard), 558-9988. Open for breakfast and lunch this week; opening for dinner next week.

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