Fried catfish is a tasty throwback at this old-fashioned Southern restaurant

The fried catfish plate at Vittles comes with a salad and two sides, shown here with collard greens and fried okra.
The fried catfish plate at Vittles comes with a salad and two sides, shown here with collard greens and fried okra.

Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

Dish of the Week: Fried catfish at Vittles

When searching for inexpensive, culturally authentic restaurants, there are a few signs that point toward the real deal.

You’ll often find these restaurants in cheaper real estate, such as locations on highways or in older buildings. Another good indicator is a completely packed parking lot. Upon entering, nonregulars may get that feeling like the conversation stops and all eyes are on you. But, the busy waitstaff is friendly, and the scratch-made food is an excellent value.

Vittles, an old, traditional Southern restaurant in Smyrna, has all these characteristics in spades.

When I ordered the fried catfish, one of the most expensive items on the menu at $10.99, the waitress apologized, saying they didn’t have the usual whole fish — only fillets. I stuck with my order, and I’m glad I did. Fillet or not, the catfish is terrific. Delivered steaming-hot, directly from the fryer, the fish was coated in a light batter that formed a crunchy, delightfully irregular exterior. The meal was served with a salad, two sides and a massive slab of cornbread.

Everything at Vittles is old-fashioned, from the menu to the service to the prices. It’s the kind of restaurant often said to be disappearing from the Southeast. Yet, it’s strikingly similar to many of the celebrated restaurants found on Buford Highway, in Duluth, or elsewhere around Atlanta. For those who love culturally authentic food that doesn’t cost a lot, Vittles is worth a visit.