Don’t want to bother with the Jazz Fest crowds this weekend? Jump in your car (or your boat, cher) and head over to Middendorf’s (75 Manchac Way, Akers, LA 70421, 985.386.6666), the temple of thin, crispy fried catfish in the Manchac swamp. The old place soldiers on after 76 years in business, and it is the rare sort of place that is somehow exactly the same and yet slightly better than it was the last time you visited. (Relatively new) owners Horst & Karen Pfeifer added a spacious, waterfront covered deck a few years ago, and these days, weather’s perfect for outdoor dining (quick, it won’t last long). As if the deck wasn’t kid-friendly enough, a nearby sand pit/volleyball court, chicken yard, fish pond, and rabbit hutch combine to make the sort of roadside attraction fast fading from the American landscape.
[Aside: I noticed a few weeks ago, along I-10 near the Atchafalaya basin, a gas station advertising a "live tiger". I'll go on record here: large wild animals in cages are the sort of roadside attraction that should disappear from the landscape.]
Back to Middendorf’s: seafood is still the menu’s mainstay, though steak, burgers, and respectable fried chicken accommodate a range of palates. Thin catfish and hush puppies tasted like fried, good memories, and the oniony tartar sauce improved everything it touched (including the otherwise ordinary french fries). Homemade ice creams and chocolate-crusted key lime pie were worthy of a fancier establishment.
So hurry over, before the mosquitos and the humidity get too thick.