I had always been charmed by the backstory of Catfish Station, which began serving seafood made to order in the Third Ward in a food service trailer that resembled an old train car. I don’t know if that’s why the now-chain restaurant prompts visitors to “Join the Caboose” upon visiting its website, but I like to think so.
Today its menu focuses on fried and grilled seafood platters and sandwiches and includes some unusual items that was I was eager to try on my most recent visit. In addition to being one of the few Houston establishments that offers well-executed hush puppies (buttery crisp shell, soft corn dough interior), Catfish Station also serves boudin. Although in my experience the best versions of this traditional rice-stuffed sausage are found at random gas stations in rural Louisiana, Catfish Station’s boudin is nothing to sniff at—a fine balance of cayenne pepper, garlic, pork, and white rice, and a gentle snap of the supple link.
On a Saturday afternoon, I arrived at Catfish Station with plans to try two other off-the-beaten-path items, the “Big Charlie Sandwich” and crawfish pie (an empanada). The latter especially intrigued me because it seems like I'm the only person in the city who does not like boiled crawfish and therefore am always searching for them in other edible forms.
I had to wait a little while for my food, but it was worth it. My crawfish empanada boasted a flaky, pleasantly greasy pastry crust that enveloped bits of tender sweet crawdad meat. Although the crustaceans themselves were under-seasoned, they improved immensely when I dunked the empanada in the accompanying side of salty, creamy étouffée sauce, bright with notes of tomato, celery, and garlic.
My “Big Charlie” sandwich was more than satisfying and a steal at just $7. Inside a passable white bun and layered with lettuce and tomato were two ample whitefish filets battered in peppery breadcrumbs, proving a buttery, crunchy exterior. What really made the sandwich, however, was the remoulade sauce, which added richness and fatty moisture.
One might now call me a member of the caboose.