Now Open: Catfish Blues and Pickle & Jam. 

Now open: Catfish Blues and Pickle & Jam.

Josh Tucker’s new restaurant is the Pride of the Pond.

Photographs by Justin Fox Burks

Josh Tucker’s new restaurant is the Pride of the Pond.

Josh Tucker could not wait for his daughter to come visit him in Houston last year.

He had not seen her in eight weeks.

When he asked her what she wanted to do, her reaction stopped him in his tracks.

"She sat down in the middle of the floor, and said, 'I want my dad back,'" Tucker says.

That night, Tucker had everything he owned packed in a U-Haul, and he was headed back to Memphis.

Not knowing what he would do, he called up one of his oldest friends, Justin Turner, and talked shop.

"Josh and I have been friends for 15 years," Turner says. "We'd been talking about doing [a restaurant] together for a long time, and then this fell in his lap."

By this, Turner is referring to Catfish Blues, Tucker's new catfish and Gulf Coast seafood restaurant in DeSoto County that opened March 14th.

Located at 210 E. Commerce in Hernando, the 5,000-square-foot restaurant features Pride of the Pond catfish out of Tunica, all the fixings, and some Cajun-inspired dishes such as gumbo and po'boys.

"We serve Mississippi food with a Cajun twist," Tucker says.

They use the "Middendorf's cut" for their catfish, a thinner, more sushi-like slice that is lifted directly from the Louisiana seafood institution. Diners can get a platter with two sides for $15.95.

click to enlarge food_catfishblues_p3a9543.jpg

They also serve Pork Belly Sliders with braised pork belly, smoked pimiento cheese, and tomato jam on Southern biscuits, three for $9.50.

For dessert, they pack strawberry shortcake with a Southern biscuit or grandma's banana pudding into eight-ounce Mason jars for around $4.

Drink specials such as the Mississippi Mule, using locally distilled Cathead Vodka, or the Muddy Waters, their own take on the Old Fashioned that incorporates vanilla bean, are served for $10, and they offer $2.50 draft beers all day.

Gastronomes may recognize Turner from a long list of local favorite eateries including Erling Jensen, Cafe Society, and Majestic Grille, or from the Houston food truck phenomenon Bernie's Burger Bus, an empire of three food trucks and three brick-and-mortar shops in Houston that have taken the city by storm.

Or perhaps his name rings a bell from a recent episode of Chopped, which aired March 17th on the Food Network.

After having worked together at Majestic Grille and Bernie's Burger Bus, when Turner was approached about designing the menu and helping out occasionally with Tucker's new enterprise, Turner did not hesitate.

"I'm with Josh 110 percent. He's one of my best friends," Turner says. "I love Memphis. I love the new culinary scene going on. Even though I'm in Houston most of the time, it's home."

Catfish Blues is open Sun. through Wed., 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thurs. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., and Sat. 10 a.m. to 12 a.m.

After 20 years of the same, the powers that be at Gold Strike Resort and Casino thought it was time to give some attention to the food court, and so in December they launched Pickle & Jam.

Modeled after the Panera Bread chain, the casino's new fast casual restaurant is going for a more social, immersive environment.

"Before we had a food court with three different venues that was very dated. It hadn't been renovated in 20 years. We needed to keep up with the trends in the industry," Anthony Caratozzolo, Gold Strike's executive director of food and beverages, says.

The new establishment, which continues the brand of its sister restaurant, Buffet Americana, and features a rustic steampunk decor, utilizes a walk-up ordering station and the newest in technology in the form of radio frequency identification, which identifies customers' tables with a pager and an iPad, and features a wide selection of grab-and-go items in addition to its breakfast and lunch and dinner menus.

Breakfast includes a variety of Eggwiches, with a choice of sausage, bacon, ham, or steak with eggs on a croissant, bagel, or biscuit.

At 11 a.m. the digital menu automatically switches over to lunch and dinner, which includes customizable 10-inch pizzas for $10, such as the Carnivore, with meatballs, pepperoni, sausage, and ham or barbecue chicken and the choice of gluten-free crust.

Popular so far is the Pickle & Jam burger, with a ground beef blend of short rib, brisket, and ribeye for $12, including fries.

"That blend of burger meat is made just for us. It has no filler," Caratozzolo says.

They offer 10 beers on tap, most local, and all regional, and a variety of grab-and-go pastries as well as four- or six-inch cakes for $4 to $7, including carrot, chocolate, cheesecake, and red velvet.

They ramped up their grab case to include more Asian items, such as Pho to go, a Thai beef salad, and sushi, and the coffee lounge is a feature that patrons are coming to enjoy.

"It's been very busy. It's going excellent, actually," Caratozzolo says.

Pickle & Jam is open 24 hours, with breakfast served from 5 to 11 a.m.

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