MBJ: Memphis restaurant veterans to open Hernando catfish joint
A new restaurant will combine two of the Delta’s most prized commodities: catfish and the blues.
Named after a legendary blues song, Catfish Blues will open in Hernando in March.
“Our mission is very, very simple: We want to showcase Mississippi hospitality, food and music,” said Josh Tucker, owner of Catfish Blues.
Located at 210 E. Commerce St., Suite 8, the 4,800-square-foot restaurant has a seating capacity for 220, with 46 seats on the patio. All the catfish served at Catfish Blues will come from Pride of the Pond, a local, Mississippi catfish farm.
Entrees will average $15 and include items like fried catfish, blackened shrimp and even bacon-stuffed and wrapped meatloaf.
“Nothing comes out of a bottle here,” Tucker said. “We make everything from scratch, period, across the board.”
Chef Justin Turner, a longtime friend of Tucker’s who will be featured on the Food Network in 2016, created the Catfish Blues menu.
Tucker and Turner worked together at The Majestic Grille when it first opened in Downtown Memphis. Tucker was the general manager and Turner was one of the chefs. Turner was also the personal chef for then-Memphis Grizzlies player, Shane Battier. When Battier was traded to the Houston Rockets, Turner went with him. When Battier was once again traded, Turner decided to stay in Houston, opening Bernie’s Burger Bus.
“We always have been trying to do stuff together for a longtime, and it just hadn’t worked out yet,” Tucker said. “So I bought in [to Bernie’s Burger Bus] and I became his partner and moved to Houston.”
Tucker continued to travel back to the Memphis area every few weeks to visit his daughter, who at the time was six years old, but he admitted the long distance was harder than he expected.
It was during the opening of the first brick-and-mortar location for Bernie’s Burger Bus that Tucker realized how taxing that distance really was. Tucker’s daughter, who was in town for the opening, told Tucker she wanted her dad back.
“This is 10:30 a.m., full restaurant, and without exaggeration, at 6:30 p.m. I had everything I owned packed up in the U-Haul and I was headed back,” Tucker said. “It came to the point that I was missing her life. And I’ll tell you, it [Bernie’s Burger Bus] is a very successful deal. [Turner] has already opened the second one and they are constructing the third one.”
Now, Catfish Blues will reunite the friends, but this time back in the Delta.
“Catfish Blues” was originally recorded by Robert Petway and covered by the likes of Muddy Waters and Jimi Hendrix.
The restaurant has a target launch date of March 15 and will be open seven days a week. Local blues bands will play Thursday and Sunday nights, and there will be an $18 brunch that includes a mimosa or bloody Mary on Sundays.
Kids eat free every Tuesday with the purchase of a regular entrée, and uniformed police will always receive a 50 percent discount.
Tucker has hired 77 employees and said he needs to start with 90 people.
“It is going to be basically a tryout, and 45 [employees] are going to make it,” Tucker said.
David Hannah of Hannah Homes was hired for the construction work and Dianne Cannon for the interior design. One of the décor’s focal points is a boat hanging from the ceiling with a mural by Memphis artist Lamar Sorrento.
Ben Fant of Memphis-based Farmhouse was responsible for the branding.
“One of our slogans we came up with is ‘Delta Raised,’ because it is Delta raised catfish, but also the blues is Delta raised. Everything we can celebrate with Delta and the culture and the food, that’s what this place is,” Fant said. “It is kind of like a whimsical museum to Delta culture.”
Tucker said he has a goal to open multiple Catfish Blues locations.