Chunky Shoals Fish Camp opened in 1951 on the banks of the Chunky River in Chunky Mississippi. Since this portion of Mississippi is near the buckle of the bible belt it’s hard to find restaurants that are open for service on Sundays.
While most Mississippians are ardently worshiping the Lord on Sunday mornings, the fine folks at Chunky Shoals are dipping catfish into bubbling fryolators and feeding the heathens who don’t give a fig about organized religion but do enjoy groaning platters of fried catfish.
We fall into the latter category so we felt blessed to find a restaurant open and bustling on a rainy windswept Sabbath.
Dinner at Chunky Shoals means that the moment you sit down you’re handed big tumblers of sweet tea, bowls of cole slaw and baskets of fried hushpuppies. The cole slaw and hushpuppies are served gratis. The sweet tea will cost you.
A salad bar featuring Ranch and Catalina dressing sits off to the side of the main dining room. I briefly consider a nostalgic trip through the land of iceberg and bottled dressing but quickly veer back into the clearlight of what the fryers hold for me.
Onion rings at Chunky Shoals are nearly perfect. Lightly battered, cooked per order in small batches and fried til tawny and crisp; could there possibly be better ones in Mississippi?
Rain is peppering the old muddy Chunky River when the catfish arrives on a big platter. This is not the Alabama style I grew up on with a nubby cornmeal crust but a slightly more refined, smooth, crisp-dredge clutching tightly to sweet, white catfish meat. A spice boiled corn cobette arrives with and it may have been good when it was fresh but that was another time, another life.
The fish is good. It will not redefine catfish eating for me but it’s definitely well-prepared by a fry-man who knows what he’s doing.
Tartar sauce is ruined, as is often the case, by the presence of sweet pickles. Perhaps the Dark Lord who assures that Chunky Shoals serves His fallen disciples on the Sabbath likes these weird sugary cucumbers?
As we’re leaving, a big church group floods in and a gregarious deaf mute begins working the room, glad-handing everyone. I get a big handshake and a fervent eye-lock from the man who may be electioneering-if I lived in Chunky he would certainly get my vote and Chunky Shoals Fish Camp would see plenty of my country money
Chunky Shoals Fish Camp
13221 Hwy 80 West
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