Terre Gorham 0000-00-00 00:00:00
The fish flies high, tethered to a pole atop the 3,400-square-foot “bait shop” at 105 S. Second that invites passersby to “Get your tails in here.” The Blue Channel catfish with B-52 bomber wings still sports the hook and line from which it broke free so that this cat could fly. Beyond the 900-square-foot porch, behind the banging wooden screen doors, is the neatly jumbled miscellany one would expect in any bait shop: lures, outboard motors, tackle boxes, red and white bobbers, duck decoys, fishing caps, and a Liars Wall — spelled out with minnow buckets — showing off snapshots of proud fishermen holding the big ones that didn’t get away. Oh, and more than 100 hundred — ! — singing fish sensations that made an unexpected splash across the nation: Billy Bass. But serving fresh fish and seafood from the Gulf is a serious sport in Tennessee’s first Flying Fish restaurant, and preparation techniques range from the traditional fried fare — in special, homemade batter — to more healthconscious selections. “You don’t have to eat fried here,” says Shannon Wynne, owner of Dallasbased 8. 0 Management, which operates 13 Flying Saucer and six Flying Fish venues throughout the nation. “The fact that we have so many healthy options is good, and that’s our challenge: getting the word out that we have a lot of non-fried items that are grilled, steamed, or boiled.” Such as salmon, tilapia, catfish, shrimp, and chicken salads; fish plates — including rainbow trout — served with grilled veggies and red beans and rice; steamed and boiled platters that include snow crab legs, shrimp, and mud bugs in season; fish tacos; a protein platter; and fresh corn on the cob — for starters. Traditionalists enjoy crispy fried fish salads, po’ boy loaves, fried combo baskets with fries and hushpuppy, hamburgers and chicken tenders, chowders, gumbo, fried calamari and frog legs, chicken livers, and the “Hog Wallowfry” — two fried catfish fillets, four shrimp, and six oysters with slaw. There’s even a Kid’s Boat for the minnows in the family. If you want that food “snappy,” just say so when placing the order. “It means we’ll add a little spice to it,” says John May, general manager, who opened the 130-seat restaurant in February 2007. “We mix the fry batter’s cornmeal with more cayenne, paprika, and other spices.” There’s no tipping in this fast-casual atmosphere — an immediate 20 percent cost savings. Patrons place orders at a counter just beyond the porch’s screen doors, pay, help themselves to soft drinks, beer, wine, or a frozen margarita, find a table, and wait for their personal electronic pager to buzz and flash, signaling that the order is ready to reel in at the counter. Each table, draped in black and white– checkered tablecloths, comes equipped with a lazy susan laden with all manner of hot sauces, fresh horseradish, saltines, and a generous roll of plain paper towels. A sign gives parents ample warning: We love kids, but keep yours at the table. Unattended kids will be given a shot of espresso and a free puppy. “Open most days,” according to another wisecracking sign, the Flying Fish was born out of a love for the fish joints splashed around East Texas lakes. On beautiful Memphis days, the garage door windows that separate porch from sidewalk roll up to let in the air. Daily specials, 50-cent Oyster Sundays, bar, four televisions, and Flying Fish T-shirts — “We catch and release (into real hot grease)” — make this a comfortable hanging-out place, too. Now, back to Billy Bass. The astonishing assortment of Billies on the wall — many decorated, clothed, painted, or stripped literally to the bone — is known officially as the Billy Bass Adoption Center. From attics and closets across the region, Billies arrive with chagrined owners. After completing adoption papers and kissing the fish goodbye, the now former owner receives a free basket of catfish, an invitation to come visit their Billy any time, and a profound sense of relief that Billy has found a loving home. Wynne hopes to convert 3,400 square feet of unused space in the back of the restaurant into an event room of some type. All he’s waiting on is the economy. In the meantime, the fish flies high in Downtown Memphis, casting about for fresh fish and seafood lovers because, as the menu states, “Any fish bites if you got good bait!” Flying Fish, 105 S. Second, 522-8CAT, flyingfishinthe.net, open daily 11am– 10pm.
Published by Downtowner Magazine. View All Articles.
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