In 1825, Henry Hagy and his wife Polly docked their flat boat on the banks of the Tennessee River, claimed several acres and began to build a farm and family. Later their son John built a log shack next to the river. He used it to store items awaiting steamboat shipment. That shack was occupied by Union soldiers during the Battle of Shiloh.
The shack survived the tragic battle and during the early thirties earned the name “Catfish Hotel.” Apparently descendant Novin Hagy used it to entertain friends. He was known for his cookouts, catfish, hushpuppies and storytelling. Guests often became so engrossed in his tales, and perhaps drink, they ended up spending the night. Thus, the origin of the nickname.
Eventually Norvin opened a restaurant on the site and Hagy’s Catfish Hotel Restaurant became a success. Sadly, the structure burned in 1975. The present building opened a year later and remains one of the oldest family owned restaurants in the country. The third generation of Hagy’s continue serving up catfish, coleslaw and their signature hushpuppies.
Now, I admit I am not a fan of either catfish or hushpuppies, so I chose a fried shrimp. My plate arrived perfectly cooked- crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Many in my group ordered the southern house specialty which came breaded in cornmeal and fried golden brown. One described it as twangy, like plucking on a banjo. I liked that. They raved about the meaty pieces, eating up seemingly endless servings. Then, I realized they had ordered the All you Can Eat special for $11.95. Can’t beat that.
Dessert beckons pie lovers featuring a Lemon Rub variety baked from grandmother’s 1938 recipe. Mine was sweet yet a bit tart, but not sour. All pies are homemade and a slice costs $5.25. Pick from German chocolate pie, white chocolate banana cream pie and Jack’s caramel pie.
One of the reasons the Catfish Hotel remains so popular is due to its location. It sits off the picturesque Tennessee river, just around the corner from the sacred grounds of Shiloh National Military Park and Battlefield. A perfect lunch or dinner spot for those making a road trip.
Shiloh Park is huge with over 4,200 wooded acres. The first large scale battle and one of the bloodiest in the Civil War took place there on April 6-7, 1862. The confrontation saw a staggering 23,746 casualties, almost one quarter of 109,784 men engaged. I don’t know about you, but I can’t quite wrap my thoughts around those numbers.
As the 150th anniversary of the Civil War gets underway, it seems time to reflect on the circumstances and emotions behind the conflict. Trips to battlefields become an ideal way to teach children history and visits are frequently remembered for a lifetime. I can certainly recall seeing Manassas- Bull Run, Richmond and Gettysburg with my parents and brothers. Chances are you remember one from your youth.
Read this and other food blog articles posted on Wanderfood Wednesdays.
The Catfish Hotel
1140 Hagy Lane
731 689 3327
Shiloh National Military Park