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Friday, March 7, 2008

Dinner Report: Clear Springs...

I may have to interrupt this dinner report with a quick session of purging if only to allow my stomach to fit conveniently below the computer desk. With that bit of appetizing information, I will now tell you of bar none, the best catfish ever.

Years ago, my late grandparents along with my parents came from Florida for a visit to San Antonio. They stayed at some forgettable time-share place out at Canyon Lake, and during that trip, my grandfather had inquired as to the availability of catfish in the area. Thankfully, the store clerk he had asked had advised him to skip all the local Canyon Lake area eateries, and head directly to Clear Springs Restaurant on Highway 46 between New Braunfels and Seguin. The next day, we made the trip and it was a thing of beauty.

As we all went around the table ordering up the various plates with sides and such, when the waiter got to Boppa as we called him, he asked for a pound of catfish and nothing else to interfere with it. I'm guessing he was about 80 at the time and between sips from a draft beer, he promptly consumed that full pound of catfish and barely did more than eat and smile during the meal.

That was back in the mid-90's and both Meemo and Boppa are gone, but I get a warm feeling when I think about catfish and I have a special fondness for Clear Springs. When they opened new restaurants here in San Antonio (one at Afton Oaks and the other over off of Bandera Road which closed soon after), I thought it would be so wonderful, but I have to be honest, I like the feel of the original on Highway 46.

Okay, so on to tonight. Eating lunch - any lunch today was a mistake; wolfing down half a muffeletta was plain silly. I might have been better off fasting for a week or so. Nevertheless, we had plans to take my son and his girlfriend out for an early birthday dinner and he decided he wanted Clear Springs. The one issue I have with the Afton Oaks location is the location. Those of you who live in Stone Oak or the greater 1604 - 281 nightmare, I just don't know how you stand the traffic.
When you arrive at the Afton Oaks Clear Springs, you are taken away from the traffic and road rage, and welcomed into a quiet, down home atmosphere with lots of trees and a porch reminiscent of an old country home. Once inside, they mix the look of your standard Chili's full of old stuff mounted on the walls and ceiling beams with the atmosphere of a hunting lodge. Add in a huge bar and it is time for a cold beer and a hot serving of onion rings.Unless you have a group of 5 or 6, the small order of onion rings are plenty. Trust me on this. My wife and I are pretty particular about onion rings and onion blossoms and such. The trick with these is, dip them in Clear Springs creamy tarter sauce. You simply can't go wrong. Or eat them plain. You still can't go wrong.

I had this idea that I would just order up a small plate or maybe even share a plate with my wife. But once I started seeing the plates come out for the people seated around us, it was clear that I had to go with the Fisherman's Platter. You get both catfish and shrimp. And these aren't the tiny little shrimp that resemble sea monkeys, I'm talking good sized shrimp breaded and fried.
My wife went with just the shrimp (she can't bare to eat catfish, what with it being a bottom feeder, but she is cool with the shrimp).

Some how they have it timed so just as you take that last bite of onion ring, the food comes sizzling out to your table. The standard sides are fries, Cole slaw and ranch style beans, but I substituted some green beans with mine. They also serve up some tiny little hush puppies that come equipped with little chunks of jalapeƱo pepper in them.

The most important thing you need to know is that the breading on the catfish (and the shrimp and the onion rings) is not some sort of overpowering super seasoned mixture. Far from bland, it simply gives you a surface for which to hold the aforementioned creamy, heaven-like tarter sauce on. One of my huge complaints about some catfish I have had is that it is so crispy and crunch that you feel like it is work to eat. I try not to over use this phrase, but I mean it when I say that your catfish will simply melt in your mouth, and regardless of what you had for lunch, you will simply consume it all and consider getting a pound to go.

Another thing to consider when dining is the wait staff or lack there of. At Clear Springs, they know they have a crowd coming for dinner and they have the wait staff to handle it.

I will tell you this, you pay for what you get. The Fisherman's Platter is $12 or $13, but well worth it. For those of you not down with the seafood, you can still go and enjoy burgers or steaks or chicken, though in all the times we have been, I couldn't tell you what any of it tastes like.
Clear Springs always has and always will be a Tasty Treat in my book. And, they have a nice beaver.Oh, and apparently, Colon is Good.

1 comment:

Albatross said...

Oh, Lord, I love the Clear Springs onion rings. I could eat those all day.

And, yes, colon is good. Almost as good as Colon ade.

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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