I’ll tell you one thing about the White River Restaurant & Fish Market in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It could probably seat a couple of hundred people and it was packed when I got there. The line was all the way back to the door and nearly every table was full. The line stayed long the entire time I was there; people came in as fast as they left, each table that emptied being filled up again. I’ve only just started this little project of experiencing the great foods. But I’ve already been to a hamburger joint so small that it would barely seat over a dozen people. The White River Restaurant & Fish Market is not that place. There is room and it is a darn good thing there is.
There is also some great fish to be had. It’s the catfish fillets that are recommended by the Sterns in their seminal tome, 500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late. I’ve been a fan of fried catfish for most of my life, so it wasn’t particularly difficult for me to motivate myself to check out this dish. The wait at White River isn’t exactly short, but when the food comes you’ll be glad that you were patient.
It’s hard to describe the catfish fillets except to simply say that it is the best I’ve had and I’ve had some in my time. It’s rather the platonic ideal of catfish, crispy, gritty skin on the outside, perfectly flaky and creamy on the inside. It comes hot and delicious with a crunchy hushpuppy or two on the side. The hushpuppies have a slightly sweet taste underpinning the normal crunchy, bready experience.
Once you’re done savoring the mouth-watering catfish, you might want to check out the desserts. To go with the Platonic ideal for catfish, they have something like the same thing going on with their cheesecake. It comes with fruit if you want it, but when cheesecake is this pitch perfect, you may want to go the plain route, so you can really experience the perfect creaminess of the cheesecake itself.
White River, in short, is a definitely essential stop on the list of great eateries. I suppose the one thing that I wonder the most is how the Sterns settled on the catfish. My guess would be that you can’t get a single thing there that isn’t spectacularly good. That’s the experience, at least, which I’ve had. The person eating with me the day I gave the White River a try, said quite passionately, and before the food had even been delivered, “I will definitely be back here.” She was picking up on the vibe of the place, a vibrant and bustling atmosphere of business and excitement. Once the food came, we were even more certain about the fact that we’d be back. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, you will.
5 out of 5 stars.