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Hit the Road

Hooked on Northeast Texas

For catfish lovers on this small-town tour, every day is fry day

As the crow flies, it’s less than 50 miles from Windom in Fannin County to Miller Grove in Hopkins County, first veering some 22 miles to the southeast for a stop in Pecan Gap in Delta County. As “doable” as that sounds to Texans who think nothing of driving two hours for, well, for anything, even the hardiest catfish lover might want to pace himself on this road trip through Northeast Texas just below the Oklahoma border. And by pace, I don’t mean dinner at 5, then 7, then 9.

Let the Eatin’ Commence

The lowly catfish may be beneath the notice of those in other parts of the U.S., but around here, we know good eatin’.

Owners Tracy and Laura Lackey opened the Windom Feed Sack in March 2007 in a circa 1910 building. Laura recruited a cousin to paint a mural of downtown Windom on the east wall. Rocking chairs are on the covered sidewalk for waiting restaurant customers who can’t be accommodated on the old church pews inside. With three catfish preparations—fried, Cajun and baked—and homemade chocolate cobbler, a full salad bar and all the catfish trimmings, you’d think being open on Friday and Saturday nights would be sufficient. But customers can also enjoy lunch Thursday through Saturday and a homestyle buffet on Sundays.

Those hungry for live stage performances should check out the Red River Community Theatre, which holds performances inside the old Windom school auditorium on many weekends.

Outdoors types looking for a place to spend the night, meanwhile, can head west on Texas Highway 56 to Bonham. Just south of town, the Bonham State Park offers camping, fishing, hiking and biking. If you’re more the indoors type, the Carleton House Bed and Breakfast is a restored 1888 three-story Victorian home just off Bonham’s square.

No One Leaves Hungry

The Fish Place, the home of a popular Friday and Saturday night catfish buffet, is a must stop in the little town of Pecan Gap, southeast of Windom. A former grocery, its walls are lined with license plates and fishnets. Toys and old tin cans provide points of interest on shelves, and the scarred, wooden floor is from the Pecan Gap train depot.

With a salad bar, pinto beans, boiled shrimp, hand-cut fries, hush puppies and cobbler, you won’t leave hungry. But if a major holiday falls on a weekend, you’ll need to call ahead to any of the area’s buffets to make sure they’re open.

While The Fish Place is the destination spot in Pecan Gap, just getting there can be lots of fun. Besides pulling over to read the historical markers, there’s ample adventure at the Pete Patterson Fossil Park just north of nearby Ladonia on Texas Highway 34. Long revered as a fossil and arrowhead hunter’s dream, the park showcases the North Sulphur River, accessible on uneven rock steps that require careful footing.

Southeast of Pecan Gap is the Doctors Creek Unit of Cooper Lake State Park with RV and tent camping spaces, hiking and nature trails, two playgrounds and shoreline fishing. For an afternoon pick-me-up, drive into Cooper for a malt or milkshake at Miller’s Pharmacy, where the original soda fountain built in 1930 is still open. You can sip your drink while studying the Wurlitzer jukebox in the corner or reading the labels of the vintage medicinal cure-alls in the wooden and glass cases.

Broccoli Salad? You Bet

In Sulphur Springs, south of Cooper, the entire family will enjoy the Southwest Dairy Museum, and the young ones will have a ball at the Kids Kingdom playground at Buford Park.

Head southwest, and you’ll find the Cotton Pickin’ Theatre on U.S. 69 in downtown Point. Housed in a converted cotton gin, it’s the home of family, country, gospel, folk and bluegrass music on Saturday nights. Generally speaking, the Rural American Idol contest takes place every fourth Saturday night.

Just to the northwest of Point is Miller Grove, where Stacey’s Fish Fry has been open since 1996 in an old general store built in 1912. In the ’40s, this rustic building was moved to its present location from “down the road” by rolling it on logs. The waiting area is a screened porch with benches. Inside, minnow buckets serve as light fixtures, and fishing lures hang from the ceiling fans.

Stacey’s fries about 500 pounds of Mississippi farm-raised catfish every weekend.

But owner Stacey Mitchell acknowledges that the most popular buffet item is the broccoli salad—which just goes to prove that in Texas we can try to eat healthy and have our catfish, too.

Kay Layton Sisk is a romance novelist and freelance writer based in Bonham.