Hagy’s Catfish Hotel in Shiloh Treats Patrons Like Family

May 16, 2011

By Kim Green

Culinary artistry assumes many forms, from avant-garde molecular wizardry to the centuries-old farm-table cuisines of Italy and France. But whether it’s trendy or eternal, one thing holds true of all fine craftsmanship of the edible variety: love. If a meal tastes delicious and authentic, you can bet that somebody in the kitchen loves the food they prepare and the people whom it nourishes.

The Catfish Hotel Restaurant - Shiloh, TN

At the Catfish Hotel in Shiloh, the tradition of lovingly prepared whole catfish hasn’t changed much since owner Jim Hagy’s grandfather cooked meals for his fishing buddies in a rough-hewn shack on the banks of the Tennessee River. Hagy says his granddad taught him his simple and (some would say) perfect method for dressing and frying whole fiddler catfish. “There’s no written recipe, he says.

Hagy’s family has owned this riverside travelers’ haven since before the Civil War, when riverboats plied the Tennessee and used that log shack as a storehouse. In the 1930s, the Hagys’ legendary hospitality prompted then-governor Gordon Browning to suggest that the family open a catfish restaurant there, so impressed was he by a catfish-fry fundraiser they’d hosted in his honor.

A plate of catfish and ribs from the Catfish Hotel restaurant in Shiloh, TN.

What “Family Restaurant” Really Means

Since then, the Catfish Hotel has come to embody family restaurant in the broadest sense. Jim Hagy fondly recalls generations of Hagys pitching in to fry up mountains of hush puppies on an early morning. And the building itself was a constant work in progress, as ad hoc additions rose from the original shack. It was this monstrosity, a crazy fun place, he says.

The restaurant was rebuilt after a fire in 1975, and Jim Hagy now lives in Nashville. But he says the restaurant still connects the Hagy descendants and offers them an extended family that transcends blood relation. Manager Barbara McAfee, a 31-year Catfish Hotel veteran, nurtures the place as her own with help from her family. And generations of regulars have found their way to these tables overlooking the Tennessee River to enjoy Hagy family recipes, old and new.

From the traditional spread – all-you-can-eat whole catfish, hush puppies, French fries, and cole slaw with homemade dressing ladled on – to newer menu items, like lemon-pepper broiled catfish and BBQ ribs, each recipe represents a Hagy’s creative energies … not least of which, Jim Hagy’s grandmother’s lemon rub pie, his mother’s German chocolate pie and his sisters’ white chocolate banana cream pie.

For Hagy and the rest of the Catfish Hotel family, feeding folks delicious, traditional fare is an expression of caring for the travelers who’ve journeyed here. “It’s like having people in your home,” Hagy says. “You just want it to be good.”

Mailbox at the Catfish Hotel restaurant in Shiloh, TN.

The Dish on the Catfish Hotel

Hagys Catfish Hotel, at 1140 Hagy Lane near Shiloh National Military Park (see map), is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday (until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday), and closed Mondays (except Labor Day and Memorial Day). You can reach them at (731) 689-3327 or www.catfishhotel.com.

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Comments

  1. Audrey Ellis Haire says:

    Absolutely love the atmosphere, the great food and the wonderful hospitality. Your own family couldn’t treat you bettter LOL.

    • Robert Hicks says:

      Love the FOOD at Hagy’s.. The only thing better than the food (maybe) is the friendly staff and great service. A real landmark in the area..!!! >

  2. Janice Turner says:

    We started eating there when they were still located in the old restaurant before the fire. We have been regular customers for years. It’s one of our favorite places to eat. The food is excellent and the staff is friendly and they make sure you are well taken care of.

    A nice drive thru Shiloh National Park adds to the evening! We recommend it all the time to out of town guests!

  3. mike jackson says:

    We love eating at Hagys.We eat there every time we visit my aunt in clifton.See you soon. The Jacksons.

  4. buster cornelius says:

    I remember the good times i had working at the Catfish hotel and it is always great to go and visit when i am in town. I live in lexington kentucky now and i tell everyone if you ever get a chance to go to Shiloh Tennessee you need to go to the catfish hotel. it is truly still the best place around.