Wendell Smith's Restaurant: Go for the History, Stay for the Catfish

Wendell Smith's Restaurant: Go for the History, Stay for the Catfish
Wendell Smith's

Ben Vaughn

The catfish at Wendell Smith's is legendary.

Wendell Smith's is located in the older part of West Nashville off of Charlotte Pike, a major thoroughfare running in and out of town. Immediately upon walking up to the restaurant you see a giant neon sign. It's both impressive and unimpressive all at the same time.  Which, I guess, is appropriately analogous to the restaurant itself. The neons are dazzling when lit, but because the restaurant closes around 7:30 every evening, it's rare that you actually get to see them when you're dining there. Meat and threes are traditionally served at lunch locales. Neon lights aren't exactly all that impressive during the peak daylight hours. That said, when they are lit, they're a great throwback to days gone by, just like Wendell Smith's.

Walking into Wendell Smith's immediately gives you that transformative vibe. I get the feeling that this place looks exactly the same as it did in 1965. With a matching yellow-ish hue on the floor, the counters, the tables, and the seats, the place does not lack a personal touch. Whether that's intentional or not, I guess, is up to the diner to figure out.

Enough about the look and feel, let's talk turkey... or, rather, catfish. Wendell Smith's is known far and wide for their fried catfish. Inside a crispy fried exterior is a hot and flaky catfish filet that never lets you down. On this occasion, I was feeling particularly "yellow" like the surrounding fixtures, and ordered up creamed corn, mashed potatoes, and squash as my sides. They proved to be just supporting players on my plate, as the catfish was truly the star on this day. Tip your top hat, mister fish. Good job — now down the hatch you go!

Ultimately, Wendell Smith's is a sturdy Nashville mainstay. Go here if you want to be reminded of the city’s culinary past, but don't expect much beyond that. And chances are that's exactly how they like it there.


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