This has to be one of the most unlikely places to go for a catfish dinner on a Friday afternoon, but as it turned out, it was one of the best around. Pulling up to Moe's Quick Mart & Grill at 5th and Lewis, most others around me were pulling in for a quick fill up on gas and a bag of chips, but I had catfish on my mind.
Walking in, I felt somewhat out of place, looking around for the grill where catfish might be served. A quick glance uncovered a cashier's area and a full convenience store complete with items catering to an Anglo and Hispanic population. Upon second glance, I spot an area in a corner of the store which has a counter and a small kitchen. Above the counter is a menu board that listed the coveted Catfish Filet with Cole Slaw & Hushpuppies ($8.99) for which I came, among a number of other grill-type foods: dinners, such as a 4-piece Chicken Tenders with biscuit and toast ($6.99); Grilled Chicken Fajita ($8.99); Chicken Fried Steak ($3.49), Patty Melt ($3.49); and Grilled Chicken ($4.49). Veggie Plate ($6.50); Hamburgers ($2.99). BLT and a dinner of smothered chicken with grilled mushrooms and onions are also available.
"Not many people know about us," said owner and grill master Morad "Moe" Sepahvand. "I have some of the best food in Tulsa right here." Moe is no stranger to the kitchen; he has been in the restaurant business for more than 20 years. He previously owned and operated Smokey Mountain Barbeque at 31st and Garnett and Moe's Grill, also on Garnett. And moving into the gas station-grill business is familiar to him as well. He was owner of the Citgo on Denver, but it was demolished to make way for the BOK Center. "I have so much talent to cook," he said enthusiastically.
When it comes to catfish, he does. I placed an order for eight people at the counter. The lady who took my order was very helpful. She explained that each dinner had about six small filets, so I settled on four orders, she promptly began getting the order prepared.
I paid for the order at the cashier's area within the store, and then sat down at a picnic-table in the area of the grill as my order was being prepared -- a few others were waiting on their orders, too. This is an active place. While I waited, a number of people filtered throughout the convenience store, paying for gas, buying lottery tickets or just selecting something off the convenience store's shelves.
Moe said he stocks the food for his grill from Tulsa Beef & Provision, Inc. -- hamburger patties, French fries, hushpuppies, okra and even the catfish, but he said when he prepared the catfish, he adds his special touch. "I bread the catfish myself with yellow cornmeal and flour," Moe said. "Then, I also add my own special seasonings to it."
The result is a mild, non-muddy flavored filet. Possibly the best part was that they were lightly breaded and seasoned; the taste was fresh, not frozen. The fact that it was assembled right there for each order resulted in an evenly distributed breading around the fish. The flesh was soft and almost had a buttery taste. Some thinner sliced filets were crispy on the edges.
With the filets, I ordered French fries, hushpuppies, fried okra and coleslaw. The fries were hot and crispy, even after having taken them home to eat. The hushpuppies, a traditional accompaniment to fried catfish, were quite good as well. These small, fried cornmeal dumplings were golden and hot, and not greasy. The fried okra was also hot and flavorful, as was the coleslaw. Bulky chopped pieces of cabbage were tossed with a sweet dressing; this was fresh and crispy. These sides also came from Tulsa Beef.
Moe encouraged me to return for another visit, saying that while the catfish is very good, the "Moe's Specials" are even better, pointing out especially the rice and chicken with vegetables.
The bottom of my ticket said, "Our fuel has no ethanol! Try our gourmet fresh hot food! Especially our catfish!" This entrepreneur is determined to be successful. He loathes the fact that recently a number of apartments were razed just north of his store, taking away many hundreds of dollars in sales each week. Still, he is proud to have his place: gas station with non-ethanol gas, convenience store, and Moe's Grill all right there.
547 S. Lewis | 918-592-5500
Food **** Service ****
(Based on a Scale of 5 Stars)
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