Nestled on Andrews Avenue between Prospect Road and Oakland Park Boulevard is a landmark location named Catfish Deweys. For the last 36 years, at this very location, it has served Oakland Park fresh fish, like their signature item Catfish to be specific, and other delectable seafood items on their menu. As other seafood restaurants prepare to open their doors nearby, the owner, Dewey James welcomes the competition, because he knows he has prospered well and will continue to do so for years to come.
How Catfish Deweys Started…
The adventure in seafood began in 1984 when the then owner, Dewey Senior, used to flip bars. The restaurant used to be a country music lounge – Jeffrey’s Country Music Lounge, to be exact. This was during the Savings and Loans Crisis, so there was great difficulty “flipping” the property.
Dewey Senior had to figure out the right way to make the mortgage payments. Dewey Junior was in between jobs and was able to come on board. Between Dewey Senior, his wife and Dewey Junior, they formed a team going into business together. They reinvented the concept that lead to what we have today and have had all these years.
Senior was the cook, his wife was the hostess, and Junior was the dishwasher. Once open, things were a little slow to start, but every week, and every month, momentum was gaining and soon they had to hire more people to help. By 1988, Dewey Senior and his wife retired to North Florida, while Dewey Junior stayed on location to run the business. Sadly, in 2018, Senior passed away, but James has continued his father’s legacy.
Catfish: The Main Attraction
Originally, the restaurant specialized in seafood. Their main attraction was the catfish. The original menu consisted of catfish, fried shrimp, New York Strip steak and baby back ribs. However, they have branched out to serving other signature items like crab, especially Stone Crab.
The best description can be found on their website as saying, “Our specialty is farm raised catfish, but our menu is quite diverse. We have a variety of all-you-can-eat specials like shrimp, fresh Florida stone crab, ribs as well as generous portion meals. But catfish remains the most popular dish”.
The COVID-19 Crisis
Coronavirus has definitely changed so much. The restaurant has always had “to-go” items, but now more than ever. One of the dining areas has been converted to a prep room for the take-out orders, or else the kitchen would overflow and run out of room.
They’ve taken about half the tables in the dining area. The restaurant is seating about 60% capacity currently. The remaining tables have been adequately separated. Upon entering, everyone’s temperature is being taken and there are several sanitizing stations throughout the establishment. Dewey says, “We take the mask protocol very seriously and offer sanitation and take every measure possible to remain healthy”.
None of the cooks or staff have been out due to COVID-19. James is there every day, seven days a week, to supervise and make sure that everything runs smoothly. Dewey is grateful and fortunate that with so many years established, he’s been able to maintain enough business to continue to thrive.
The Clients and the Family
Dewey James has had some of the same clients come in through the years. Some new faces always walk through the doors. He notes how Snowbirds usually tend to come in during the Winter season, as well as many tourists through out the year. But what he loves the most is having had the opportunity to see some of his employees grow from their early, young selves, into the people they are today. He says, “It is very gratifying to see how well people do and turn out in life. I tend to hire young people and they move on, you know? It’s good to see how well they do in life”.
He shared a story about one of his cooks who joined the Army and went to fight in Dessert Storm. His family would come in and he sort of went through the emotions with them. He made it through ok, and today he is a CPA. He has a lot of stories like that and concluded our interview by saying, “I like being a part of the community, of Oakland Park. We are a landmark now”.
Catfish Deweys: 4003 N Andrews Ave, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309
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