Mar/Apr 2008 Issue

By Don Redman

The Cuevas Fish House in Picayune, Miss., has been a regional mainstay for the past 36 years, drawing countless seafood fans from the Mississippi Gulf Coast and southeast Louisiana. The restaurant’s primary attraction is the all-you-can-eat menu featuring fried or broiled catfish and fried chicken, but once you step across the humble threshold, you realize there’s a lot more going on here. You feel like you’re coming home.

Top: Cuevas Fish House in Picayune has been at the same location for 36 years.

Bottom: Restaurant owners, from left, Ollie Shiyou, Connis Lavinghouse and Lois Wall. Don Redman photos
The restaurant, located at 2508 Highway 43 South, was originally owned and operated by Rance and Marjorie Cuevas, but after they died, the business fell to surviving relatives Lois Wall, Ollie Shiyou and Connis Lavinghouse. They have continued the Cuevas tradition keeping to the recipes handed down to them and insisting that every dish be made from scratch.

“Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken,” says Wall.

The restaurant’s exterior resembles a ranch-style house, which it very well may have been before the Fish House opened in 1972. Picnic tables are scattered throughout the main dining area and smaller tables are set up in three adjacent rooms. As if it needs to be said, this is family-friendly casual dining. And that’s exactly how the customers want it to stay.

According to Shiyou, they were preparing to relocate when customers got wind of their plans. “We had already bought a metal building and we were going to move into it and tear this one down,” said Shiyou. “Our customers said ‘No!’ They protested our plans. They didn’t want us to touch anything.”

And so the original restaurant building still stands and the metal building was sold off to someone else.
But not everything has remained static–the menu has been significantly enhanced. In addition to the all-you-can-eat catfish, which is shipped in fresh from the Mississippi Delta, the menu also boasts appetizers ranging from soft shell crab to fried crawfish tails to gumbo.

Ever secretive about what goes into the recipes, Wall swears her secret ingredient makes her gumbo the best in the region.

The marquee entree is the seafood platter ($13.95) featuring fried shrimp, scallops, catfish, stuffed shrimp, stuffed crab and crab cake. Individual platters featuring shrimp, oysters, soft shell crabs or stuffed crabs are also available. And if seafood isn’t your thing, there’s also a fried chicken strip platter.

All platters come with coleslaw, hushpuppies and French fries. The hushpuppies are exceptional. They aren’t the typical cornbread variety, and have a soft, fluffy inside bursting with sweetness. Don’t bother asking how they make it–they won’t tell you.

Cuevas Fish House is only open three nights a week, Thursday through Saturday, from 3–9 p.m., which leaves some people crying for more. “A lot of our customers come two or three nights a week,” says Shiyou.

As has been the case ever since Cuevas opened its doors, the restaurant remains a family affair. Sons, daughters, in-laws, grandchildren all play a role in running the restaurant. In fact, it was thanks in large part to family members that the restaurant was able to resume operations just three weeks after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the area. It is of little doubt that the sense of family–and terrific fried seafood–will continue to draw crowds to Cuevas Fish House.

The restaurant starts filling up by 6 p.m., so you may want to get there early. Credit cards are not accepted. To get to Cuevas Fish House, take Exit 4 from Interstate 59 and drive approximately 1 mile on Highway 43 South. The restaurant will be on your right. For more information, call (601) 798-9927.

Don Redman is associate editor of AAA Southern Traveler.

Cuevas Fish House
Menu Sampler

Soft shell crab appetizer
Fried dill pickles
Cup of gumbo
All-you-can-eat catfish filet
All-you-can-eat fried chicken
Seafood platter

Don Redman photo

^ to top | previous page