When childhood friends Rich Hunter and Tre Thomas went into business together in 2004, they were operating out of a mobile concessions trailer in Houston's Third Ward. A decade later, the business partners now own two locations of the Catfish Station in Cy-Fair with hopes of continuing to grow their business in the future.
"We're happy to make our dream a reality," Hunter said. "Tre and I have been friends since junior high, and we both started our first job together as teenagers. We both have a passion for cooking, and this is what we love to do."
Hunter and Thomas' roots can be seen in the menu at the Catfish Station, which is full of fried and grilled catfish offerings as well as shrimp options. Both men developed a love for seafood and cooking at a young age, whether through a family fish fry or playing with new recipes every night while growing up.
"It really took off for me the summer before sixth grade," Thomas said. "I had a huge recipe book that my grandma gave me, and my mom would leave me just enough money to ride my bike to the store and get the ingredients to try new things. That's when I really started to develop a passion for cooking."
Hunter and Thomas entered the Cy-Fair market when they opened a drive-thru location of the Catfish Station off FM 1960 in 2011, offering classic fried catfish and shrimp options. Three years later, the business partners opened a brick-and- mortar location in November off Huffmeister Road, which has allowed them to experiment with new items.
"I think we've tapped into a niche market that no one else has taken advantage of before," Hunter said. "For that reason, we stand out. I don't think anyone else features seafood how we do."
One new item on the menu is the blackened pasta Alfredo, which is a penne pasta tossed in a homemade Alfredo sauce and sauteed with garlic and red and green bell peppers ($5.99). Guests can choose to add in shrimp, chicken or sausage as well.
The larger space also gave Hunter and Thomas the chance to add grilled items to the menu at the Huffmeister Road location, including the grilled seafood combo, which features an 8-ounce catfish fillet served over a bed of rice and four super jumbo shrimp with one side ($14.99).
"I think people will be surprised to see the nice variety that we have here now," Hunter said.
Salad options can now be found on the menu at the new location, including the Cajun Caesar salad, which features hearts of romaine lettuce tossed in a signature homemade bacon Caesar dressing with sweet corn croutons and Parmesan cheese. Diners have the option to add in shrimp or chicken ($6.99) as well.
Hunter and Thomas have plans for new additions to the restaurant as well, including a separate weekend brunch menu that could feature tableside omelette stations. The restaurant also hopes to offer crawfish seasonally in the future, Hunter said.
As time goes on, Hunter and Thomas hope to franchise the business and look for new possible restaurant locations, which has been a goal since the pair started out on their own.
"Our plan is to keep growing our business," Hunter said. "We strongly believe in our product, and although we started with humble beginnings in a concessions trailer, we believed that if we had a good product and were in the right market, we would thrive. We'd like to have Catfish Stations everywhere."
Fried fish and shrimp combo—The meal consists of four catfish pieces and four super jumbo shrimp that are battered and fried golden brown. ($12.99)
Grilled seafood combo—An 8-ounce catfish fillet is served over a bed of rice with four super jumbo shrimp. ($14.99)
Grilled catfish po'boy—Grilled catfish is served on a toasted baguette with shredded lettuce, tomatoes and signature homemade tartar sauce. ($6.99)
9522 Huffmeister Road, Ste. 500, Houston 832-427-6380, www.catfishstation.com, Hours: Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Sun. noon–7 p.m.