Try as I may to shine an objective perspective on the completely subjective and unique experiences of dining in Boise, The Connector House of Catfish and Ribs is steeped so heavily in nostalgia for me that I'm unlikely to represent a fair or balanced opinion. From a critic's standpoint, I'll advise that The Connector is not an eatery for the inflexible, the impatient or the pretentious. The no-frills dining room is simple, with white paper napkins as table covers and both times I've visited for lunch, the waitstaff has been a skeleton crew of one very friendly, very busy server.
A greeting shouted from across the room invited us in as soon as we stepped through The Connector's front doors. I started with a sweet tea, which was a significant moment of joy in my long and sordid culinary history in Boise. Having spent most of my childhood in Montgomery, Alabama, there are three things I get my fill of each time I visit the South: Country's BBQ, grits and sweet tea. Thanks to the last, The Connector had me at hello ... well, at "Here's your tea," anyway.
The word around town regarding The Connector is almost exclusively about the catfish and ribs. As the place is named for 'em, I ordered a combo of the two. Three ribs, several large chunks of catfish, a whole mess of fries, and one scoop each of potato salad and coleslaw so overwhelmed the large plate holding it all, I almost didn't know how to start. So I started at the top. The crunchy fried catfish dipped in cornmeal needed no tartar, no lemon and no cocktailit was just as it should be. The pork ribs were distinctively smoky, despite being covered in a healthy coat of BBQ sauce, and though the meat was a little dry, the ribs exuded homemade quality and were definitely ribs for rib eaters (unlike those dainty little things whose meat falls from the bone at the poke of a fork). Thick chopped chunks of cabbage in the mayo-heavy slaw shamed the finely processed, slivered cabbage of other joints' versions. And though not bad, the potato salad was at a definite disadvantage compared to what I grew up on. Once I'd successfully demolished a good deal of the platter, I speared several fries with my fork, dragged them through the pool of BBQ sauce and slopped both salads into the mix. That's what BBQ is all about. Though my lunch companion hesitantly ordered the Louisiana brisket sandwich topped with coleslaw, he cleaned the plate, and even admitted to having thoroughly enjoyed his slaw (a dish he loathes).
After noting the absence of cornbread, black-eyes peas and baked beans in the "disappointment" column of my evaluation, I had a look at the dinner menu. Apparently dinner is where it's at, as every one of the items I lamented not seeing on the menu (including grits!) is served at dinner. You better believe I'll be back.
Rachael Daigle lost her Southern accent in a freak surfing accident.
The Connector House of Catfish and Ribs, 249 S. 16th St., Mon.-Sun.: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.-close.