Made to order
Franklin County is well-known for several of its attractions, including the local festivals and the drive-in movie theater.
But many visitors also make sure to stop at a restaurant on the edge of Russellville.
Wayne's Catfish Haven is a family-owned and operated restaurant that has fed freshly-cooked food to local residents and visitors from all over the U.S. for the past 30 years.
Famous diners at the restaurant have included famous musicians George Jones, Shenandoah, Sonny James, Travis Wommack and the Primitive Quartets, along with well-know media personalties such as Huntsville weatherman Gary Dobbs.
"We had some people from Florida who came in and said they don't go home until they eat here," restaurant manager Kathy Murphy said. "We've had people from Kentucky, Chicago, Texas and New York. We even had a motorcycle gang from Michigan who rode through here and stopped to eat."
Murphy said the restaurant offers a variety of menu items, including catfish, steaks, chicken fingers, barbecue. For customers with a sweet tooth, there are slices of pie available in coconut, lemon and pecan.
"We're a family-owned and family-oriented restaurant. We do have kid's plates, and we'll fix anything anybody wants as long we have it in the kitchen," Murphy said.
Despite offering items other than fish, the restaurant is famous for its hand-battered catfish and homemade hushpuppies.
"We also offer grilled fillets, which can be ordered blackened or with lemon-pepper," Murphy said. "Our hushpuppies are made-from-scratch, and our catfish is pond-raised. The fish we use has to be pond-raised and pond-fed because they're good-tasting fish that's fresh."
Murphy said during a typical day, the restaurant uses at least 600 pounds of catfish and 15 pound of meal for the batter.
"We don't pre-cook anything. In the morning, we'll work up the fish and breading, which we put in the cooler to give the fish that pretty, golden-brown look," she said. "If we're not busy, the wait is only 10-15 minutes, but lately we've been busy all the time."
It isn't unusual to find a line stretching out the door and into the parking lot, even though the restaurant can seat up to 150 people.
"It's stressful, but it's a good kind of stressful," Murphy said. "Even if we have a line out the door, people will wait 30 to 45 minutes to eat here (during lunch and dinner rushes)."
Murphy said the restaurant has a large number of regular customers who have been eating at the restaurant since it opened.
Even though Catfish Haven doesn't offer catering services, pick-up orders are available and the restaurant encourages customers to call ahead and reserve a table, especially for large parties.
"We used to be over the hill as Goodsprings Catfish Haven, but then we moved here (for more space)," said Murphy, whose late sister, Tammy Sanford, and late brother-in-law, Wayne Sanford, co-owned the restaurant.
"We have usually have 12 employees, and about half of them are full-time. Most of our employees are family members, but we also have some that have worked here so long that we think of them as family."
Wayne's Catfish Haven, located at 18437 Hwy. 43 in Russellville, is open Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call 332-9947.