Joe Tess Place-Earl Hatcher

Earl Hatcher tends a unique bar at Joe Tess Place.
The boat style bar was picked up in New Orleans.

Photo by Joe Dejka
Metro Entertainment
Bellevue Leader

Fried carp sandwich "a keeper" at Joe Tess

There's no sense fishing for a good carp dinner. Joe Tess Place, 5424 S 24th St. is the biggest fish in the pond when it comes to fried carp.

At least that's what manager Bill "Billy" Falt says about the family owned restaurant and fresh carp sandwiches.

The fish travel some distance from lakes and rivers to the dinner plate.

"We truck them in live from Northern states," Falt said. "We process it here. They're served fresh. It's sort of a unique process. I'd put our fish next to the best ocean fish I've had."

The atmosphere at Joe Tess' Place is a comfortable marriage of standard catsup-on-the-formica-table-cafe dining, and Sea-World-of-South Omaha decor.

Out front, the traditional rock garden walkway is replaced by spread oyster shells. Visitors entering through the main door are greeted by a wishing well in which a young greek-looking plaster boy rides a sculptured carp spouting a steady stream of water from its fishy lips.

Amidst the pennies cast into the fountain is a shadowy white catfish -- a live one, to the delight of youngsters in the restaurant Tuesday for lunch.

Hung at regular intervals upon the dining room walls are stuffed fish, from puffers to pike, frozen in action by the hands of a skilled taxidermist.

The tables bear the look of any other corner cafe, except for the bottles of bright red "Trappey's Red Devil Louisiana Hot Sauce" on each. Sturdy metal frame padded chairs encircle the tables providing a firm port from which to shove off into a fish sandwich.

Falt, who was busy Tuesday running the restaurant, said the success of Joe Tess Place is based on fresh fish, service and a simple menu.

Carp are caught by commercial fishermen and transported live by truck to the Falt Fisheries located south of Bellevue. There the fish are processed for eating, he said.

Carp has taken a bad rap from some fishermen and others who call it a scavenger, he said. They are, in reality he said, vegetarians which yield a high-protein flesh that makes good eating.

The specialty of the house is the fried carp sandwiches. For $1.15 the cook deep fat fries a third of a pound of fish in a light batter and serves it on a slice of thin rye bread with pickle slices.

The batter is surprisingly light and crispy and tasty when dipped in catsup, tarter sauce or hot sauce.

A grilled fish sandwich has been added to the menu for those who want to watch their calories, he said. It is a ground fish and spice combination, shaped like a fish. But he adds that the deep fat frying oil of the fried fish contains "only one tenth of one percent" cholesterol.

Other kitchen specialties include catfish – whole, half or fingers – and fried chicken.

Falt said he expects a crowed during the coming Lenten season, when Catholics abstaining from meat become frequent customers.

From the pelicans sitting on the boat–shaped bar to the tasty freshwater treats, Joe Tess Place seems the right lure for any fish lover.

Joe Dejka
Bellevue Leader
Metro Entertainment
March 1990