Show featuring Catfish Cabin exposes possible violations not revealed in inspections

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis landmark restaurant made its debut on national TV on Wednesday night, but it also exposed concerns when it comes to what local health inspections might have missed.

The episode brought the limelight back to Catfish Cabin on Airways. Now the restaurant is catching some backlash.

In the process of giving the place a makeover, the show also claims to have made some pretty gross discoveries inside.

Some of those discoveries have people wondering how the Catfish Cabin earned a 92 on their last health inspection.

"Whenever I am in this area, and I see it. I think about eating here as a kid. I'm glad they are still here," customer Ian Joyner said.

Owner Rachael Ezell says it’s been a struggle to keep the family owned business afloat.

"My dad opened it in 1971," she said.

During the recession in 2008, the family leased it out. They took back over in 2016 after they say the previous owners left the place in bad shape.

"We got in there and cleaned the best we could," Ezell said.

She says that’s why when a TV renovation show came calling, she agreed to undergo a makeover, hoping to bring Catfish Cabin back to its glory days.

"I wasn't expecting it to be everything great. The whole thing is, we are back on the map. It shows the restaurant has been cleaned up," Ezell said.

But she also wasn’t expecting the show to make the restaurant look bad, either.

"We don't have roaches carrying hush puppies. We don't have bad hamburgers. There's none of that."

We did our own digging to find out what’s beneath that current 92 health inspection grade. We found violations for improper unthawing of fish and shrimp, dirty microwaves and drink machines.

There were even reports of fruit flies near a sink.

But nothing at all mentioned in the violations was extreme as what viewers saw on Wednesday's show.

In fact, the restaurant hasn't scored below an 86 on any inspection since 2017.

Even with a dark shadow being cast on the landmark on the heels of the episode airing, business is better than ever.

"I drive past Catfish Cabin a couple times a day. It's nice to see the parking lot filled," customer Ryan Po said.

It's filled with customers ready to give the staple a chance.

"It's really nice to see a local business get turned around and hopefully have a foundation for more success," Po said.

The Health Department is expected to stop by any day now to do another inspection.

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