Family members working together. A perfected way of preparing and cooking catfish. A secret family recipe. Combined, these ingredients have led to a successful restaurant career that has spanned over 40 years for a Waurika Family. "Bill's Fish House", or "Bill's Catfish", or more commonly just "Bill's", or simply "the Fish House" is a favorite of many Oklahomans. Even though the Waurika restaurant is located in Southwest Oklahoma, only yards from the Texas Border, its popularity has spread throughout the state.
Behind this success are the families of Jeri Nell, Jim Mays, and Steven and Anita Goza. The brother and sister team of Jeri and Steven Nell spend a great deal of time with the family business, following the path of their grandparents, original restaurant founders/owners Bill and Nell Schram.
The Schrams first opened Bill's in Terral in the early 1960s. Upon losing the lease a short time later, they moved into the former Steward Hotel in Waurika. In 1962, they moved to their present location, atop a hill on Highway 79, West of Waurika. Cotton Electric Cooperative, headquartered in in Walters, serves this location. In 1964, Bill passed away, but Nell kept the dream o owning a restaurant alive until her retirement in 1978. At that time, Jeri Nell took over the ownership. Her brother, Steven, joined her in this venture. both had been working at Bill's since they were 10 years old.
The Earleys approached Jeri Nell late last year with the possibility of opening a franchise. Having grown up in Waurika, Laura was familiar with the outstanding reputation of Bill's. Combined with Jerry's 20-plus years in the restaurant franchise business, the new working relationship is expected to prosper.
Bill's prides itself on being family-owned and operated. Jeri Nell's husband, Jim, also helps out at the restaurant, as does Steven's wife, Anita. Jeri Nell and Jim's son, Jimmy Wayne Mays II (J), and Steven and Anita's three daughters, Samantha, Shannon, and Savannah, also help out.
While Bill's specializes in catfish, their shrimp, frog legs, scallops, oysters, and calf fries have also become a hit with many. Bill's hand-sliced tenderloin catfish filet is battered in a seasoned cornmeal, and then fried to crispy perfection in specially blended oil. The farm-raised catfish is sliced thin and is full of flavor.
Then comes the secret family recipe. Bill's tasty tartar sauce adds the final touch to the filets. When combined with coleslaw, hush puppies, french fries, and all the trimming, once can have a very satisfying meal.
In addition to the seafood type menu items, Bill's also has steak fingers, steaks, and chicken among the food selections. plus a kid's menu is sure to satisfy the little ones.