In Arkansas, Buffalo Ribs Are Actually Made Of Fish

In most states around the country, if you ordered buffalo ribs, you would logically expect to be served bison, but not in Arkansas, where that request will actually net you buffalo ribs made of fish — buffalo fish to be exact. A freshwater fish resembling carp, the buffalo fish is among one of the largest North American sucker fish. 

The largest species of buffalo fish, the bigmouth buffalo fish, can grow up to four feet long, and individual buffalo fish have been recorded as weighing up to 80 pounds, making for some hearty ribs indeed. It's a challenging game fish because it has a reputation for putting up a tough fight, "like a lassoed steer," according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Buffalo fish are often found in the state's riverside communities, where its flaky, white meat is considered a delicacy. Once it's been caught and brought to a restaurant, buffalo fish is traditionally served in Arkansas by deep-frying the meat and pairing it with french fries and hush puppies, similar to a catfish platter.

Where the buffalo fish roam

While the fish can be found throughout the United States as well as in Canada and Mexico, buffalo fish ribs are an Arkansas specialty. There are certain Arkansas restaurants famous for selling buffalo ribs, including the Lassis Inn in the capital Little Rock, which is believed to date back to 1905, although the earliest documentation of its existence came from a 1931 advertisement in the Arkansas Gazette. The menu features staples such as fried buffalo fish ribs, fried catfish filets, and catfish steaks, offerings that have remained faithful to the establishment's formative years. Locals definitely seem to enjoy the specialty, with one Redditor writing, "Buffalo fish ribs are amazing, and it's worth a try if you haven't had them before."

A host of other fish markets, seafood shacks, and food trucks throughout Arkansas have fried buffalo ribs on their menus as well including Lee's Fresh Fish Food Truck and The Catfish Shack. While buffalo fish has never attained the same level of nationwide popularity and attention as the soul food menu mainstay catfish, in Arkansas it's how ribs are done.