emily fish
Image by Pyron Family

Emily reels in a big trout at Bear Creek Trout Farm north of Harrison.

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Charles Jr big fish
Image by Pyron Family

Charles shows off his prize catch. Note the large amount of fish in the water behind him.

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pyron kiddos and fish
Image by Pyron Family

Emily and Charles show off their keepers. Joe DeVito cleaned and cooked the two largest for our lunch.

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North of Harrison just off Highway 65 sits Bear Creek Trout Farm and DeVito’s Restaurant -- a family owned business dating back five generations. The next time you’re near Harrison or on your way to Branson, you really must stop for lunch or dinner.

Blogger and frequent contributor to Little Rock Family Kat Robinson visited in May and wrote a wonderful history and review for her blog Tie Dye Travels. I won’t try to recreate that here, as I’m not a food critic. But I want readers to know what a fantastic experience we had.

As we pulled up to the restaurant, Joe DeVito greeted us with a broad grin and firm handshake, ready to take us across the country road to fish. “My brothers are handling lunch today,” he told us, “so we’re in no hurry at all.”

The cave-fed spring stays at a cool 58 degrees and is stocked with thousands of rainbow trout. The family used to breed their own trout, but the labor and cost involved became prohibitive. Now they stock the pond from hatcheries in Missouri. Armed with fishing rods baited with homemade bread, we reeled in fish after fish after fish. Some were small, weighing in at half a pound. Others were lunkers, topping the scale at almost three pounds.

It was such fun to see my children delighted at each tug on their lines. Charles Jr. is a good fisherman -- his dad has taught him well -- but Emily is not as comfortable with a rod and reel, and this was a great way for her to learn more about fishing poles, hooks, bait and catch-and-release. We caught 20 trout and kept nine for lunch and to take home with us. A good haul for only 30 minutes of fishing.

After we cleaned up in the restaurant, we sat down at a white-clothed table by a window overlooking the bluff and creek. Joe and his brothers Chris and Steve treated us to a feast like no other. DeVito’s restaurant specializes in fresh trout, but the menu also offers fresh-made Italian food that is simply to die for. We sampled baked ravioli stuffed with cheese and salami, smoked trout pate and fried trout fingers that were light and delicious.

For our main courses, Joe filleted two of the larger trout we pulled out of the stream and cooked them four different ways. We tried trout pesto, trout Almandine, charbroiled trout and broiled trout Italiano. All of them were wonderful, but the Almandine stood out as our favorite. The fish was served with perfectly seasoned hush puppies, broccoli and baked potatoes.

We also sampled fettucine Alfredo, a rich pasta with lots of cheese and cream. “We don’t skimp on the cream,” laughed Joe. Brother Chris told us he’s ordered Alfredo from coast to coast and nothing compares to their family’s recipe. It was incredible.

We took some desserts back to the hotel with us. Around 9 p.m., we enjoyed homemade chocolate cake, apple pie and bourbon pecan pie. All four of us kept oohing and ahhing over the desserts. It’s not hyperbole for me to say that they were some of the best we’ve ever tasted. My husband, who’s a bit of a dessert connisseur, marveled over the homemade icing on the cake and the light crust on the apple pie, which he said is “the epitome of Southern apple pie.” The bourbon pecan pie had him actually bowing down to the DeVito family in reverence and awe.

As we’ve eaten our way through the Ozarks this week, Emily has asked us at every meal for our rating of the food on a scale of 1-10. We all agreed, hands down, that DeVito’s earns a 10. The experience of catching the trout, enjoying the family recipes and basking in the warm hospitality was second to none.