The Dabneys smoked catfish dips smoked catfish dip Credit: Jessica Sidman

There’s hardly a junk food out there that some local chef hasn’t given the gourmet touch. (Ho Hos? Check. Pop Tarts? Double check.) But a fancy take on Doritos? That’s one I haven’t seen until The Dabney.

The rustic chips that come with the Shaw restaurant’s smoked catfish dip don’t look much like the cheese powdered-up triangles you get from a vending machine. But there’s enough resemblance that chef Jeremiah Langhorne and his team have taken to calling them “artisanal Doritos” amongst themselves.

“I was thinking about a regular tortilla chip, and I was like, ‘Oh you know what? We should make an awesome seasoning blend for these,” Langhorne says. 

The chips are covered with a blend of onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, dried espelette pepper powder, and a touch of salt. But what’s more unique is the thick, grainy texture of the crackers, which are made out of toasted cornmeal from a small-time local miller. “If you smell it out of the bag, it almost kind of smells like peanut butter,” Langhorne says. “It’s really, really crazy.” 

The smoked catfish dip is on a whole other level as well. The $10 snack is a variation on pimento cheese but also takes inspiration from a catfish chowder that Langhorne came across in Housekeeping in Old Virginia, a cookbook first published in 1879 that’s basically the chef’s bible. The dip combines chopped-up catfish that’s been smoked over the hearth with 4-year-aged Hawks Hill Cheddar, Duke’s Mayo (“the best mayo on the face of the planet”), housemade hot sauce, sorghum, cream cheese, and a blend of chives, tarragon, parsley, and chervil.

The texture is super silky, and combined with the chips, you won’t miss orange Doritos fingers at all.