Remember those "No Fear" T-shirts from a few years back? Brothers Rodney and Jeff Boswell must have had stacks of them.
The large, adventurous menu at their Crawdaddy's Shack offers expected Louisiana favorites like po-boys and jambalaya but also surprises like fried frog legs, stuffed pistolettes and alligator sauce piquant. Everything about this place, from the hand-painted map mural to the amusing "whosyourcrawdaddy" website name shows an unself-conscious enthusiasm that you can't help but admire. Even the simple beverage menu brings a smile to the lips: Choices include Community coffee, Fanta orange and that childhood relic, Hi-C fruit punch.
How can you not like a menu that has both oysters Rockefeller and Hi-C punch on it?
The Brothers Boswell say all of their recipes were culled from relatives back home in Louisiana, and they make twice-weekly trips there to pick up fresh crawfish, alligator, Gulf oysters and more.
We started our Crawdaddy's dinner with a selection of three intriguing appetizers. Mini crab cake balls are shooter-marble-size, crispy on the outside and moist and strongly crab-flavored on the inside. Attractively priced at $1.19 apiece, they're a smart, small way to arouse the appetite. Fried eggplant ($6.99) is sliced thin, battered and fried to a nice golden color.
The stuffed pistolettes are described on the menu as fried dinner rolls stuffed with jambalaya ($7.99) or crawfish éouffée ($8.99). The crunchy outside and oozy inside reminded us of jelly doughnuts, sans the sugar. We haven't decided yet if we are fans of pistolettes, but we give the Boswells high marks for introducing something new to our taste buds.
The catfish po-boy ($9.99) was served on a fat roll painted with a spicy mayo/cocktail sauce concoction. The sandwich was nicely done, but the surprise was the side dish. So many restaurants serve anemic potato salad that it was a delight to bite into a version that bit back with a strong -- really strong -- mustard flavor. Jeff Boswell says Crawdaddy's makes the potato salad fresh every morning and that customers have begun to request gallon take-out orders.
The Cajun shrimp boil ($11.99) was attractively served in a metal bowl and the shrimp were, as advertised, jumbo-size. The crustaceans were served with unremarkable boiled potatoes (some butter would have been nice) and half an ear of corn that was so overboiled that even the cob had turned mushy.
We concluded our meal with beignets. The four that arrived were mini-size (at least compared to New Orleans' Cafe Du Monde), but they provided just the right sweet-ending note.
Crawdaddy's, which is BYOB, isn't slick like a chain restaurant, but the rough edges (other than the done-to-death corn) suited us just fine.
Others seem to agree. There was a nice-size crowd there on a recent Friday night.