306 Reily St., Harrisburg
If it was acceptable to write a review with one word, it would look like this: Crawdaddy’s – Go But, since the bossman is looking for a little more than that, I should oblige.
We easily found Crawdaddy’s on Reily Street in Midtown Harrisburg, where we were greeted by an extremely friendly hostess who showed us to our table. The downstairs may not seem too spacious, but it is so tastefully decorated for fine dining that it’s just downright cool. A live jazz band was playing in the background and was the perfect accompaniment to our dinner. The upstairs dining area is a little more casual, but equally warm and welcoming. My guest and I started by each ordering tea, which was obviously freshly brewed; nice and crisp, not like the plastic-tasting stuff you sometimes get. Crawdaddy’s is also a BYOB establishment, and our waitress promptly came over with a corkscrew and an ice bucket, she offered to open our bottle and chill it for our immediate enjoyment.
The first part of our meal was the cornbread brought to our table, which was more than welcome. It was warm, fresh, authentic and definitely homemade. After our two other guests joined our party, we started with the alligator bites, the fried green tomatoes, and the calamari. Each appetizer was delicious in its own right. The alligator bites were succulent and the fried green tomatoes were the perfect tartness, with a little pucker and crispy breading. The calamari was absolutely delicious, and most importantly, it wasn’t chewy or slimy.
One of my guests is a strict vegan, so it is always interesting to see what she can come up with from the menu and how a restaurant will handle it. Crawdaddy’s did not disappoint. There were plenty of vegetables to choose from and when she asked for a few sides of them, she received a beautiful spread of grilled asparagus, spicy beans, herbed red potatoes, a corn and pepper mix and grilled zucchini. For not being a standard menu item, the chefs managed to make the platter look absolutely gorgeous and delicious!
Another of my guests started with a salad that was exceedingly fresh, but his word for how hot the tomato dressing was unfit to print. Suffice it to say that his nostrils were on fire just a bit. If you aren’t into the hot stuff, you just might want to ask for your dressing on the side. For his entrée, he ordered the jambalaya. The presentation was pretty different, in almost a pyramid-shape as opposed to the soupy stuff that we were used to. (Hey, what do a bunch of Pennsylvanians know about Creole food anyway?) The giant pieces of shrimp looked and smelled like they were straight out of the bayou, and he couldn’t say enough how delicious it was. My other guest had the Crispy Catfish Po-Boy sandwich; a Creole variation of the hoagie. The catfish was crusted with breading so light, he described it as close to panko. The spicy remoulade sauce that accompanied the sandwich was truly the perfect complement to the Po-Boy.
For my main course, I had Crawdaddy’s signature shrimp and grits. Now I’ve had shrimp and grits in Harrisburg before, and it tasted something like broken down whitefish, Cream o’ Wheat and despair. But this? This was a hot steaming bowl of golden love. The shrimp were cooked perfectly, so they still had some body and the grits, oh the grits, were creamy as the day is long. Just firm enough to have some tooth, but not so much that you thought you were eating something from a pouch. The perfect amount of spice came out of each bite. And hidden behind the fresh pepper, the onion, fresh cream and butter was a little something. I don’t know what the something was and I may never know, but it gave the grits at Café 99 in Charleston, SC a run. I don’t know if Café 99 is even still open, but that’s where I began my affair with grits. Crawdaddy’s is where I fell in love.
306 Reily Street, Harrisburg