Start a conversation about good places to eat in the Mississippi Delta, and you’re eventually going to mention Crawdad’s.
The landmark in Merigold opened in the early 1980s as a takeout crawfish place.
“That place has morphed into one of the finest eating establishments in the Delta,” said Rep. David Norquist, D-Cleveland, who said he’s been going to Crawdad’s “as long as I can remember. It was originally just an old home on the highway. All they sold was crawfish and you got them to go.”
The menu has expanded considerably, and so has the restaurant’s reputation.
If Crawdad’s got its start because of its crawfish, its fame has spread because of something else.
“The crazy part about it is, the best thing on the menu is the steak,” Norquist said. “You don’t think of a place called Crawdad’s being a steak place. It’s absolutely phenomenal. What I do a lot of times is I’ll go in around 5:30 or 6 and I’ll buy steaks from them and go home and cook them, like a butcher shop.”
Gregg Ellis grew up in Lambert, a few country miles from Merigold. He first went to Crawdad’s in the mid-1990s. He has fond memories of the original building, and has enjoyed quite a few meals at the new building built after the old one burned back in Jan. 2002.
“I remember the first time I went to the latest one. It looked a lot like the old one, just newer,” Ellis said. “The ambiance was still the same. They kept that rustic feel to it. You could still see the grill, where you could watch everything being cooked. They still had that.
“It’s one of my favorite places to go. You know how the Mississippi Delta is. It’s just different and that just really fits, this fantastic steakhouse. Obviously it’s nothing you would see in Chicago or New York, but it fits the Delta perfectly.”
After college, Ellis and his wife moved to Indianapolis. When they would come home to the Delta, a trip to Merigold was mandatory.
“We would come down and oftentimes that would be where we would go for our Christmas dinner,” he said. “It was just something different. If we’d come back in the summer we’d make at least one trip there. At least one. If you know people in the Delta, everybody’s heard of it. That’s the neat thing about it.
“My dad’s the one that got me hooked on that place. They used to own a cleaners in Cleveland and he was introduced to it that way.”
Like a lot of Delta restaurants, Crawdad’s is a gathering spot for the surrounding community.
“What makes it really neat is every time I go there I will see somebody that I haven’t seen in years,” Ellis said. “It’s like a joke almost, ‘Who am I going to see that I haven’t seen in forever?’
“I don’t know if I’ve had anything that’s bad there. We also have to make sure we go late on Saturday nights so the pottery store (McCartys Pottery) next door will be closed. My wife would do some serious damage there, so I’ve got to make sure they’re closed before we go. It’s a good place to take kids because all the animals on the wall keeps them occupied. Our kids were very young when we first started going there, and that got them through.”
»» Tidbits: Crawdad’s, 104 S. Park St., 662-748-2441, Open Tuesday-Saturday, 6 to 10 p.m., website: www.crawdads1.com; Average cost of meal for two including a shared appetizer and one drink each: $60 to $100
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