By Jessica Mozo
Crawdaddy’s West Side Grill is like a slice of New Orleans right in the middle of Cookeville. A local favorite in both the dining and nightlife sectors, Crawdaddy’s offers a diverse menu and lots of outdoor seating in the courtyard and on the balcony of its 100-year-old brick building.
“Our patio and courtyard are a big draw, and our building has a lot of character,” says Drew Blalock, who owns Crawdaddy’s with business partner Blue Hensley. “We play a lot of up-tempo ’60s music, and we’re known for some of the best food, service and atmosphere in the area.”
Though many entrées are Cajun-inspired, Crawdaddy’s doesn’t limit itself to Cajun fare.
“Our menu has several high-end items right down to chicken wings,” Blalock says. “It may look upscale, but we’re anything but stuffy. We have a Cheers-type atmosphere. We do our best to build relationships with our customers.”
Menu favorites include appetizers such as Gator Bites (Cajun-battered and fried bits of alligator tail), steamed mussels, fried oysters and several dips, from the Pesto Goat Cheese Dip to the Bayou Shrimp Dip.
Popular entrees include the Carpet Bagger Filet, an 8-ounce, center-cut tenderloin topped with lump crab cream sauce, and the French Cut Pork Chop, which Blalock refers to as “out of this world.”
“We get so many compliments on our pork chop,” he says. “Our best-selling seafood dish is our Citrus Glazed Salmon, which is pan-seared with orange-ginger sauce and topped with goat cheese. Another great dish is the California Sea Bass, which has a lemon basil cream sauce on top of rice.”
Of course, no meal is complete without dessert, and Crawdaddy’s does dessert in true New Orleans fashion.
“We make our own crème brule and bread pudding, and they are best-sellers on our dessert menu,” Blalock says.
The wine list is also impressive, with nearly 40 different varieties.
Blalock and Hensley bought the restaurant in 2007 after working together for several years at a national chain restaurant. They hoped to improve on what the previous owner was already doing at Crawdaddy’s, but they didn’t expect the huge amount of success they’ve experienced.
“We’ve been able to increase our sales every year, which surprised me considering the state of the economy,” Blalock says.
In 2009, Crawdaddy’s was voted the Best Local Restaurant by readers of the Cumberland Business Journal.
The key to their success? A slew of loyal customers who keep coming back over and over again.
“A lot of people say the toughest part of running a restaurant is dealing with the public, but I’ve found that to be 180 degrees from the truth,” Blalock says. “The public is the reason I love what I do. We don’t see them as customers – we see them as friends.”