Driving up to the front door, rustic wasn’t really the right word. It was old, seasoned barnwood and torn-off rusted whatevers nailed in every which way. It reminded me of a dilapidated tobacco warehouse you could find at the end of a country road in the Carolinas, yet evoked the essence of old Jacksonville. One of the most fascinating things about this space was the chicken coop full of chickens and roosters as one entered.Crawdaddy’s Restaurant started out as the place to be for fun, a relaxed country dining atmosphere on the river. Sure, there were no potatoes boiled in a paper bag in pine sap in a seasoned black iron pot or rabbit on a stick. In fact, the dishes wouldn’t make the front page of any paper. This was a restaurant driven to nostalgic backwoods memories, calling to mind a simpler time. When the Southbank Riverwalk was first completed, it was a destination after a long walk to a cold beer.
This 12,000-square-foot built in 1982-3, closed in 2002, and came down in 2004, after it was deemed an eyesore and fire hazard. The Super Bowl used it for staging, and that was the last breath it took. For nearly two decades, it sat as a fish-camp-type building by the Duval County Public School building and the Gulf Life Tower, now Riverplace Tower. Few regulars flanked the walls full of rusty nails and crazy-looking bleached-out and raw-saw-cut wood, a walk through made you think you were in the house of mirrors with the floor moving. In short, it was a large wooden shack.
This was the same time as a restaurant by Craig Airport opened and was themed with the Vietnam War memorabilia and Actor Alan Alda’s M*A*S*H tents. Vintage was taken to a whole new level here, but it the fun didn’t last. Restaurants and culture changed at the turn of the century, and the restaurant soon closed. It became another opportunity for the next entrepreneur.