Harrisburg may be Pennsylvania's capital,
but it's a small town - at least when compared to where I grew up a stones throw from New York City.
Not that that means anything in particular, other than very little escapes my scope of vision, especially in a town this size.
That's why I was so surprised when my friend and fellow foodie, Nancy Cates, mentioned in passing, "Have you been to Crawdaddy's yet?"
To be honest, I'd never heard of it and asked to hear more.
The restaurant is located on Reilly Street in the heart of Midtown. The neighborhood, though perhaps a tad rundown at one time, is quickly being rejuvenated into one of the more vibrant areas of the city. The building itself is small, but is hard to miss thanks to its snappy red and white color scheme.
I entered the restaurant and was immediately greeted by a friendly and attractive young lady named Mia who led my to a table and handed me a menu.
I looked over my choices and there were more than a few items that really piqued my interest, in particular; Creole style shrimp & grits, sweet potato pancakes, crab sliders, crawfish and asparagus, fried green tomato with remoulade sauce, jambalaya, crispy catfish po'boy and chicken & shrimp gumbo. If choices like that don't scream "down home", I don't know what does!
I settled on the Crispy Seasoned Catfish with a side of Collard Greens and Pintos Beans & Rice.
Mia disappeared into the back and I realized I was the only one in the restaurant. But to be fair, I'd arrived a bit earlier than the typical lunch crowd.
I looked about the room and immediately recognized that although the room was on the small side; holding a mere eight or nine tables, it was well thought out and obviously a lot of care was taken with decorating to convey a desirable warmth to their patrons.
The room's clean lines and earth tones reminded me of many small New York City bistros.
Between bites of cornbread, I chatted with Mia and learned she was the owner's daughter and that they had only opened for business this past April. She was candid about the lunch crowd still being a bit thin, but also took pride in telling me they usually did a brisk weekend business where reservations were an absolute necessity. A good reason for this is probably the live jazz they offer on weekend evenings.
My lunch arrived quickly, with a great presentation.
The catfish was as advertised - dusted with cornmeal and fried to perfection. It came with a cup of remoulade sauce which by all measures, was delightful; so much in fact, that there was no need for the hot sauce I requested.
The collard greens were done to perfection; not overcooked and with wonderful flavor and terrific texture. However, the hit of this lunch were the pinto beans and rice - those perfectly flavored beans with a hint of spice and a ton of flavor are enough to bring me back all on their own.
William echoed Mia's sentiments in regards to the weekend crowd. He also mentioned that they actually had a second room upstairs for use on busy weekends; a room where they pipe the live band playing downstairs into two wide-screen TV's on the second floor.
On Sunday's, the room is utilized for patrons who want to grab lunch and watch a game.
In my opinion, Crawdaddy's Cafe is a little gem hidden in a neighborhood that is undergoing a complete rejuvenation. It is an area of the city that is redefining itself in leaps and bounds.
As for me, not only will I return for another wonderful lunch chatting it up with my new friends William and Mia, but I'm going to make a point of heading down one weekend for an evening of live jazz. So should you.