In the early 2000s, an abandoned, dilapidated restaurant building sat along the Southbank Riverwalk.
If you’d just moved to the city or were in town on a visit, you’d have been forgiven for thinking the strange-looking building was a product of the 1880s. The building that once housed Crawdaddy’s Restaurant was indeed an ‘80s baby – but it was in fact the 1980s when the anachronistic eatery popped up along the river.
Crawdaddy’s opened in 1983 along Prudential Drive near the St. Johns River. Built to resemble an old – as in, really old – Florida cracker house, its dilapidated, patchwork look was an intentional feature designed to evoke memories of old-fashioned Florida. The commitment to aesthetics continued into the front lawn, where various items you’d find at an “old Florida” property including a coop of chickens roamed the yard.
On the inside, the look could best be described as an upscale Cracker Barrel, minus the shop.
The restaurant sat amongst modern developments, next door to a Radisson hotel, creating quite a jarring juxtaposition of “old” and new. That theme continued when the brand-new Southbank Riverwalk debuted in 1985, carrying visitors right past the unique structure.
The restaurant served a menu consisting primarily of seafood dishes. It never quite caught on that well, with some residents considering the building to be far too tacky for the city’s riverfront, and others who just weren’t that into the “old Florida” niche.
Crawdaddy’s operated along the Riverwalk for just under two decades before closing rather abruptly in 2001 and never reopening. The property was purchased by the parent company of the adjacent Radisson, and the restaurant’s strange building was demolished in 2004.
Today, there’s nothing left of what was once Crawdaddy’s. The land on which it sat has since been redeveloped as the Broadstone River House apartment complex. But those who appreciated its quirky aesthetic remember it fondly as a niche restaurant that just never quite found its audience.