It all started with a hunch from my mother. She really believed that our little lake town would support a venue that offered fresh shrimp and oysters. So, she found a company in Bon Secour, Alabama, and she loaded her van down with coolers and headed south. She bought all the shrimp and oysters her coolers would hold. They packed it down on ice and she drove straight back to Guntersville. She would usually get back in town in the wee hours of Friday morning. We would then get the scales out and start bagging the shrimp in 1/2 lb. and 1 lb. bags and the oysters in dozens and half dozens. We repacked it all in fresh ice and parked the van on the side of HWY 431 in front of what was then Wal-Mart.
By the second weekend of doing this, we were selling out by 10 a.m. on Saturday mornings. So, we saw that we needed more coolers. By the end of the first month, it seemed that we had more coolers than Wal-Mart had.
Just about the time that we literally couldn’t fit anymore coolers into the van, a small space became available in a complex that my grandparents owned. My mom originally opened a 12 seat oyster bar then named Crawdaddy’s Seafood Shoppee. The menu was very simple: steamed shrimp, baked oysters, 3 kinds of bottled beer or 3 kinds of soft drinks and of course, we still offered the raw shrimp and oysters to go.
The first night we opened, we were packed. I can remember asking people to pass trays of oysters overhead to the customer that ordered them. Outside, there were some saw horses left over from the construction and customers were using those and other left over building materials to build their own tables. They used their car headlights for lighting.
And the business just grew. And grew. The first addition added 50 seats in what is now our waiting area. The second addition added 100 more seats. And the last addition added the last 100 seats, an outside patio dining area complete with a stage for the live entertainment we have on the weekends and “Crawbaby Corner” which is a sand box with lots of toys for the kiddos. We can now seat 300 people if every seat in the restaurant is filled.
With each expansion, the menu grew too. We now offer fried, grilled and steamed foods including crawfish, alligator, crab claws, fish and all the staples like steak and chicken. Our current menu has over 75 items on it. We also now offer a full bar instead of just beer and wine.
The name change occurred in 1998 upon my 18th birthday. Crawmama’S just seemed fitting for she and I. The atmosphere at Crawmama’S is probably my favorite part. We really are a family restaurant. We close at 10:00 p.m. but we are a fun restaurant. People come in straight from the lake or in formal wear. Either way, doesn’t matter to us, the tables are still picnic tables. We don’t have a traditional heat and air system. Our air system is called a swamp cooler. Very similar to what you see in a poultry house. Our heating system is also like that from a poultry house. The patio sides raise up and down so we can easily bring the outside in.
The atmosphere is eclectic and eccentric. There are signed dollar bills everywhere, a row of rubber ducks, car tags galore, and a hodgepodge of other unique items. Most people tell us that Crawmama’S isn’t a restaurant, it is a destination.
And on any given Friday and Saturday night, especially in the spring and summer, it is common for the wait to be 45 minutes or more.