At Crawfords, what you see is what you get. The simple signage on the bar’s brick exterior reads “Fried Chicken” and “Ice Cold Beer,” and that’s exactly what you can expect: southern-style hot chicken and cheap American lager served in thick, frosty mugs. There’s something familiar and comforting about this Westlake haunt, which skillfully treads the line between homey nostalgia and hokey gimmicks. You won’t find $11 tater tots on the menu, for example, and while you can order a PBR, it won’t come in a brown paper bag for the sake of someone’s idea of “irony.” Instead, you’ve got spicy boiled peanuts and Ruffles—those reliably ridged American snack staples, paired with their equally iconic counterpart of onion dip (we would probably eat Ruffles with onion dip if the kitchen scooped it straight from the Frito-Lay jar, but the thick homemade effort with charred sweet onions and sour cream is certainly an improvement). At Crawfords, there’s no longer the thrill of getting buzzed in the door—as was the case with Linda’s, the previous tenant—but there is the convenience of paying by card, and, once you find parking, an atmosphere that feels effortlessly friendly and relaxed. Renovations certainly didn’t leave this place with that polished “new bar” feeling—partially stripped brick walls, a pool table and deer hunt game, and eclectic but restrained kitsch (think: a canoe hovering over the bar) make Crawfords seem right at home in the neighborhood. Despite its narrow focus, it’s far from a concept bar—it’s just a bar that serves chicken and cheap beer, and that’s more than enough to win our hearts.
Good for: Hanging with your buddies, shooting the shit with the bartenders and throwing back some cheap cold brews. Crawfords proximity to The Bootleg also makes it an ideal stop for pre- and post-show beverages and sustenance.
The scene: Friendly young folks from around the neighborhood seem to dig the cozy and casual ambiance at Crawfords, where the bartenders make a point to learn your name and new acquaintances are easily made. The red pleather booths are large enough to accommodate a big group, but also lend themselves to sharing when the bar gets crowded and seating is scarce. Fortunately, no one seems to mind—they might even share their Ruffles with you.
Drink this: While Crawfords is without question a beer bar, it’s definitely not a craft beer bar—a fact that makes ordering a beverage here refreshingly uncomplicated. There’s a selection of bottles and cans (mostly domestic, nothing fancy) and two beers on tap: Goose IPA ($5) and good old-fashioned Budweiser ($3). There’s also wine, a selection that extends to one red, one white and a sparkling (no word on which pairs best with fried chicken). Don’t make it difficult for yourself: go for an ice-cold Bud in a frosty mug. It is the King of Beers, after all.
Our tip: When the time comes to grub down, order the hot chicken. You get a choice of white meat or dark meat, but both come with crispy skin and a subtle heat that balances perfectly with your beer. The baked beans, which are slow-cooked with bacon and a delectable Coca-Cola barbecue sauce, make the ideal accompaniment.