Story and Photography by Karen Ott Mayer
The crowds have followed Billy Crumley to his new restaurant in Hernando for fresh crawfish and a friendly atmosphere.
Anyone who has eaten crawfish at Billy’s Crawfish in north Mississippi most likely knows Billy Crumley – and probably has a good story about him. Originally from North Carolina, he came to Hernando, Mississippi, in 1985 via Anchorage, Alaska, where he spent many years.
Direct with a biting sense of humor, Crumley is known in the area as the Crawfish King and the default cook for many fundraisers, especially for the DeSoto County Sheriff’s department where he spent 17 years.
Today, however, he’s wearing a new hat as the owner of Crossroads Seafood. Located nearly under the new I-69 bridge that crosses Highway 51 just north of Hernando, the new restaurant opened in April and offers a lunch and dinner menu, a full bar, live music and a steady stream of his loyal following.
Crumley knows his crawfish and how much people love them. He sources his crawfish from Louisiana and knows a good one when he sees it.
“Crawfish is seasonal from December to July. During peak season, I sell 500 sacks of crawfish,” he says. “People always say the best ones have a straight tail, but I don’t think that’s true. I’ve tried all kinds and I think that’s a myth.”
Crumley runs Crossroads Seafood in partnership with his daughter Taylor Bell, the general manager.
“The restaurant world is hectic but fun. I enjoy meeting all the new people,” says Bell.
While Crumley loves the food business, he laughs when asked about the reason for opening the restaurant.
“I think because I am crazy,” he says.
Crazy or not, Crumley not only opened the restaurant but also tackled the abandoned building which sat covered in vines and behind shrubs for the better part of a decade and long before the new interstate arrived.
“I gutted the building in August 2017 and finished up in February 2018. We did most all of the work ourselves,” he says.
Those who have lived in Hernando prior to the recent growth know the old building. “This building was Howard Love’s bar and grill at one time,” explains Crumley.
Maybe cooking is just in his blood as his parents owned a restaurant in Atlanta when he was growing up. The menu itself is classic Southern seafood in many ways. Appetizers include gator nuggets, fried pickles, crawfish tails, and Billy’s own Gator Roll-Ups.
“Everything here is named Billy for some reason,” he says, again with a laugh. The Gator Roll-ups are his own creation and include alligator, jalapeno peppers, cream cheese and bacon. Billy has his own Cajun batter and Cajun spice mixture, which is found in many of the dishes. Favorite dishes are marked in red on the menu and include the Crawfish Dip, the Shrimp Po’ Boy, the Gator Roll-Ups, and gumbo.
A casual atmosphere that feels like a mixture of a diner and roadside grill, the restaurant fits everyone from a young family with kids to the working professional. It’s just that kind of place where everyone may know someone. On one evening, Scott Paton and Shirley May sat together listening to the live music. They’ve known Crumley for years.
“We’ve been here about three times since he’s opened, and there’s nothing we don’t like on the menu,” says May. They are, however, partial to the catfish. Although they live in Southaven where plenty of restaurants abound, they enjoy the friendly familiarity. “It’s also nice to have live music,” says Paton.
The couple says they too have followed the proverbial Crumley crawfish trail as he’s served people all over the county. When Crumley sees the couple, he laughs and shakes his head as they all joke with each other.
Another Crumley friend sits at the bar, relaxing and enjoying a drink. The pair spars back and forth. “We’ve known each other for more than 40 years,” laughs Crumley.
Crossroads Seafood is open for both lunch and dinner. Two kitchen managers, Marcus Dlugach and Mario Dockery, split time serving customers throughout the day. Lunch specials include a grilled chicken salad and classic Po’boys. A Crossroads favorite is the Shrimp Po’boy, served either fried or boiled.
“You can actually order anything from the menu for lunch or dinner. We can serve lunch in less than 30 minutes for the working crowd,” says Crumley, who notes the restaurant offers a 10 percent discount for all law enforcement.
Crossroads has a large outdoor seating area which Crumley is still developing and hopes to cover. In addition to live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the restaurant also hosts the Battle of the Bands all day on certain Saturdays. “We also have karaoke on Wednesday nights.”
While the restaurant is new, it feels as if it’s been there for a long time. Maybe it’s the friendly atmosphere or the fact that people know each other. Combine that with the fresh seafood and it is likely Crossroads Seafood will become a neighborhood fixture… just like Crumley himself.