Jonathan Klug, longtime owner and chef of Crawdaddy’s in West Allis and current co-owner of Crawdaddy’s Roadhouse, has died.
Klug, age 51, passed away on Tuesday morning, even as paczki flew off the shelves of local bakeries and revelers lifted up their hurricanes in preparation for the last celebratory feast before Lenten season.
In the end, he couldn’t have picked a more appropriate day to leave this earth.
Klug was a graduate of the culinary program at Waukesha County Technical College. For over 20 years, he dedicated his career to Cajun and creole food, first at the original Crawdaddy’s on 64th and Greenfield (which opened in 1995), then for a short time on 94th and Greenfield, and finally at Crawdaddy’s Roadhouse, which opened last summer. And every year, Klug hosted one of the best Mardi Gras celebrations in the Cream City.
Mardi Gras made Klug happy. But so did making food. I recall meeting him for the first time at his restaurant on 64th Street. He didn’t know me, nor I him. But he stopped by my table and earnestly asked what I thought of his food. Fast forward twenty years and I was sitting with him at a coffee shop in West Allis and watching as he excitedly told me his plans to open Crawdaddy’s Roadhouse. And I saw the anticipation – and joy – in his face when he previewed the restaurant’s dishes to me before the restaurant’s grand opening.
Klug loved it in the kitchen, and he served his community as a member of the American Culinary Federation. He loved playing with flavors and perfecting dishes. And – even more so – he took great joy from getting to know his customers and making their favorite dishes.
"We had so many regulars …," he said in an interview in 2018. "It got to the point where we knew half the people who walked in the door. We knew what they loved to eat, and we practically had their drinks on the bar by the time they arrived ... I want to do everything in my power to repay those loyal patrons."
And when it came to giving customers what they wanted, he did so in spades with dishes like jambalaya, Gumbo Yaya and stuffed eggplant along with countless seafood dishes, from craw tails and skate wing.
Klug will be missed by many. But his legacy will live on in the food, and the memories created in his restaurants over the last 25 years.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.