Kelley Wrigley and her husband Lee Clack opened Kudzu Seafood in downtown Macon in early 2015. It was big jump for what was once just a local catering company.
In Sept. 2019, Kudzu took another major leap by moving to a larger location in downtown Macon complete with a rooftop bar and more seating than what the former location had. The goal was to create a destination unlike any other in other in the Middle Georgia area.
“We were able to create a unique space that really doesn’t exist downtown,” Wrigley said. “That was kind of our vision.”
From the start, Clack’s mission was to bring his roots of coastal seafood to the Middle Georgia. Clack, a native of Mobile, Alabama, created a menu that reflects the things that he grew up eating.
“It is what he and his mom grew up cooking and eating,” Wrigley said. “We are not cajun, we are just Gulf Coast seafood.”
Clack moved to the Middle Georgia area after college to help a friend start a restaurant. Wrigley, a Macon native, said the pair met on blind date. The two left Middle Georgia for Asheville, North Carolina, where they lived for nearly five years. Wrigley’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer which prompted a move back to Macon.
“Macon has always been my hometown,” Wrigley said. “Lee has had to transplant here for me.”
For 12 years, the pair ran a catering business and eventually jumped into the restaurant business. They ran both simultaneously before selling the catering business all together in August 2017.
With the success of the original location, they began exploring options for additional restaurants. Instead, they opted to create one bigger, better location in the downtown area, a place that Wrigley said has always been an important part of her life.
“I went to high school at Mount de Sales downtown, I took ballet lessons for 20 years downtown,” she said. “It is nice to then be a part of the revitalization of downtown, being a hometown person.”
The space took a little longer to get ready than Wrigley and Clack initially anticipated but are glad to finally be able to share their creation with customers. Wrigley said feedback has been good so far and they already have plenty of new regulars, something that they don’t take for granted.
“It makes my heart happy. This was a huge undertaking,” Wrigley said. “Sometimes that hard work and vision pays off. I think Lee and I have been able to create and we built and they are coming.”
BEHIND OUR REPORTING
What is Foodie Friday?
Foodie Friday is a bi-weekly series by Positively 478 and the Telegraph that highlights the robust and diverse food and restaurant scene in Middle Georgia. Reporter Justin Baxley is a Macon native who wants to try a little of everything the area has to offer. We choose restaurants at random, pay for the meals and don’t tell managers we’re reviewing until the meal is over. If you have a suggestion for a Foodie Friday profile, email Justin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kudzu has a wide variety of starters including fried crab claws and fried buffalo bites. Most of the options are fried so we settled on the fried crawfish boudin with a remoulade sauce.
These boudin bites were one of the stars of the meal. It is light enough that you still have room for your main entree but the flavor in these really pack a punch. Jenna’s reaction to her first bite sums it up best: “It’s mushy goodness.”
Even those who aren’t big on crawfish can enjoy the bites as there isn’t an overwhelming flavor. The mixture in the fried boudin balls is spot on in terms of not letting one element overshadow the others.
Often times the issues with the appetizers are the portion sizes. It was a shareable size that really fit the pacing of the meal as there was a relatively short time gap between it and the main entrees.
The menu centers around their seafood dishes and features various baskets and platters including oysters, scallops, grouper, soft shell crab and shrimp. For those looking to go outside the traditional baskets, there are shrimp burgers, salmon burgers, po’boys and various seafood tacos.
I opted for the shrimp platter. Again, they nailed portion size of this dish as it felt like just the right amount with the two side dishes that came with it. The shrimp were lightly battered and seasoned well.
Being in landlocked Middle Georgia, it isn’t always easy to find good, fresh-tasting shrimp like this. The remoulade sauce was delicious and the cocktail sauce provided a nice kick. However, the shrimp themselves were tasty enough without the dipping sauces. The batter wasn’t too heavy, but it had some spices that brought out the best in the shrimp. It was also piping hot when it arrived at the table.
Jenna went with the grouper basket. The plate was filled with grouper filets — more than expected, which led to lots of leftovers. The batter was well-seasoned and hugged the filet, making for a crispy texture on the outside that complemented the fish.
The size of the platters and baskets makes Kudzu a great value when it comes to price versus quantity. It also is great date spot as it is affordable but feels like a nice night out destination.
Kudzu offers an extensive beer menu with lots of Georgia-brewed beers. There are plenty of options to pair with your favorite seafood dish.
They offer a small selection of sides that includes green bean salad, blue cheese slaw, kudzu chips, cheese grits, jambalaya hush puppies with the ability to upgrade to a salad or a cup of gumbo or jambalaya.
Baskets come with one side while the platters come with two. Jenna went with the cheese grits while I grabbed the jambalaya hush puppies, or “jam pups,” and a cup of gumbo.
The grits were thick and full of cheese. It didn’t need any additional salt or pepper. Jenna said that she feels it is hard to mess up cheese grits but was impressed with these. It also paired well with the fish or the shrimp.
The jam pups are a creation by Lee himself. They’re made of shrimp, sausage and rice deep-fried like a hush puppy in a cheddar panko batter. These were easily one of the tastiest parts of the meal. It is a creative take on the traditional hush puppy, something I am not typically a fan of as they aren’t seasoned enough or often dry. But Kudzu avoids all those pitfalls.
The gumbo was good and provided a hearty side dish to a relatively light fried meal. Overall, each side dish feels very intentional and blends well with the entrees they offer.
Fried shrimp platter: $16.95
Fried crawfish boudin: $8.50
Fried grouper basket: $10.50
Location: 512 Poplar Street
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 11:00am – 9:00pm; Friday-Saturday, 11:00am – 10:00pm; Sunday, 11:00am – 3:30pm. Closed on Mondays.
Price range: $4-$20