Mudbugs is a bar, and it's far from fancy.
But owner Mike Clyde thinks he can attract customers with his housemade jambalaya, red beans and rice, po'boys, etouffee, crawfish bisque, gumbo and other Cajun food.
"We have fresh muffulettas every day," he said. "I make them with aged olive salad, ham, pastrami and Genoa salami layered with provolone and mozzarella, and the bread comes from Vitale's on the Hill."
Mike, 52, of Caseyville, has operated Mike's Heating and Air for 31 years, but he always wanted to own a restaurant.
He leased the building that used to house Killian's in Caseyville and turned it into Mudbugs Bar & Grill. (Mudbug is another name for crawfish.)
"I like to cook, and I love Cajun food," Mike said. "We used to go to New Orleans three or four times a year."
Mike calls Tabasco the "nectar of the gods." He has 14 different kinds at home for seasoning eggs, pizza, just about everything.
On a recent Saturday night, customers Bill and Jessica Beerst were sitting at the Mudbugs bar, sharing alligator bites, fried pickles and Cajun chips with housemade remoulade sauce.
The couple used to spend more time at the Broadway Oyster Bar in St. Louis and Gulf Shores restaurant in Creve Coeur, Mo.
"We don't have to go across the river anymore for Cajun food," said Bill, 61, of Collinsville. "We come here. It's close to home."
At the other end of the bar, Judy Duhr was having a gin and Squirt with friends Joan Dietz and Doug Baldus.
Joan, 46, of Collinsville likes the Mudbugs remoulade sauce.
"I dip everything in it," she said. "It's not too hot, but it's got a zing to it. It's tangy. It's so good."
Judy's favorite items on the menu are sweet-potato fries and bacon-wrapped jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and andouille sausage. She also comes for 35-cent hot wings on Wednesdays.
"Everybody likes the food here," said Judy, 50, of Collinsville. "Where else can you get a grown-up grilled cheese that's deep-fried with bacon?"
Mudbugs opened Sept. 16. Mike plans to host crawfish boils starting mid- to late January, when they're in season.
Bartenders include his sons, Dan, 31, and Taylor, 22. The bar has live bands from 9 p.m. Saturdays to 1 a.m. and open-mike blues jams from 7 to 11 p.m. Sundays, as well as a pool table, dart board, foosball and Golden Tee simulated golf.
Mike offers a few non-Cajun menu items, such as half-pound burgers. But he couldn't resist giving at least one of them the New Orleans treatment.
"We have a terrific Cajun burger," he said. "It has deep-fried jalapenos on it with habanero cheese and remoulade."
At a glance
What: Mudbugs Bar & Grill
Where: 605 N. Main St. in Caseyville
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays (bar open until 2 a.m. daily)
Seating: About 35
Information: Call 618-855-9035 or visit the Facebook page
On the menu
Red Beans and Rice -- Red beans, spices, celery and green peppers with ham and andouille sausage over a bed of long-grain wild rice. Served with original or jalapeno corn bread ($5.95).
Crawfish Bisque -- Signature dish with housemade roux and the Southern trinity of green peppers, onions and celery simmered with spices and crawfish. Served with Crawfish Boulettes ($7.50).
Gator Bites -- Alligator chunks from the finest tail meat, hand-battered and fried. Served with housemade remoulade for dipping ($5.95).
Shrimp or Crawfish Jambalaya -- A Cajun favorite of seasoned andouille sausage, crushed tomatoes, long-grain rice and spices ($5.95).
Cajun Burger -- Half-pound ground beef with hand-battered and fried jalapenos, habanero cheese and housemade remoulade sauce on a toasted bun. Served with choice of fries ($6.75).