Crawfish Season, of course. This is "the best time of the year" if you are a "bug" lover. Spring. The bugs are big and getting bigger. The water is boiling. The air is warm. The beer is cold. This is paradise if you live South of the Red River.
I love crawfish. Love 'em. I'm talking last-meal-on-death-row-love. I would wager that I have eaten tons of crawdaddies in my lifetime. Tons. I never get tired of 'em. In fact, having crawfish is more than eating a meal to me, it's like getting a fix. Truly. I can literally feel the salt and spices coursing into my veins. And I'm all good. Wash 'em down with a cold one and taste satisfaction. Ah.
Now, I am not a Cajun. (I'm from Ohio. Crawdads are bait there.) What's more, I've never even worked in a true crawfish house. So, I won't try to tell you that I know how they should be done. But, I will say that crawfish are a lot like barbeque. Everyone has a different recipe, a different secret. If you tried 20 cajun joints you'd have 20 different flavors. Some sweeter. Some spicier. Some juicy and some dry sprinkled. And each boil tastes different. Not just from day to day, but from one batch to the next.
For that very reason, I can't really answer the question I am so often asked, which is "Who has the best crawfish?" Even within my own family debate rages on this topic. I can tell you, however, the places that my family goes most often during The Season.
- Mardi Gras Grill This place used to be Floyd's. As in, Floyd Landry. I've been eating here for 15 plus years. Donnie, the bartender, has been there for 14. The place has changed names over the years, but the recipe is still the same. I like the spicy hot flavor and the dry rub salt that is dusted over each batch. The size of the bugs can be inconsistent, but the flavor is great. The rest of the menu provides dependable and authentic cajun favorites. Try the dark roux crawfish bisque. The best in town. The atmosphere is dominated by the staff and the regulars, for better or worse. As for service, I say sit at the bar. (Think - icehouse with a full bar and better menu.) I usually eat here when my wife is out of town and I am on my own.
- Ragin Cajun Another Houston institution. We go to the original location on Richmond. This is my daughter's favorite. The crawfish are delicious, but not quite as spicy as I like. They are consistently the largest in town and always of high quality. But then, this is a Mandola restaurant, so what would you expect? The other menu offerings are quite tasty, as well. The restaurant is always clean and the staff is friendly. Easily, the best managed of the three on this list. The only drawback is the counter service. I prefer to be waited on. But that's me.
- Cajun Corner Way out west on Bellaire Blvd. in Asiatown, you'll find a different style of crawfish boil. In fact, they may be steamed and not boiled at all, as that is how this restaurant used to prepare the live lobster and dungeness crab that are no longer available. A tragedy in itself. But the crawfish are available in cajun or spicy garlic (that's right, the cajun ones are milder) and they are worth the drive. Asians, too, have been eating crawfish for years and it shows in this recipe. I don't know what they do differently from the Cajuns, but the flavors are amazing. The rest of the menu, save the fried rice, is suspect and the service is slow. The restrooms are functional at best. Normally, this place would probably make another type of list, but when it comes to crawfish this place is lights out. Incidentally, this is my wife and son's favorite. Hey, it is all about the flavors.
Try these places and let me know what you think. Or, if you have a different favorite, send me a link and I'll try it out. After all, I'm always looking for bigger, better bugs.