As many people have likely noticed, crawfish season is in full swing. Houstonians have flocked to their favorite restaurants to peel tails and suck heads.
Even though the end of February and beginning of March are typically early, the good news is that this winter's mild weather means that sizes are already good and prices are starting to come down. Expect to pay about $7/lb most places, but a few places are already down to $5/lb.
Unlike styles of cuisine, the restaurants that serve the best crawfish are fairly static from year to year. Once a place establishes itself, it typically continues to execute at a high level. With that in mind, this year's list draws from data collected in 2014 and 2015 — two articles that remain incredibly popular with CultureMap readers — while also adding a couple of newcomers that devoted crawfish hounds probably wish weren't in this article.
After all, increased exposure decreases the likelihood they'll be able to walk in and grab a table without waiting. In the middle of Houston's annual crawfish craze, that's a good and valuable thing.
Now at five Houston-area locations (with a sixth on the way), BB's Cafe is one of Houston's favorite destinations for Cajun-style crawfish. The boil delivers enough lip-tingling spice without being totally overwhelming. The Heights location remains the most popular, but motivated diners can duck some of the crowd by heading to the Greenway Plaza location.
Bayou City Seafood & Pasta
Admittedly, this Galleria-area favorite isn't the cheapest option (7.99/lb, includes corn and potatoes), but diners pack the place for its consistently large, well-seasoned crawfish. Well-priced happy hour specials and an extensive menu of non-crawfish options mean that everyone should find something they'll enjoy.
After bursting onto the scene in 2014, this super casual restaurant has emerged as one of the most popular crawfish destinations in The Heights. While that can mean waiting for a table to open up on weekends, the authentic Louisiana seasoning that delivers flavorful tails and a rush of spice when sucking the head is worth a little inconvenience. High-quality po'boys provide an alternative, but maybe those are better left for non-crawfish months.
It's been a favorite of devoted crawfish fans for long enough that word is definitely out, but the well-seasoned bugs are worth the wait. A Thai-style boil that's loaded with basil and green onion and the "Kitchen Special" that utilizes citrus and onions help set this place apart from other Chinatown spots. Keep an eye on Facebook for specials like buy 6 lbs get one free — perfect for dinner for two (or a very hungry one).
Crawfish & Noodles
Still the standard by which all Viet-Cajun crawfish are measured against, Andrew Zimmern featured this Chinatown restaurant on the Houston episode of his show Bizarre Eats. The signature garlic butter flavor remains a good choice, but save room for bo luc lac or the expertly fried chicken wings.
For crawfish connoisseurs, making the hour-ish drive to Crosby and waiting in line is their version of driving to Pearland for Killen's Barbecue. Like Killen's, devotees are rewarded for their patience with delicious, large mudbugs. BYOB policy and $1 off for buying 10 lbs or more definitely encourages making the sojourn a group activity.
The Hideaway on Dunvale
This classic neighborhood bar in west Houston serves crawfish every day, but they sell 5 lbs for only $20 on Wednesdays and Sundays. These days that's a bona fide steal. If going on a Sunday, get there early. When the weekly blues jam session fires up around 2, seats become scarce. Even more appealing, the build your own boil option allows diners to add corn, mushrooms, potatoes, or sausage to the mix.
From humble beginnings inside the 99 Ranch Market grocery store on I-10, this restaurant has grown to six locations across the Houston-area (with more on the way) as well as locations in San Antonio and Austin. Three flavors of crawfish, a whopping nine flavors of chicken wings, and the signature crawfish pho all help explain why LA Crawfish has become the city's most popular Viet-Cajun destination.
Mr Crawfish & More
A devoted CultureMap reader describes this restaurant as his hidden gem of 2016. In particular, Mr Crawfish benefits from being BYOB and having friendly service that ensures each order arrives quickly. All three flavors earn raves, as does the fried shrimp basket.
Now with three locations, this Chinatown favorite only has two flavors, garlic butter and wild Cajun (featuring fresh scallions), but they're both delicious. An extensive menu of well-executed Cajun fare — everything from boudin balls and fried alligator to beignet strips — provides appealing alternatives to boiled seafood. Just leave room for an order or two of the fish sauce wings. Keep an eye on Facebook for specials. In February, crawfish only cost $4.99/lb from 12 to 4 pm.
Where are your favorite places to find crawfish? Let us know in the comments.