At the risk of stating the obvious, Houstonians love crawfish. Whether traditional Cajun or new-school Vietnamese, the residents of the Bayou City peel tails and suck heads as fast as restaurants all over the city can boil them.
Some people are so obsessed that they're willing to eat small, early season specimens and pay prices that reach $10 per pound. That makes sucking down five pounds as expensive as a prime steak.
This year's list has been crafted from a combination of personal scouting, consultations with local crawfish hounds and the passionate recommendations of CultureMap readers.
Thankfully, the end of a surprisingly dreary winter means that supplies are finally starting to increase. Prices have dipped down to less than $7 per pound, which means wholesale prices are low enough that a few places are running all-you-can-eat specials, and, even better, the average size is up, too.
This year's list has been crafted from a combination of personal scouting, consultations with local crawfish hounds and the passionate recommendations of CultureMap readers. It is not meant to be comprehensive; rather, it serves as a supplement to last year's wildly popular list of top 10 crawfish places.
Without further ado, our 2015 guide to where to get your crawfish on.
This Heights newcomer opened at the very end of crawfish season 2014 — too late for most people to try it — but, after briefly playing host to the Bird House fried chicken pop-up, it's coming back strong this year. Like The Boot, the owners are Louisiana natives who source high quality crawfish straight from the bayou. However, the restaurant's small footprint means the menu is focused almost entirely on mudbugs. That's OK, because these spicy specimens are highly addictive. If the limited seating isn't for you, order via drive thru and enjoy at home.
Formerly known as the Shady Tavern, this somewhat shabby Heights restaurant is owned by Louisiana natives who know the secret to great crawfish starts with a proper soak and thoroughly seasoning the boil. The results speak for themselves in crawfish that have a lip-tingling spice in every tail and deliver a jolt of flavor in the heads. Non-crawfish eaters will find a lot to like here, too, thanks to some of the best po-boys and gumbo in the city.
Crawfish & Beignets
Despite the name, this crawfish joint in the Hong Kong Mall hasn't served beignets in years. Still, the traditional Cajun style crawfish — none of that newfangled garlic butter here — packs a substantial punch. Besides, the thrill of discovery accompanies any trip to the mall.
Crawfish Cafe is another Chinatown spot that offers a few different flavors. Spice fans will want to indulge in the Thai basil, while those seeking a slightly sweeter approach should consider the house special mix of garlic butter and lemon pepper. Salt and pepper wings, boudain balls and crawfish eggrolls are all worth ordering, too.
The former Que Huong has a new life as one of the hottest destinations for crawfish near Chinatown. The house special seasoning is a mix of Vietnamese-style garlic butter and traditional Cajun with a few secret ingredients (cumin, maybe?) that make for a particularly addictive mix. The combo platter of crawfish, shrimp and crab offers plenty of variety at a reasonable price. Raw and roasted oysters and Vietnamese egg rolls are also worth ordering.
88 Boiling Crawfish & Seafood
The word is already out about this tiny Chinatown-style crawfish joint in the Westchase area on Briar Forest, which means a combination of small size and high demand that can spike the time it takes to land a table. Still, the "88 Special" seasoning mix that blends traditional Cajun spices, lemon pepper and garlic butter keeps diners coming back for more. Those in a hurry may want to take advantage of the drive-thru. Reasonable prices and friendly service only add to the appeal.
Fans of this west side Cajun restaurant made it the most recommended addition to last year's list, and it's easy to see why. Credit the classic Cajun seasoning and diverse menu of non-crawfish options. Cheap drinks during happy hour make leaving the office early especially tempting.
It's a little bit hard to tell whether this Facebook post about Jolynn moving to Vietnam is serious, but the crawfish at her namesake restaurant are no laughing matter. The restaurant's boil is slightly sweeter than other restaurants (usually credited to orange juice); that twist means big crowds, especially on the weekends. Go during the week or expect a wait.
When the weather is nice, the sprawling patio of this Richmond Strip institution may be one of the most pleasant places in the city. Round up some friends to split buckets of beer and platters of crawfish while basking in the sunshine. The traditional cajun seasoning is spicy, but not overwhelmingly so, and the mix of fried seafood and Tex-Mex options are solid alternatives.
This small restaurant along the Washington Corridor may no longer be known as the Mardi Gras Grill, but it's still a prime spot for crawfish — just be sure to check prices before committing to a big order. However, unlike most of the spots on this list, the craft beer selection is solid and very reasonably priced, as in pints of Saint Arnold for only $5. As with its sister restaurant on Chimney Rock, the Cajun seafood options are generally solid, especially if they're fried.
Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in comments section below.