It is that time of year again that makes Houston feel like its neighbor to the east. The time of year that certain parts of the city smell like Louisiana and hot sauce. The time of the year when it's time to roll up your sleeves and dig in. Yes, it's crawfish season.
Each year between February and June, Houston seafood and cajun cooking establishments are abuzz with cajun fever. Mudbug aficionados and Who Dats alike know better than to partake in crawfish once the suckers get too big to crack or are too small to be concerned with, so when spring rolls around and the crawfish ponds of Louisiana become plentiful, Houstonians know that the city is in for a treat.
The close proximity to the Louisiana border makes Houston a prime spot for Louisiana natives to flock in hopes of filling the big appetites of Houstonians' bellies with cajun goodness while also turning a profit. It is true that the flavor of Houston is influenced in part by great Louisiana traditions, with crawfish being one of the best tastes of Houston culture.
The good news is, one need not take the long slow drive down I-10 East in order to get a hearty helping of crawdads. The places listed below along the Richmond Strip (i.e. "Crawfish Way") are in full gear for the season and are currently serving up medium sized crawfish for lovers of the bugs. The season was delayed due to the unusually colder climates hitting the Gulf Coast this year, but now is the perfect time to enjoy some 'bugs.
1) Ragin Cajun - 4302 Richmond Avenue: If it's the Acadiana atmosphere and good smells of cajun cooking that you love, this is the place for you. Sitting in an unassuming shack of a building just North of the train tracks, you can't miss the place due to the oversized crawfish sitting atop the roof welcoming hungry guests. Known for its "crawfish sludge", the mudbugs here are cooked fresh in a darker seasoning which is hot in more ways than one. If it's a different flavor that you crave, this is the place for you. Wash it down with a frozen Hurricane and you are sure to send your head spinning. A 3.5 lb. bucket will set you back at least $21.00 (higher prices this year due to the colder weather at the beginning of the year) but when you get caught up in the zydeco playing overhead and after five sips of Hurricane, you are sure to go back for more.
2) Sam's Boat - 5720 Richmond Avenue: Once boasting the "spiciest crawfish in town" Sam's Boat is a staple for crawdad lovers all over the city. The patio is generally full of crawfish virgins and seasoned vets alike mulling over the boiled goodness. If you aren't a fan of spice, ask for the topping on the side and season to taste. But if you don't mind sending your mouth on a spicy little vacation, get them all the way.
3) Bayou City Seafood - 4730 Richmond Avenue: Don't let this place fool you. It sits in a strip center aside the best barbecue joint in town, Luling City Market, and a well known chinese/vietnamese joint. Refuse to be turned away by the throngs of well-heeled folks going into this establishment or the ten gallon hats going in for 'cue next door. What is in store for you inside this place is fantastic. Sit in the bar area and chat up the waitstaff who do everything but peel the crawfish for you. The crawfish do not disappoint, but beware, they are so popular that the restaurant may run out on a busy day leaving you hungry and helpless.
A taste of the swamp is here for at least a few months, so find your favorite table in the city, roll up your sleeves and dig in.