Cover Story

Boiled Alive!

by Mary Tutwiler

Written by Mary Tutwiler
Wednesday, 10 March 2010

A roundup of our favorite crawfish patios

Who dat says dere's no crawfish? We can talk about the weather till we're blue in the face, but spring is here, the humidity is coming and the heat is on when it comes to boiled crawfish. Here at The Ind, we've been eating mudbugs all over Acadiana, revisiting old favorites and discovering some new boiling joints.

Written by Mary Tutwiler
Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Who dat says dere's no crawfish? We can talk about the weather till we're blue in the face, but spring is here, the humidity is coming and the heat is on when it comes to boiled crawfish. Here at The Ind, we've been eating mudbugs all over Acadiana, revisiting old favorites and discovering some new boiling joints.

One trend we like is the plethora of drive-thru crawfish huts. Sure, we love to go out, socialize, drink some Dixie and eat till we bust. But we've also discovered the luxury of an at-home crawfish boil without the mess of boiling. On our screen porch, we can relax with our own ice box full of beer, and those folks from Breaux Bridge, who insist on standing up, can feel free to eat on their feet. I asked some Breaux Bridgeans why they prefer to peel standing. One reply was when you stand up you can eat more, but I think, over there in Breaux Bridge, it's just because they don't have enough chairs when all the cousins come over for crawfish.

We worked hard, trying to find out-of-the-way places, but it's like dragging a net. Some fish, somehow, get away. So while we are offering a list of lots of crawfish boiling houses and restaurants that specialize in crawfish, this is not meant to be an all-inclusive list of crawfish places. We're trawling for all the places we haven't found yet. Please, dear eater, chime in. Let us know about your favorite far-flung crawfish hole. The road is long, and there are miles to go before we eat.

3630 Broadview Dr., Erath, 937-8355
Tues-Thurs 5-9 p.m., Fri-Sun, 5-10 p.m., Dine in
Drive through acres of crawfish ponds reflecting the sunset to get to Big John's. Concrete floor, metal crawfish troughs, country music, long neck beer. Big John's is a rustic country place, no primping, which is just the way a crawfish patio should be.

7413 W Hwy. 90, New Iberia, 365-7596
Mon-Thurs 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Fri 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat 3:30-10 p.m., Sun 3:30-9 p.m., Dine in
An institution on Hwy. 90 outside of Broussard, the Boiling Point is one of the original destination crawfish patios. Once upon a time, it only served boiled seafood, but the menu has expanded to fried and grilled seafood platters and poboys as well. Aficionados swear that the fried shrimp is the freshest in Acadiana.

610 E. Kaliste Saloom Rd., Lafayette, 234-4647
Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Dine in
This cozy restaurant and bar tucked away in town on Kaliste Saloom opened this year in the former Hog's Heaven spot. New to the menu is boiled crawfish. Mild or spicy, the basic order includes potatoes. Corn, sausage and button mushrooms are great add-ons. The crawfish have a sweet fresh flavor and are extremely easy to peel, and if the crowd there the night we went is any indication, Café Ahnvee has become a popular spot with the locals.

1928 Charity St., Abbeville, 893-9437
Tues-Sat, bar opens at 4, restaurant at 5-till. Dine in, and be prepared to wait
Cajun Claws purges its crawfish for 24 hours, a technique pioneered by "Hawk" Arceneaux at another crawfish destination, Hawk's in Robert's Cove. That step sets Cajun Claws apart from most of the boiling patios. The crawfish are so clean they look like they've been scrubbed with a toothbrush, and the purging process cleanses away any muddy taste. Cajun Claws' crawfish taste distinctly sweet. Owner Donni Choate boils his crawfish in unsalted water. He says that keeps the shells from sticking to the tail meat, making for easy peeling. The seasoning comes in the second pot, where a mechanical pulley system lifts the full boiling basket and splashes it down into hot seasoned water. About 15 minutes of soaking imbue the crawfish with old-fashioned boiled-in flavor. If you order spicy, you get an extra dose of house-mixed seasoning, sprinkled right onto your order.

139 Tissington St., Lafayette, 234-8001
Mon-Sat 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Pick-up
Chez Francois is the only place we know where you can pick up boiled crawfish for breakfast. Being a seafood market, it also sells sacks of live crawfish, as well as fresh peeled tails. When you buy a bag of tails, you get a cup of fat, an old-fashioned perk that makes the best etouffée in town.

3011 NW Evangeline Thruway., 456-2974
Wed-Fri 5-9 p.m., Sat 1-9 p.m., Sun 1-5 p.m. Drive-thru
David Hardy opened The Claw House Feb. 19, in the parking lot of the Jockey Lot, along I-49 between the Pont de Mouton and Gloria Switch exits. Hardy has a secret seasoning that is dead delicious. The experience begins subtly; you have to eat about three crawfish to let the flavors build in your mouth. There's a nice spice note, perhaps clove, followed by what we think is a jalapeño spike, and finally a cleansing note of lemon. We're not fans of hot hot seasoning because we really like to taste the sweetness of the crawfish, and this seasoning blend complements, rather than overwhelms, the mudbugs.

3233 Moss St., Lafayette, 232-7447
Mon-Fri, 5-9 p.m., Sat & Sun, noon-9 p.m. Drive-thru
In what looks like an old Pizza Hut, Crawfish Station is turning out some of the tastiest mudbugs in town. The crawfish are perfectly seasoned; so were the huge boiled shrimp, and along with the usual sides like corn, onions, sausage and mushrooms, Crawfish Station offers seasoned turkey necks. Turkey necks? We don't know where this tradition comes from - tastes like Thanksgiving, and thanks is what we gave for such good mudbugs.

320 Ridge Rd., Lafayette 216-9955
Dine in and drive-thru
3401 Moss St., Lafayette 236-6129
Both places are open 7 days a week, 5-9 p.m. during the season
Crawfish Time doesn't take call in orders; just go get in line, but the line moves fast, because the crawfish is constantly boiling. An order comes in a strong plastic sack, saving floorboards, and keeps the crawfish steaming till you get home. At the Ridge location, in addition to the more usual sides like onions, mushrooms, sausage and potatoes, you can get a link of boudin. Now you're talking.

2815 Grand Point Hwy., Breaux Bridge, 667-6148
Sun-Thurs 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri & Sat 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Dine in, drive-thru
Purged in well water, Crawfish Town's boiled crawfish are clean and sweet, and the big barn of a restaurant can accommodate entire extended families. But there's a lot more to Crawfish Town, with its award-winning chef, Colt Patin. Patin is putting crawfish into everything on the menu right now from the crawfish enchiladas to a stupendous dish called Bam Breme: fried eggplant, grilled catfish, crab cakes, fried shrimp and fried oysters, stacked over crawfish etouffée.

4800 Johnston St., Lafayette, 981-1241
Mon-Fri, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-8:30 p.m., Sat. 5-9 p.m., Sun 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Dine in
Beloved by Lafayette residents who get their first taste of crawfish at Christmas here, Dwight's expansion of its menu to include raw and now charbroiled oysters has made it a one-stop shop for in-season seafood. Boiled crawfish is served only at dinner, noon is for plate lunches, and Sundays, Dwight's does barbecue.

2601 SE Evangeline Thruway., Lafayette, 264-1263
Mon-Thurs 5-9 p.m., Fri and Sat 5-10 p.m., Sun (crawfish season only), 5-9 p.m. Dine in
Hidden behind an industrial park along the Evangeline Thruway, Gator Cove is a crawfish oasis that somehow manages to feel like it's out in the country. We like the rustic surroundings, and the crawfish are well seasoned.

4404 Hwy. 90 W, New Iberia, 365-9113
7 days a week 4-9:30 p.m. Dine in
Newspaper on tabletops, antiqued wooden chairs, classic panelling, fish trophies on the walls - the Guiding Star looks like the mind's image of a crawfish place. The crawfish here are uniquely and perfectly seasoned with the pepper mash from the Tabasco factory on nearby Avery Island. There's a full fried seafood menu as well, and when crawfish aren't in season, the Guiding Star has some of the best and biggest boiled crabs around.

415 Hawks Rd., Rayne, 788-3266
Wed, Thurs, Sun 5-9 p.m., Fri and Sat, 5-10 p.m. Dine in
Hawk's slogan is "Located in the Middle of Nowhere," and our recent trip reminded us why it's worth the drive. The crawfish were cooked to absolute perfection. Hawk Arceneaux was the first to pick up on Texas A&M purging research when he opened the restaurant back in 1983, and his son Anthony and daughter-in-law Jennifer have taken Pop's concept to a new level, including highway signage that takes the mystery out of finding the place. Easy to peel, tender and sweet, Hawk's offers a distinctive delicacy that's hard to beat.

1201 Jane St., New Iberia, 365-5412
Tues-Thurs, Sun 4-9:30 p.m., Fri and Sat, 4 -10 p.m. Dine in
It takes a local to find this back-street boiled seafood haven, unless you're driving the live-oak shaded highway from St. Martinville to New Iberia. When you're not in the mood for seafood, Jane's has a Chinese menu as well, a great way to discover that eggrolls and mudbugs have a great affinity.

500 Jefferson St., Lafayette, 232-5040
Tues-Sat 5-9 p.m. Dine in
It's about time boiled crawfish came to downtown, and we hail and salute Jefferson Street Pub. Actually, it's teamwork that brought the boiling pots to downtown: caterer Crawdaddies is occupying a corner of the pub's kitchen, putting out steaming orders, while the pub side is supplying 35 beers on tap, including Bayou Teche Brewery's new offering, Highway 31, a pale ale. Local beer, local bugs, what's not to like?

4001 N. University, Carencro, 896-7500
Wed-Sat, 5 p.m. till they run out of crawfish. Drive-thru
Pick up crawfish on your way home, but don't wait too long to try LA Fish Fry's brand of seasoning. The restaurant will only be serving crawfish until Easter.

1312 Verot School Rd., Lafayette, 988-2645
Daily, 5-9 p.m. Dine in and drive-thru
Sit and eat inside the rustic cypress paneled restaurant, or pick up crawfish from the drive thru. You can't call and order; it's first come-first served, so be prepared to sit in your car in line, and on weekend nights, that line backs up all the way around the building - with good reason. The crawfish have a rich buttery flavor, with medium spice, which builds perfectly as you progress through your order. Sides include onions, potatoes, sausage, corn and mushrooms.

9511 Maurice Ave., Maurice, 898-0590
Mon-Fri 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Tues-Sat, 5-9 p.m., Sun, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., 5-8 p.m. Dine in and drive-thru
A huge dining room accommodates a crowd of hungry diners. The big picture windows face west, in the direction of the crawfish ponds south of Maurice and toward the sunset. That's a nice touch in a genre where most crawfish patios are metal buildings with cement floors and the only ambience is the steam emanating from the boiling pots. The crawfish are well seasoned, and platters of fried seafood, crawfish bisque and hushpuppies round out the menu. Sunday lunch is barbecue; crawfish boils at 5 p.m.

3146 Veterans Memorial Drive, Abbeville, 893-6761
Daily, 4:30 till they run out, about 8 p.m. Drive-thru
Opened 26 years ago by the husband and wife team of Cindy and Max Chreene, Maxi-Mart pulls its choice crawfish daily from the family business next door - D&T Crawfish - run by the Chreenes' daughter and son-in-law. Purged and boiled in a pair of screened-in rooms built onto the back of the store, and served out of a drive-thru window painted with crawfish, Maxi-Mart can run through 30 sacks on a busy night. The crawfish are seasoned with a healthy dose of jalapeños, which are sapped of all their heat after boiling and add a subtle sweet flavor to every batch.

1023 Neblett St., Arnaudville, 754-5064
Daily 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. Dine in
Myron's porch overlooks Bayou Teche, and it's the right place to settle in for boiled crawfish. There are eggs for breakfast and a stunningly good shrimp poboy at lunch, but it's boiled crawfish that draws folks in the door, and Myron's is one of the few places that offers boiled seafood at lunch.

1008 Henderson Levee Rd., Henderson, 228-7512
Daily 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m., 10 p.m. weekends. Dine in
A room with a view is half the draw at Pat's, where you can munch on basin-caught crawfish while gazing out at Bayou Amy, or take a postprandial stroll over the levee and look at the vast waters of the Atchafalaya Basin itself. There are lots of reasons to go to Pat's: the huge dance hall where you can dine and two-step, the huge menu with stellar etouffées and whole fried catfish, the spicy Bloody Marys. But the biggest draw is Pat himself. He is a treasure house of political stories told in a rolling Cajun accent. Pat Huval started serving boiled crawfish back in 1952, and at 80 years old, he's still going strong.

209 E. St. Peter, Carencro, 896-3788
Mon-Thurs 5-9 p.m., Fri and Sat 5-10 p.m. Dine in
While Paul's Pirogue has a stellar menu all year round, when the crawfish come into season, mudbugs are the main draw. When the weather is warm, there are tables outside, and you can peel mudbugs in the balmy evening air. Inside hanging nets, stuffed alligators, red checkered table cloths and the spicy scent of boiling pots fill the room. The house special green gumbo, a Lenten favorite, is also in season. Though forget about it on Fridays, as it's full of spicy andouille sausage. Another draw is the fried shrimp poboy, so fresh you can still taste the sweet Gulf spray when you bite in.

#5 Jefferson St., New Iberia, 364-8677
Mon-Sat, 11a.m.-10 p.m. Dine in
With its big outdoor deck overlooking Bayou Teche, Pelicans is located in an ideal spot to enjoy the scenic beauty of the waterway that courses right through New Iberia's historic downtown. Crawfish start boiling at 4 p.m. daily. There's live music several nights a week and a dance on Sundays starting at 3 p.m.

2320 Kaliste Saloom Rd., Lafayette, 981-7080
Mon-Thurs, Sun 5-10 p.m., Fri-Sat 5.-11 p.m. Dine in
Randol's does it its own way, steaming crawfish in the manner of Maryland crabs rather than the usual boil. It makes for a great flavor, and the crawfish are always easy to peel. What also makes for great local flavor is the dance floor; there's a Cajun band nightly, 6:30 to 9:30, and no lack of partners for folks who are longing to two-step. The rest of the menu has a lot of depth, from the award-winning crab cakes to barbecued shrimp and crawfish enchiladas.

1516 S Henry St., Abbeville, 893-1693
Mon-Sat 5 p.m.- till. Dine in
Since 1947, Abbeville's oldest crawfish patio has set the bar for spicy boiled mudbugs. Lines form out the door in the cool evening air, waiting for a turn at the tables, where crawfish arrive in a metal trough with a sliding bar to separate the whole from the headless. The menu has expanded over the years; now crawfish appear in roll-ups, a fried spring roll with crawfish stuffing. But tried and true, it's the boil here, as it always was, that makes Richard's one of the kings of crawfish patios.

999 Parkview Dr., New Iberia, 365-2454
Daily 3:30 -10:30 p.m., Dine in
One of New Iberia's favorite crawfish spots, Seafood Connection has crawfish when no one else does. Wander outside and you can watch a team of experts boiling hundreds of pounds of mudbugs to feed the crowd that fills the large space inside the restaurant. Follow up the boil with some of the super fried seafood.

1704 Ambassador Caffery, Lafayette, 989-8270
Daily 8 a.m. -7:45 p.m. Pick-up
Sonny's market is as basic as it comes; call them up and go pick up the mudbugs. They start boiling at 11 a.m. We like the boxes the crawfish come in, nice sturdy cardboard, with a sheaf of newspaper, which means no puddles of liquid on the floor of your car. We also like the homemade sauce, which you have to know to go grab out of the cooler. Mayo, ketchup, seasoning and a wallop of jalapeño - good dip for the crawfish and even better for the potatoes.

As of this week, an order of boiled crawfish was going for roughly $5 a pound; expect to pay $25 to $30 for 5 pounds. As the weather warms, the prices will drop.