Crawfish season can run anywhere from January to July along the Gulf Coast, but weather plays a big factor. If the winter is a cold one, the season starts a little late. If it’s a dry year, the season ends a little early. Generally speaking, however, peak months for the “mud bugs” are February through April (Mardi Gras, anyone?).
Where to Eat It
The best place to eat crawfish is in someone's backyard during a traditional "crawfish boil." But if your invitation got lost in the mail or you don't want to host one yourself, here are the best places to get your fill:
The Crawfish Shack
With locations in both Crosby (30 minutes from downtown to the northeast) and Magnolia (an hour from downtown to the northwest), it's a bit of a drive, but worth it: The Crawfish Shack is arguably the best place to find crawfish in the whole of the Houston metro. Order your crawfish to your spice level — mild, medium, spicy and meaux (mo') spicy. Check the website for contact information. The address is 5822 FM 2100, Crosby, Texas 77532.
The Boil House
In the absence of a good crawfish boil, this place is a great substitute. Go through the drive through and bring it home, or eat at one of several picnic tables set up outside. Despite its trendy location in the heart of the Heights area, The Boil House is a no-frills kind of place, with just good, perfectly seasoned crawfish available at market price. Bonus: After finishing up your crawfish, you can grab king cake for dessert. The Boil House sells whole king cakes or by the slice from Gambino's Bakery in New Orleans. Yes, please. The address is 606 E 11th Street, Houston, Texas 77008.
BB's offers a Tex-Orleans spin on a Gulf Coast classic for those who are looking for something a little different. The crawfish are boiled with a unique blend of spices that has a little kick to it, with the option of adding more seasoning to the critters before you dive in. With several locations throughout Houston, BB's is a good bet for those who want some decent crawfish without having to drive far to find it.
BB's has several locations throughout Houston. Check the restaurant's website for details.
Houston's home to one of the largest Vietnamese-American communities in the U.S., so, of course, there would be some tasty fusion options available during crawfish season. LA Crawfish — hands down — has the best Cajun-Asian crawfish in Houston. In addition to the standard corn and potatoes side dishes, you can also get some rice to mop up the leftover juices and even hot & sour sauce to dip your crawfish tails in. Bonus: You can even order online
LA Crawfish has locations all of the city. Find details by going to the restaurant's website.
How Much to Order
Boiled crawfish is typically sold by the pound — even at restaurants. A pound of crawfish might sound like a lot, but there isn’t a ton of meat on the critters. Locals who are already adept at extracting the meat (see below) can easily put down six pounds in one sitting, while newbies might call it after a pound or two. A good rule of thumb is 3 to 5 pounds per person — plus plenty of sides, of course.
Ways to Enjoy It
While the standard method is to boil crawfish in a traditional "crawfish boil," there's no shortage of great alternative ways to get your fix without sucking heads (see below). The tail meat can be tossed into any traditional cajun or creole dish, such as gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee or po'boys. But this being Houston, it's also used in Tex-Mex cooking — with tacos or nachos being a local favorite — as well as more standard American cuisine like macaroni and cheese.
Most locals, however, prefer their crawfish straight from the pot, complete with potatoes and corn on the cob — boiled and seasoned with the crawfish, of course.
How to Peel It
For many first-timers, peeling crawfish can be a bit intimidating. But don't worry — with a little practice, anyone can become a pro. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you get started.
Before you begin, know you're going to get really messy. Your fingers will be covered in spices and juice the whole time you're eating — just roll with it! It's part of the experience.
Step 1. Gently twist and pull the tail to separate it from the head. If you’re new to crawfish eating, you might want to start with the biggest crawfish on your platter until you get the hang of it, as bigger crawfish tend to be easier to peel.
Step 2. Suck on the opening of the head. Don’t worry you won’t actually suck out brains. It’s just the broth from the crawfish pot, and it’s delicious.
Step 3. Separate the exoskeleton by applying pressure with your thumbs on the first line of the crawfish’s underside right by the opening. After it cracks, push the sides outward in both directions to completely separate.
Step 4. Extract the meat. Once you crack open the exoskeleton, pinch the fin-like end of the tail, and gently pull out the meat from the other end with a twisting motion.
Step 5. Devein the tail. More often than not, a nasty looking black or grayish line of goo can be found along the tail. Remove it by pressing your thumb down on one side of the vein and pushing it along the meat until the goo scrapes off.
Step 6. Don't forget the claws. The larger crawfish, in particular, will also have meat in the claws. Pull the lower claw down and away with a twisting motion to get at the meat.
Step 7. Enjoy!
Beware of the straight-tail crawfish. When crawfish are alive when they’re cooked, their tails curl. If they’re dead when they get tossed into the pot, their tails will stick straight out, and (this probably goes without saying) they’ll taste horrible. If you see any straight-tailed critters on your platter, toss them.