Every day is a festival in Louisiana. Literally. The soulful, sultry Bayou State in the southern U.S. boasts of more than 400 festivals annually. And just as Carnival (January 6th-Ash Wednesday) winds down it’s time for another season: crawfish season! Known as crayfish outside of the linguistically-dynamic borders of Louisiana, these freshwater crustaceans are at their best from March until June. Similar to an American Barbecue, the people of southern Louisiana typically eat these tasty “mudbugs” at a crawfish boil: a large social gathering often in someone’s backyard where live crawfish are boiled in massive pots full of heavily spiced water, usually with garlic, cayenne, lemons, salt and pepper. In fact, Louisiana produces 90% of the crawfish in the world, 70% of which is consumed in the state. Popular items to boil along with the crawfish include sausage, potatoes, mushrooms, artichokes, and whole garlic. Once done boiling and soaking, this cornucopia of spicy delectables is poured out onto a large table covered in newspaper, and finally covered in a last round of freshly-squeezed lemon juice. Then its time to “belly up” to the table and chow down.
Although the meat inside the tail of the crawfish is the real prize, it is quite common, encouraged in fact, to suck the spiced juices from the head as well. So if you find your self lucky enough to end up in a backyard in southern Louisiana elbow to elbow with locals, staring down at a pile of bright red crawdads and someone asks if you “suck the head after pinching the tail”, don’t be offended, they’re just being nice.
For travelers to New Orleans without the luxury of a local contact, here are 6 places to grab some boiled crawfish and one place to try if you can’t make it to the Big Easy. And remember, crawfish go great with a cold pilsner, amber-bodied beer, or chilled Sauvignon Blanc.
- Lucy’s Retired Surfers’ Bar: Located in the Warehouse District, this spot has long been a favorite happy hour spot for the working crowd, especially on Friday’s. During crawfish season Lucy’s does a boil every Sunday from 4:00 until they’re gone.
- Yo Mama’s Bar and Grill: Just off Bourbon St. Yo Mama’s has a lot going for it: cheaper beer, great hamburgers, close to Bourbon, 60 + varieties of Tequila…and of course, crawfish. They do a boil during the season from Friday to Sunday starting at 12:30 until about 7:00.
- Acme Oyster House: The NOLA classic serves up boiled crawfish everyday while they are in season.
- Franky and Johnny’s: Located in the Uptown area of the city (up the river from the French Quarter) this is where the locals go for award-winning boiled crawfish when they’re not cooking them at home. Their solid menu features other New Orleans favorites like po-boys, muffulettas and homemade bread pudding. This place epitomizes the neighborhood bar and boasts a classic jukebox that only plays 45s. Dancing allowed.
- Big Fisherman Seafood: Sells boiled crawfish by the pound for you to take away. Prices vary each season for a variety of reasons, but will generally fall between $3.50-$4.50/lb. Because the peeling, pinching and sucking motions necessary do not lend themselves to eating “on the go”, try the bar across the street (next).
- Rouses Supermarkets: Based out of the city of Thibodaux, Louisiana, in the heart of Cajun country, is Rouses Supermarket with locations all over southern Louisiana and Mississippi. They sell hot, boiled crawfish by the pound everyday from 11am-7pm, and at a price that will beat any sit-down joint. However, their beautiful, brand-new store in downtown New Orleans (701 Baronne St) has several areas to sit down and eat your crawfish. Don’t forget cold beer though.
- Recommended! Deanie’s French Quarter: The original in Bucktown has been a New Orleans favorite for decades. Now they have opened up a brand new location in the French Quarter that serves up delicious seafood including a spicy and succulent crawfish boil.
- Now for those of you who are not able to make it to New Orleans you can try Pappadeaux. This seafood kitchen has a few locations throughout the USA, which have a crawfish boil a couple of times weekly. Check their website www.Papadeaux.com for locations and days of the week.
Enjoy this video of how to eat the crawdaddies!
For those of you that are not able to make it to NOLA for the Crawfish season make sure you check out the great activities including a Running with the Bulls in the French Quarter put on my NOLA Bulls. Check out their link here.