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Crazy for Crawfish

The Seafood Shoppe does mudbugs the right way.

It's like clockwork: Every year when crawfish season comes around, Houston loses its damn mind.

We spring from our homes like crazed cuckoos in search of the best per-pound deals on mudbugs all around town. We text our friends or post Facebook updates when we find those increasingly elusive $5.99-a-pound crawfish at local bars or holes-in-the-wall. The red-and-white tails start to make cameo appearances in our other favorite foods: in enchiladas at Cyclone Anaya's, for example, or in pho at LA Crawfish.

We queue up and wait patiently for two hours at The Boiling Crab or Crawfish & Noodles, our characteristic impatience placated temporarily by the promise of crawfish to come. We sign up to attend charity events that we would otherwise ignore, solely because they're offering all-you-can-eat crawfish with the price of admission. We turn into sweat-and-cayenne-streaked cretins, our cuticles inflamed, our lips blistered and our shirts covered in crawfish shrapnel that we wear like war medals.

These crawfish are boiled in well-seasoned water.
Troy Fields
These crawfish are boiled in well-seasoned water.

Location Info

Map

Seafood Shoppe

10555 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77042-3521

Category: Restaurant > Cajun

Region: Memorial

Details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 9 p.m. Sundays.
Crawfish: $7.50/pound
Fried calamari: $8.95
Fried trio: $9.95
Jambalaya: $9.95
Shrimp étouffée: $12.95
Rich Man's Platter: $18.95


READ MORE
SLIDESHOW: Crazy for Crawfish at The Seafood Shoppe
BLOG POST: How to Eat Crawfish (with Video)


It's a glorious, messy madness that I wouldn't trade for all the clambakes or lobster rolls in the world. Because although crawfish are a decidedly Louisianan seafood, Houstonians have embraced the crustaceans as though they were our very own.

At The Seafood Shoppe one recent Saturday afternoon, Houstonians of every stripe were busy breaking off tails and sucking heads. Hispanic drag queens sat at one table, an older, patrician couple at another. Yuppies filled up a section of tables in what appeared to be a joint baby shower/crawfish-eating spree. Young black girls listened to their iPods with headphones while they ate. A couple of Vietnamese men drank beers at the bar while they waited for their bugs to boil.

And I was nearly face-down in a stainless-steel bowl that had — until very recently — held two pounds of The Seafood Shoppe's boiled crawfish. The crawfish were all gone, torn through in only 30 short minutes. But they were some of the best I'd had all season.
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During crawfish season — which runs roughly from Mardi Gras until summer starts getting unbearable around mid-June — The Seafood Shoppe offers extended hours. It's a very smart move, and could be one of the reasons that the restaurant is rarely overcrowded.

"This is our secret spot," I overheard one of the yuppie baby shower attendees say to her friends about the restaurant, which resembles a hybrid Vietnamese-Texan sports bar, complete with large flat-screen TVs and Budweiser merchandise lining the walls. "It's a diamond in the rough!"

And a diamond it is: I've yet to have a bad batch of crawfish at The Seafood Shoppe, where all of the crawfish have been of a respectable size on the small end and the size of an adolescent lobster on the large end. They're boiled correctly here, too. That is to say, the crawfish are boiled in well-seasoned water — not boiled independently in a large pot of plain water with seasonings dumped on top before serving.

Sadly, you have to order the crawfish platter if you want corn and potatoes; order by the pound, and you won't get these traditional accoutrements. You can get deep-fried corn on the cob on the side, but I wouldn't. The breading ruins the corn. And they're $7.50 a pound right now — with a two-pound minimum order enforced — which is a bit on the expensive side for crawfish. But they're worth it because they're consistently large and well-seasoned.

That's the main complaint I've heard among my Cajun friends about the rise of the Vietnamese crawfish joints in Houston: improper seasoning methods. But The Seafood Shoppe — which is Vietnamese-owned and also serves distinctly Cajun food like jambalaya and gumbo — is doing it right, with a "dirty" boil of garlic, butter, lemon and heavy handfuls of cayenne pepper, which can be adjusted to suit your spice tolerance levels.

I'm a fan of the regular "spicy" level at The Seafood Shoppe, although I hear far more people ordering mild around me when I'm there. If you're a spicehound, though, rest assured that it can get hotter: just ask for "extra spicy," and for God's sake don't touch your eyes for a few hours after eating.

You'll be a disaster after eating, naturally, but at least your shirt can be salvaged (if you want it to be): The kind waitresses here will tie a plastic bib around your neck, moving your hair out of the way as if you were in a salon, whether you ask them to or not. Just let them.

Because if you're eating crawfish properly, there's really no way that at least a few drops of the boil won't be splattered on you from forehead to navel: Break the hard shell open, remove the carapace and get at that soft, orange, uni-like brain matter in the crawfish's tiny head. Suck it all up — every last jiggling, briny bite of it — and then move on to the tail. The meat there is juicy, sweet, plump and abundantly spicy.
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I'm not sure if The Seafood Shoppe uses that same tail meat in its fried crawfish dishes, but they're simply not as good. In fact, I haven't been a huge fan of any of the fried seafood I've tried here: From crab claws to alligator, from calamari to shrimp, almost all of it is overcooked, and the alligator especially is quite tough.

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15 comments
ostiones
ostiones

There's a place in town called My Place. At My Place, crawfish are 2.99 a pound or less, not 7 or 8 bucks. There is a small 2 dollar or so surcharge for seasoning, but no tax and twenty percent tips. Corn and potatos are cheap. Modelo Especials are less than a dollar each, not three or four bucks. The music and or movies are great. The only downside is you have to bus your on table and do the dishes. Recreational drugs optional.

ALG
ALG

Love the first sentence. So true.

Fejsplace
Fejsplace

" and for God's sake don't touch your eyes for a few hours after eating.That is the least of your problems,just be careful and don't touch yourself when you have to go pee!

Woodlands Mama
Woodlands Mama

Come Crawfish Season, I miss my hometown so much!! Houston cannot compare to crawfish in Louisiana with size or seasoning. We've had a friend from Lafayette bring in "select" crawfish that are huge. I think that all of the smaller crawfish are shipped to Houston and other places out of state. : (

SirRon
SirRon

Don't know if you had it, but their gumbo is notable. Expensive, but different enough from most places to be worth the order.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

I'm trying to figure out why a place like this would be so expensive? Places like this tend to be pretty cheap.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I should have tried it, as I saw several people around me order it, but I never got a chance. Will make a trip out there again to get some!

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

Alright, pick a weekend afternoon and I'll join you.

SirRon
SirRon

Yeah. Done that. Love Treebeards, but if you haven't done Seafood Shoppe's gumbo, just do it. I'm just saying that it is different in a good way and notable. Especially if $5-$7 is OK with you. I usually get the $8+ 16 oz gumbo and make split it two ways or make it a full meal.

Nothing against Floyd's, but I never find myself in Pearland.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

Or the Seafood Gumbo at Treebeards. Only served on Thursday & Friday. Get it with Red beans & rice.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

My favorite gumbo in Houston is Floyd's, and theirs in $5-7 per cup/bowl. Ever tried it?

SirRon
SirRon

I used to live in Louisiana, and higher prices generally reflect high quality seafood. Cheap in, cheap out. Ya know?

 
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