Sunny Days and Stiff Drinks on the Washington Crawfish Crawl
Photos by Angelica Leicht
"Wait, so you're just gonna dump that entire thing on the table? Are you sure about this? Okay, but what about the beers?"
The gorgeous blond at the table next to us is concerned about eating food directly off the table, but unfortunately she has no choice. Not if she wants to eat all those crawfish, anyway.
It's mid-afternoon on a Saturday at Little J's (4218 Washington), a popular happy-hour spot on Washington Avenue, but the bar's miniscule patio is packed to the gills with people despite the relatively early hour. The tepid weather has finally signaled the end of winter, so Houston's day-drinking crawfish-boil festivities have begun in earnest.
"Wait, so how do I even eat these things?", the blond wonders. "I'm going to need another drink first."
She squeals as the laid-back server dumps the bucket out onto the table, which has been prepped for the occasion with butcher paper and a couple of empty buckets. A stray crawfish bounces off the table and lands directly in her lap. The server laughs as he watches her examine it closely. She seems puzzled, and perhaps slightly unsure of how to handle the little boiled crustacean until the burly, surprisingly patient waiter explains the whole head-sucking, tail-peeling ritual.
"Never mind. Can you bring me a shot of Fireball instead?"
The blond is now officially over the thought of eating something that requires work, which makes sense. After all, a mean shellfish allergy keeps our epi-pen at the ready, but Little J's is one of Houston's top spots to find the hard-partying folks who just can't get enough mudbugs. We're here to drink with the crawfish crowd's big dogs.
It seems we've come to the right place to do such a thing. Little J's is rockin' a full house, with tall, tanned and trendy young people dotting the seats airbrushed and flawless. Heels and short dresses are everywhere female, with tight tees and cargo pants adorning their male counterparts. It's hardly an eclectic group, but it is typical for the Washington corridor, which draws a consistent type of crowd even during daylight hours.
Fireball shots and Lone Star tallboys are being delivered at a rapid pace. The amount of cinnamon-flavored whiskey here makes us wonder if Fireball is some sort of antidote to counter the heat of the Cajun crustaceans. Or it could just make people a bit less hesitant about sucking the heads.
We are attempting to go shot for shot with a guy leaning up against the metal fence of the patio, but failing miserably. He's hanging the crawfish from his earlobes while downing beer after beer, and by now the whole patio is cheering him on. He's amusing, but the chaos draws the rest of the patrons' attention and they flock over in droves.
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Given the lack of oxygen on the patio, we decide it may be time to for our next stop on the crawfish circut: Brixx (5110 Washington). As popular as Little J's is with the crawfish crowd, its neighbor a few paces down Washington is equally as enticing. People are spilling off of the patio as we stroll up, and it's unclear how to maneuver past them to reach the alcohol.
Luckily the crowd here is pretty friendly, and used to shuffling sideways on their stilettos to let stragglers pass. They part in unison as folks wander through on their way to the bar or the bathroom. No one seems to mind the chaos.
However, they do mind running out of alcohol, very much so. Running dry seems a mortal sin where crawfish boils are concerned.
"Dude. Where are the drinks? We sent you to get them like, 30 minutes ago!"
The guy planted at the table across from us, dressed in a baby-blue button-down and old-school Ray-Ban aviators, is most annoyed at the lack of beer in front of him. His table has sent someone after him, but it seems the courier was waylaid by some pretty girls, and rather than retrieving beers has secured shots for them instead.
Out on the patio, a couple of tables continue peeling away at the boiled goods, but inside Brixx the crawfish seem to have been forgotten completely.
"Dude! Beers! Seriously!"
Ray-Ban gestures to his wayward friend by shaking an empty bottle in the air, but to no avail. He's lost him to the blonds, and begrudgingly makes his way through the crowd to do the dirty work himself.
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