The Cajun Cocktail Queens
The bar at Floyd's new Cajun joint on the Gulf Freeway is shaped like a boat. When I stopped in for lunch the other day, two smiling blonds were seated at the prow. I'd estimate they were wearing a half-pound of gold jewelry between them. On top of their heads, they both wore plastic tiaras (at least I think they were plastic).
"Happy whatever!" I said to the Cajun bar queens as my dining companion and I sat down on nearby barstools.
"It's my birthday," the regal-looking woman nearest me said, hoisting her Crown and 7-Up cocktail to toasting position. "I already laid out everything for dinner because I know I'm going to be drunk when I get home," she said with a giggle. They wear their tiaras for birthdays, special occasions and every Friday at happy hour, they told me. And they often observe Friday happy hour right here at Floyd's bar.
The three dining rooms at Floyd's aren't particularly inviting. At the front room that adjoins the bar, at least you can see what's going on. The two rooms farther back are dark and dreary, with stacks of boxes for decoration.
By contrast, Floyd's bar is a cozy corner that you never want to leave. The college football memorabilia on the walls suggest it's a popular place to watch sports. That afternoon, the television in the bar was tuned to some horse races in Florida. I half expected somebody to come around and take our bets.
Although it was not yet noon, my dining companion, George, was compelled to order a cocktail, just to get into the spirit of things. I felt like a weenie ordering iced tea when almost everybody else had an alcoholic beverage in front of them.
George got a Cajun Bloody Mary, which came with a mound of olives and a boiled shrimp on top. "It's a 'dreat,' he said. "A drink that you eat."
Raw oyster season is over for me, so for an appetizer, I ordered the Grilled Oysters Floyd, a dozen freshly shucked oysters on the half shell, topped with crabmeat, shrimp and cheese, then grilled. Unfortunately, the seafood was completely buried under a too-thick blanket of cheese that was bright yellow like cheddar or American, though it pulled away in long mozzarella-like strands.
If you've ever eaten the magnificent Parmesan-dusted and pecan-smoked Oysters Gilhooley down at Gilhooley's in San Leon, or the incredible grilled oysters with garlic butter and Parmesan at Drago's in Metairie, Louisiana, you will be disappointed in Floyd's grilled oysters with gloppy pizza topping. I sure was.
George ordered the Oyster Bar Trash, an oddly named but outstanding appetizer consisting of blackened crabmeat and blackened shrimp on a plate with nothing but a little bowl of lemon butter on the side. After scooping up a few rich and piquant bites, we requested some bread to mop up the rest.
"I love nasty Cajun food names like 'bar trash' and dirty rice," George said between mouthfuls. As we finished up our starters, the party girls ordered their second round of Crown and 7's and George switched to beer. Happy hour was five hours away, but the bar was already pretty jolly.
My entrée was called the Bub's Shrimp Platter, named for the seafood-loving Uncle Bub. According to the menu, it features six fried shrimp and four shrimp-and-oyster brochettes, along with dirty rice and potatoes Floyd. But to my disappointment, the bacon-wrapped packages contained two shrimp instead of a shrimp and an oyster. The dirty rice was loaded with liver and green onions; it was so good, I christened it "filthy rice." The potatoes were decent hash browns with some red and green peppers added.
The fried shrimp were nothing short of miraculous. Floyd's starts out with jumbo shrimp, then cleans, butterflies and batters them. Then they fry the shrimp using a secret technique that renders them absolutely greaseless. George sampled one and then reached for another, holding it up for inspection. "It's amazing," he said. "They actually taste dry. There isn't a speck of oil on them."
I had already marveled at the frying technique on a previous visit when I ordered Floyd's fried seafood platter. It came with two of the fried shrimp, two juicy fried oysters, two perfectly fried catfish fillets, one crabmeat-and-bread-crumb-stuffed shrimp, a meaty crab cake, a tender fried frog leg, Floyd's excellent homemade french fries and the usual cocktail and tartar sauces. All of the fried seafood was just as greaseless as the shrimp I had for lunch.
George was disappointed in his entrée, a plate of crawfish étouffée. The crawfish tails were watery, and the sauce tasted like little more than a white roux with seafood stock and cayenne in it.
"If you want to eat mudbugs, you've got to get the boiled crawfish," I told him. Two seats down, a little guy in a gimme cap had ordered the all-you-can-eat crawfish special. He'd already finished up one three-pound tray, and now he was digging into his second. I was astonished when he vigorously shook a bottle of seasoning over the already spicy crawfish.
"Too much work," George said with a grimace as he finished his beer.
My first visit to the new Floyd's was on a Friday night at a quarter to eight. The bar was a madhouse, and the wait for a table was more than an hour. I got so hungry, I ordered three pounds of boiled crawfish and a couple of beers at the bar and carried them out to share with my dining companions, who were seated on the benches out front on the patio.
The other people outside looked somewhat horrified when we started ripping apart the crustaceans and sucking their heads. I had to go back to get a bucket to throw the shells into and a roll of paper towels to use as napkins. The crawfish were cooked in a spicy boil and then coated with more seasonings. They were so hot, they burned our lips. The two beers I bought were consumed before we'd eaten a quarter of the crawfish. I ended up holding the rest of the mudbugs in the tray on my lap until we could sit down and eat them properly.
We got our table at around nine. Thank goodness we'd already had the crawfish, because it was nine-thirty before we finally got something to eat.
The standout starters included the awesome fried jalapeños stuffed with crabmeat and the fried pickles. I was disappointed in the thin gumbo and not at all impressed by the chicken-and-sausage jambalaya. Meanwhile, all the fried stuff tasted great, including my seafood platter, the fried catfish dinner and a fried stuffed shrimp dinner. We left Floyd's at a quarter to ten. Of the two hours we spent there, 15 minutes were devoted to eating dinner.
Clearly, the best way to enjoy Floyd's is to stick with the spicy mudbugs and the wonderful fried Cajun food and to avoid the jambalaya and étouffées. And if you like cocktails, whatever the hour, skip the long wait for a table and join the festivities at the ever-jolly boat-shaped bar.
Wearing a tiara is never a bad idea, either.
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