With the advent of soft-shell crab season, many Houston restaurants are featuring specials using these supple crustaceans, while some establishments that offer soft-shell crab year-round are simply taking advantage of the fresh crop. If you've got a soft spot for soft-shell crabs, check out some of these outstanding dishes in Houston.
5. Tomato Chili Soft-Shell Crabs (Cafe Chino). The sweet, spicy flavors of Cafe Chino's soft-shell crabs, lightly fried and draped in tomatoes, onions, and chilies, modifies the potentially overwhelming briny taste of the crustacean. Make use of the thick sauce that just verges on syrupy (in a good way) to sponge up an accompanying scoop of white rice.
4. Soft Shell Crab Po'Boy (Common Bond). Montrose newcomer Common Bond certainly isn't the only place in town to offer a soft-shell crab po'boy, but their unique version, which involves a circular buttery roll, sweet pickles, and a prickly cornmeal batter, is definitely worth trying. They also aren't shy about using over-sized crabs that are so large that their fried legs dangle over the edge of the bun.
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3. Green Curry Soft-Shell Crabs (Thai Spice). Though not a seasonal special, the soft-shell crab curry with red peppers and string beans at Thai Spice always nevertheless tastes remarkably fresh. In early summer, the pan-fried crabs provided are, as one might expect, at their largest, and this terrific dish, which normally feeds one, can easily be shared.
2. Fried Soft-Shell Crab (Pico's Mex Mex). Pico's doesn't always serve soft-shell crabs, but when they do, they're deep-fried awesomeness. Katharine Shilcutt named them No. 52 on her list of 100 Favorite Dishes in Houston; should Joanna O'Leary do such a list, they would be in the top ten. I wish Pico's would served them by the bucket a la KFC.
1. Soft-Shell Crab Eggs Benedict (Backstreet Cafe). If, on June 15 your padre is unavailable, find a dining partner who self-identifies as a "father" and use this person as an excuse to attend Backstreet Cafe's special Father's Day brunch. Then, feast on soft-shell crab served over poached eggs and dressed with red pepper butter and corn relish. "Dad" will thank you.