Crawfish Season Is Off to a Slow Start

Season's Eating

"The only thing better than a crawfish dinner is five crawfish dinners."

— Coach Red Beaulieu, The Waterboy

Ain't that the truth? It's time to eat up, because crawfish season is upon us once again...well, sort of.

Gulf Coast crawfish season typically begins in early to mid-March, but this year has seen a small crawfish harvest due to an unseasonably cold winter and icy snaps that hit the gulf unusually late in the year.

"The one thing you should know about crawfish is they're very temperature-sensitive," says Stephen Minvielle, director of the Louisiana Crawfish Promotion and Research Board. "We don't have a lot of history on ice storms like we've had this year to compare it to. Was it a permanent negative effect? Probably not. But it's unknown."

Minvielle says that by this time of year, he's used to hauling in anywhere from 12 (on a poor day) to 22 sacks of crawfish from his operation, but his best haul so far has been 11 sacks of mudbugs.

"Fifty-eight to 65 degrees is the most wonderful temperature for crawfish," Minvielle says. "Since we had a long winter, that growth period that we usually have wasn't there. We're about 30 to 40 days behind."

Still, many restaurants here in Houston are receiving live crawfish from Louisiana and nearby farms, and while prices are high now, many spots expect the cost per pound to keep decreasing into April. You probably won't see the best crawfish of your life this year, but you can still get some good mudbugs at these places.

And remember: "When the hurricane season starts, crawfish season ends," says Minvielle, referencing the official June 1 start date of hurricane season, when warm currents begin to invade the gulf. Get 'em soon!

10. Blue Water Seafood(tied with LA Crawfish)

Both of these spots make a mean crawfish boil, but they're tied for tenth place because neither has gotten in live crawfish yet. For now, Blue Water Seafood is selling pre-boiled crawfish from Louisiana for $7.99 a pound, and the restaurant expects to be getting in live crawfish next week. If you order a crawfish boil, you get two pounds of crawfish, ten boiled shrimp, andouille sausage, corn and potatoes for $25.99. Both LA Crawfish locations are currently selling crawfish in a garlic butter sauce, chile lime sauce or Cajun style for $6.99 a pound. A person I spoke to there said he expects to get the fresh, live mudbugs in later this month.

9. Bayou City Seafood & Pasta

The crawfish at Bayou City are super-fresh, and though the boil offered is a basic spicy Cajun, it's of high quality and comes with potatoes and corn. You won't ever find mushy mudbugs here, because if they aren't fresh, Bayou City won't serve them. The crawfish is currently a bit on the pricey side for the restaurant — $7.99 per pound — but if you go on Tuesday, there's a deal where you buy four pounds of fresh boiled crawfish and get one pound for free. The restaurant assures me that prices will go down as more crawfish become available.

8. The Cajun Stop

At The Cajun Stop, the crawfish are huge, because owner Lisa Carnley orders nothing but the jumbo ones for her customers. The tail meat abounds, and the spicy boil will leave your lips and tongue tingling. I recently ate some delish crawfish there, but I wanted to make sure the Cajun restaurant is getting in live ones, so I called. The person on the other end of the phone laughed at the question. "Of course they're live!" That's what I like to hear. Get 'em now for $8.25 a pound.

7. Woodrow's Heights

The former Mardi Gras Grill transformed into Woodrow's Heights during last year's crawfish season, but the name change hasn't changed the excitement surrounding crawfish festivities at all. During the season, this particular Woodrow's on Durham hosts crawfish-eating competitions and regular boils featuring very few accoutrements (potatoes, corn, etc.) other than a lot of spice. Right now, crawfish are $7.75 a pound, but during peak season, the price should go down to the regular $5.99 per pound.

6. Crawfish Shack

At the Crawfish Shack, the critters come one of four ways: mild, medium, spicy or meaux spicy. For those of you who don't speak Louisiana, that's real damn hot. Diners also have the option of adding potatoes, corn, mushrooms or sausage for a set price per pound, making this the most customizable boil in town. If you feel like doing your own boil, the Crawfish Shack also sells live crawfish by the sack. The restaurant is out in Crosby, so it's a bit of a haul, but well worth the trip. But take note: The wait for $7.95-per-pound crawfish can be long. Doors open at 4 p.m., so get there early.

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Kaitlin Steinberg