It's not officially crawfish season yet. Exhibit A: Danton's, my go-to for serious Cajun food, isn't stocking them. Exhibit B: Neither is BB's Cajun Café or Goode Co. Seafood. And it won't be until at least the end of the month, if not next month.
But the fact that it isn't technically crawfish season hasn't prevented nearly every bar and Cajun restaurant in town from offering mudbugs by the pound. After all, this weather is practically built for crawfish consumption. And here's how you can tell...
Of those restaurants that currently are offering crawfish by the pound, the people who answer the phones nearly tell you the price of the crawfish right when they pick up. And at Mardi Gras Grill, there's a robot — a robot! (okay, so it's a recorded, robot-sounding message) — that answers the phone and automatically relays the current per-pound price of the bugs.
2130 Jefferson, 713-222-8333
The closest to an authentic po-boy as you'll get in the Bayou City also has great crawfish, and for a great price: only $5.49 a pound right now. It also consistently pulls in some of the largest, so go prepared.
9. Ragin' Cajun
4302 Richmond, 713-623-6321
This longtime Richmond haunt is where many Houstonians — native or not — have tried their first crawfish. While there's usually a line out the door during crawfish season, that's just a sign of loyalty and quality. Ragin' Cajun gets bonus points for its wild Louisiana decor, fabulous zydeco music, handy sink right in the dining room and the fact that it doesn't charge extra for corn or potatoes. It sells its crawfish in 1.75-pound or 3.5-pound buckets, and market price is currently $6.28 a pound.
8. Mardi Gras Grill
1200 Durham, 713-864-5600
According to the robo-voice, the bugs at this ramshackle favorite are currently $5.99 a pound, and its low prices combined with a central location means that this Cajun shack gets swamped early and often. But it also comes with a great backstory: This was the original Floyd's — Floyd Landry, that is — and was one of the first places to bring crawfish to Houston.
20760 Gulf Fwy., Webster, 281-332-7474
Speaking of... This location of Floyd's is our favorite, with a boat-shaped bar and all-you-can-eat crawfish specials that will keep you lingering all day in sea-breezy Webster, whether you meant to or not. Right now, crawfish is $5.95 a pound.
6. Boiling Crab
8300 W. Sam Houston Pkwy. South, 281-988-4750
Back in 2009, the relatively new Boiling Crab was named Best Crawfish in our Best of Houston® issue, and it's still going strong. And don't knock it just because it's a California-based chain: It was founded by Vietnamese fishermen from Seadrift, Texas, who certainly know their stuff. A pound of crawfish will run you $6.99 right now, a fairly standard price throughout Chinatown.
5. Hank's Crawfish (tied with Crawfish & Noodles)
10800 Bellaire, 281-988-8974
Hank's was given the coveted Best Crawfish award in last year's Best of Houston® issue. Part of the reason is that you don't just get an order of crawfish at this divey spot. As at Boiling Crab, you get to choose from a variety of different boil flavors. And although I've seen some negative reviews of Hank's in the past, it always seems those people were going during non-crawfish season. In season, Hank's holds up with the best of 'em. Crawfish are $6.99 a pound right now at both locations.
4. Concert Pub (tied with BB's Cajun Café, in season)
5636 Richmond, 713-278-7272
One of the last holdouts of the once vibrant Richmond Strip, Concert Pub has managed to retain its fun, spirited, casual vibe — important things in a crawfish-eating atmosphere. The place also has one of the best deals in town right now: $4.99 a pound or five pounds for $20. Even better? Concert Pub seasons the water, not just the crawfish, so your bugs are done up the right way.
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3. Blue Water Seafood (tied with Beaucoup Bar & Grill, in season)
6107 FM 1960, 281-895-9222
This Houston chain's best location is on FM 1960 and, as Robb Walsh once pointed out, feels more like Bolivar Peninsula than it does north Houston. And to quote a Cajun friend of mine who's had "an 85 percent success rate" at Blue Water, the key is to call ahead of time to make sure the crawfish are alive and ready to go. Right now, those bugs will run you $5.99 a pound.
2. Wild Cajun (tied with Danton's, in season)
6533 Wilcrest, 832-328-4000
This brand-new Viet-owned crawfish joint has the same atmosphere as Boiling Crab, but with a huge stage for live music and pretty decent "sushi" to boot. Although it's a bit of a drive, the bugs are among the biggest in town. And look at it this way: Once you're way out west, you can easily do a crawfish crawl and hit some of the best joints in town, all for $6.99 a pound.
1. Your local watering hole
Seriously. The best deals on crawfish in Houston are almost always at your local bar or icehouse. Swaye recently had all-you-can-eat crawfish for $16, while Mezzanine currently has an AYCE special for $18. Hell, the Davenport just had a free crawfish boil in the beginning of March. Check out the specials at these places and more, like Coaches Pub, the Tavern on West Gray, The Junction, the Front Porch Pub and the West Alabama Ice House.