It's been a while since I was in Houston during crawfish season so on my latest visit a few days back I went a little mudbug crazy.
Hank's Crawfish on Highway 6. $6.99 per pound, 2lb minimum order, corn'n'taters extra. A choice of 5 heat levels - mild, medium, spicy, extra spicy and "New Orleans" and an option to add garlic for an extra 20 cents. The waitress talked me out of the New Orleans and almost talked me out of the extra spicy too. Glad she didn't succeed - the sauce was indeed quite spicy but easily handleable. And hugely tasty too, especially with the chunks of garlic added. As for the crawfish themselves - a bit mushy and overcooked. It was mid-afternoon, the restaurant was fairly quiet and the order arrived suspiciously fast so I reckon they'd been hanging around for a while and steaming away in the plastic bag.
Ragin Cajun on Westheimer. $12.99 for a half bucket (1.75lb), $22.99 (I think) for a full bucket (3.5lb). One potato and a half corn cob included with the half bucket. This wouldn't have been my first choice of destination but when I turned up at The Boiling Crab at 4.30 on Friday afternoon the queue was already snaking out the door. Small, mushy, overcooked bugs with virtually no discernible flavour. Adding some cajun spice mix helped a little but these were easily the worst I tried all week. And what's with the strange "1.75lb" portion ? My suspicion is that it's to disguise the fact that these were also the priciest I had all week, at $7.42 per pound. Even so, the place does seem to have its fans. A couple next to me at the bar polished off five full buckets while I was there. There are surely many finer places in Houston in which to blow a hundred bucks on crawfish.
Mardi Gras Grill on Durham. $4.99 per pound, 2lb minimum, corn'n'taters extra. Excellent. Perfectly cooked to order and the biggest I had all week. Bonus points for being the cheapest too. I could have used a little more seasoning but these were still the best I had.
Orleans Seafood Kitchen on the I-10 in Katy (thanks for the rec, Jaymes !). $5.99 per pound, 2lb minimum order, corn and potatoes included. Very good indeed, nicely cooked if a little on the small side. Again, could have used a little more seasoning. Bonus points for having superb oysters on the half shell for only $6.99 per dozen.
The Boiling Crab on the Beltway at Beechnut. $6.99 per pound, minimum order 1lb, corn included with a 2lb order. Choice of seasonings (Lemon Pepper, Cajun, Garlic Butter or "The Whole Shebang" which is all three) and choice of four heat levels. This place is crazy popular. In an attempt to avoid the queues we turned up 15 minutes before they opened at 3 on Monday afternoon and there were already several other cars parked outside. By the time we left at 4.15, there was a queue of ten people waiting for a table. I can understand why. Perfectly cooked crawfish and excellent sauces. We had 2lb "Whole Shebang" extra spicy and 1lb Garlic Butter mild. Good though the Whole Shebang was, there was maybe a bit much going on and I preferred the Garlic Butter. Both could have used a little extra salt. Their hottest spice level was about the same as Hanks' "extra spicy". Bonus points for allowing a 1lb order, allowing us to sample a couple of different seasonings.
In summary, if I could have Mardi Gras' crawfish with Hank's sauce I'd be a very happy man. I'd definitely go back to Hank's when the place was busier to see if the quality improves as a result.
Mardi Gras Grill
1200 Durham, Houston, TX 77007
8300 W Sam Houston Pkwy S Ste 268, Houston, TX 77072
Orleans Seafood Kitchen
20940 Katy Fwy, Katy, TX 77449