Two pounds of crawfish with potatoes and corn set me back $20 at The Seafood Shoppe on Westheimer a few blocks outside Beltway 8. The crawfish were big for this time of year, which made it a decent value. Opened over 20 years ago by a family from Louisiana, The Seafood Shoppe was originally a Cajun restaurant. The cashier, who had been working at the restaurant for 16 years, told me that most of the menu hasn't changed since the place was purchased by a Vietnamese family. The same cook is making the gumbo; she's been in the kitchen for 20 years.
The Seafood Shoppe
10555 Westheimer Rd
The crawfish and boiled blue crabs have been converted to the Vietnamese cooking style—they're a lot spicier than they used to be and they come with a garlic butter dip. The waiter asked me if I wanted mild, medium, or spicy. I asked for spicy. There weren't any other flavoring options, which is unusual for a Vietnamese crawfish joint. But I'm not sure it made any difference.
When the crawfish corn and potatoes arrived, they were completely covered with seasoning. The bottom of the bowl was filled with dark-brown boiling liquid, and a plastic dish of seasoned butter was balanced on top of the pile. The second bowl, for the discarded shells, also held a plastic bib. I don't usually bother with such frippery, but the coating on the crawfish was so thick and the boiling liquid so deep, I decided to make an exception.
The first few bites were so intense, they sent me into a coughing fit. I chugged some water and tried to get my throat clear. I made it most of the way through the fiery mudbugs, then I hit the wet ones in the bottom of the bowl. As I broke one in half, the liquid squirted all over me. The bib saved my shirt, but quite a bit of the juice went into my right eye. A few minutes of agony followed.
I used to think that people who wore bibs and plastic gloves to eat crawfish were wimps. Not any more. Now I am considering adding safety goggles to my crawfish-eating uniform.