As our party of five waited on our mudbug order at Crawfish & Noodles, our server crouched to our eyesight and flashed a look that you only give when telling a child that her puppy has gone to heaven.
"So," she began, as silence gripped our table, "you guys are lucky. You're the last crawfish order for the evening."
We let out happy sighs and asked the server to repeat what she just said, just in case we heard it wrong. We hadn't, and though Crawfish & Noodles did get more crawfish about 40 minutes later, I was absolutely ready to walk out and find another spot for mudbugs.
If that sounds harsh, it's only because my mission was to eat crawfish for the first time in my life. I'm a native Philadelphian who's spent much of his life on the East Coast. Not only is there no need to eat crawfish up there, but for a long time I was unaware such food existed.
But once I knew I was coming to Houston, I began mentally preparing myself. I told myself I wouldn't partake until the season began, so once we reached February, my excitement level rose. I gathered my group, declining to reserve a table and wait 45 minutes—you know, to build anticipation. I took pictures of the fish tank at the entrance. I let the garlicky aroma tempt me while glancing at other diners expertly twisting and sucking out their food. I took mental notes.
I got the hang of it quickly. Twist and pull. Pinch and suck out the meat. Suck from the head of the crawfish. We ordered mild with medium spice on the side, which certainly packed the chili heat necessary to coat my lips with a lingering numbness. The mild sauce was garlicky rich and perfectly buttery. We cleaned out the bowl. I used about 10 napkins, and my Tiger beer was the right complement. It was bliss.