At Jolynn's Crawfish, the mudbugs come in a stainless steel bowl.

During these cold and sometimes gray days, the sight of fire-engine red crawfish in a bowl, on a tray, or marinating in a clear plastic bag is bound to bring happiness. It's early in the crawfish season (late February into March is really when it gets kicking), so most of the mudbugs are still awfully small. Plus, a recent run of warm weather led crawfish to molt, which means fewer of them to catch, which means higher prices at the boil.

But you can get 'em, and more places are putting those signs on the door alerting guests of "LIVE CRAWFISH." So, if you're jonesin' for the crustaceans, I got a couple picks for you. (I recently wrote about Honore's Cajun Cafe in Manvel, which is a must-visit whether or not you're going for the crawdads). But for crawfish, here's where to go right now:

Cajun: Boil House

In the middle of the gentrifying Heights, the Boil House is a welcome sight while driving down 11th Street, especially when the big "crawfish" flag makes its first appearance of the year. Boil House opened last weekend, meaning scores of people flocked in and filled the front patio for its traditional Louisiana-style mudbugs. The seasoning is cooked-in here, so every bite gives you a sweet and light lemony flavor, along with whatever kind of heat you choose. I opted for "mouth burn," and maybe it was early in the day, but I wasn't quite feeling the sensation, however delicious. I've been told the heat's pretty great here, so I'll just have to come back to experience it. Other great things here: drive-thru crawfish and beer now on offer (along with frozen alcoholic drinks).

VietCajun: 88 Boiling Crawfish

After digging into several bowls of crawfish at the top of the season, I think my favorite places are the quieter houses with the most bare-bones table setup you can imagine: roll of paper towels, squirt bottle of butter, a bag, a tray, and you're off. That's the deal at 88 Boiling, which has been around for a minute and produces mudbug bags like it's second nature, all with kind service. The VietCajun garlic butter order is the favorite here, with the crustaceans coated in bits of the pungent stuff. "Spicy" is the right order for those wanting a nice, lingering mouth burn.

Mix 'em up: Jolynn's Crawfish

With new ownership over the past year, Jolynn's down on Beechnut is a relaxing, super-friendly and family-run spot that does a couple different flavors, including garlic butter, Cajun, lemon pepper, and Thai basil. You can combine the former three for a multi-layered treat with equal parts garlic and lemon. The spice profiles (none, mild, medium, spicy, extra spicy) are on point (I opted for medium, which lightly coated the mouth in a flavorful burn). I also grabbed an order of pork and shrimp combination fried rice, and that served me well the next day for lunch. Beer on offer, TVs to watch only add to the experience. 

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