What Makes cajun crawfish cajun? Long story short: Cajun-style crawfish are poached in simmering, well-salted water that’s been seasoned with spices including black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, paprika, thyme, bay leaves—pretty much the standard Zatarain’s seafood boil blend. Corn-on-the-cob halves and red potatoes are traditionally included in the pot, and the crawfish are ready to eat when served—no additional spices or seasonings necessary.
The tables on the sidewalk out in front are the best in the house—here, you won’t feel guilty about making a big mess. Opened in 2001, this location is an outlet of the original in Lake Charles, Louisiana, which also makes crawfish-stuffed chicken breast, crawfish étouffée–smothered pork chops and crawfish pie for guests of both restaurants to take home—just pick them up from the freezer case.
1080 Clear Lake City Blvd., #D. 281-480-2237
This outlet is owned by a wholesaler in Louisiana that supplies many of Houston’s favorite crawfish restaurants. Get your fresh, cheap, nicely spicy crawfish, corn and potatoes to-go through a window out front—there are no tables. Doing it yourself? You can get your live crawfish here, too.
2202 N. Main St., Pearland. 281-412-0227
Brooks Bassler’s chain offers casual Gulf grub with po-boys, gumbo, fried fish, and, when the season rolls around, crawfish. Choose between traditional Louisiana style with no added spices or Tex-Orleans made with garlic paste. Diners have the option to add unexpected sausage varieties like spicy alligator andouille to their corn and potatoes. Some go another route entirely, ordering Lloyd’s crawfish étouffée with red roux.
The LSU banners in this tiny wood shack are your first clue that this is the spot for authentic Louisiana-style mudbugs. The regular crawfish are packed with lemony and lightly spicy flavor, while the “lips swollen” version offers maximum heat. Both come with exceptionally smoky sausage, and are best washed down with a craft beer or frozen marg on the front porch. In a hurry? Hit the drive-thru.
606 E. 11th St. 713-880-3999
Bring your own beer to this Cajun spot offering traditional crawfish with mix-ins like snow and king crab legs alongside Cajun-spiced fries and kid-friendly chicken-tender baskets. Try to score a picnic table seat on the covered patio, but beware: The place gets packed come peak season.
2210 Allen Genoa Rd. 713-378-4201
Floyd Landry opened this original location—there are also shops in Pearland and Beaumont—in 2004, and it’s been famous ever since for its boat-shaped bar and spicy boiled crawfish. Watch for the annual Parking Lot Crawfish Party, usually held in April.
20760 Gulf Fwy., Webster. 281-332-7474
This is the place for the ultimate Cajun crawfish fix thanks to an irresistibly mouth-burning Mr. Crawfish spice blend cooked into the mudbugs, post-meal washing station, bar, friendly service, and zydeco soundtrack. For a heartier meal, get the pasta Mardi Gras—shrimp, crawfish, and smoked sausage in étouffée sauce—red beans and rice, or redfish topped with étouffée.
19430 Hwy. 6. 281-489-7777
JuJu got her nickname from her mawmaw in Ville Platte, Louisiana, and learned to cook at her father’s parking-lot crawfish boils (where she also learned her meticulous crawfish-cleaning methods). This is old-school Cajun crawfish, served with sausage and plenty of tender potatoes and corn on the side. You’re free to crack open your own beer, as the place is also BYOB.
16474 FM 365, Beaumont. 409-794-2020
Not only is this where the Texas crawfish business got its start, it also serves the best Cajun food this side of the Sabine River. Come by on a weekend night for live Cajun music and dancing.
3701 Pure Atlantic Rd., Groves. 409-962-3381
This mudbug joint and full-service restaurant offers lakeside dining under shady palapas that overlook the very same body of water that keeps your crawfish before you eat them, so you know it’s fresh.
2909 Hwy. 59 East, El Campo. 979-543-2645
This sprawling establishment, run by a couple that caters crawfish events, offers mostly outdoor seating and, on the weekends, live music. Eat at one of the picnic tables, or fill your cooler with a crawfish feast to-go.
4015 FM 646, Santa Fe. 409-440-8481
When you see the giant red crawfish that greets guests at the original location on Richmond Avenue, you’ll know you’re at the right place. The menu includes gumbo, étouffée and barbecued crabs (in season). Crawfish is sold by the pound with all kinds of extras—corn, potatoes, sausage, crabs, you name it.
4302 Richmond Ave. 713-623-6321
This is a sprawling country store with a tiny bar and lots of worn wooden booths and tables. Legend has it that the Repkas started out giving crawfish away for free in the mid-’80s to customers at the bar and grocery. These days, much of the action takes place on the patio out back, where giant pots boil up thousands of pounds of crawfish from Eunice, Louisiana.
8481 Buller Rd., Brookshire. 281-934-4499.
Come here for an easygoing atmosphere, plenty of booze, and one heck of a special: $5.50-per-pound crawfish on weekends. The light Cajun variety has moderate heat and plenty of flavor. You’ll want to pair your order with a big ol’ boudin link for an extra $10.
2307 Ella Blvd. 713-701-9150