A very acceptable weekend meal in Houston.

WHETHER YOU LIKE YOUR CRUSTACEANS coated in garlic and butter or spiced up with a classic Cajun kick, there’s a boil spot for you, as long as you don’t mind getting a little messy. Just get to pinching and peeling before spring is over!

Abe’s Cajun Market & Café

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

Atchafalaya Crawfish & Cajun Specialties

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

BB's Tex-Orleans

Brooks Bassler’s local chain offers a Houston take on Big Easy grub with po-boys, gumbo, fried fish, and, when the season rolls around, crawfish. Choose between old-school Louisiana style, with no added spices after the boil, or Tex-Orleans, where garlic paste is mixed in post-boil to bring a bittersweet blast. Diners have the option to throw some sausage into their boils, including unusual varieties like spicy alligator andouille mixed in with the crawfish, corn, and potatoes. Or go for a less hands-on option, and order Lloyd’s excellent, creamy crawfish étouffée with red roux.

Multiple locations.  

Boil House

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. Boils can come with a side of exceptionally smoky sausage, 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

Cajun Crawfish No. 1

This is a friendly, no-frills storefront offering a couple of TVs, inexpensive beer, and both Cajun and Viet-Cajun mudbugs. The garlic butter sauce is more pungent and garlicky than others you’ll find in town; as for heat, there’s multiple levels, starting with spicy and extra spicy (enough to coat your lips with a light burning sensation). Blue crab, crab leg, and shrimp boils are also available. Still hungry? Tack on an order of fried catfish with a side of vegetable fried rice.

13480 Veterans Memorial Dr. 281-583-5507

Cajun Craven

This is the kind of mom-and-pop place that’s a joy to stumble upon. The owner, Henry Tran, is a former shrimper and fisherman from Port Arthur who started doing boils for family and friends out of a trailer in Waller in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The trailer grew so popular, he eventually opened his own restaurant, whose new location on Beamer Road offers two crawfish flavors: traditional Cajun and a sweet-and-sour garlic glaze called Craven. Tran still drives down to Louisiana himself to pick out his crawfish, so it’s of impeccable quality and freshness. 

12141 Beamer Rd. 281-922-7588

Cajun Kitchen

Featured everywhere from the Washington Post to PBS’s Mind of a Chef series, the crawfish here are cooked in a wok after being boiled in Cajun seasoning, in much of the same way the Chinese prepare crab and lobster, so that those spices and oils coat everything and get way down deep in the crevices. The Kitchen Special, tossed with green onion, garlic, lemons, orange, butter, and garlic, is sweet, savory, tangy, and wholly original, while the Thai Basil flavor conjures the streets of Bangkok.

6938 Wilcrest Dr. 281-495-8881

Crabby Crawfish

Bring your own beer to this humble Cajun-boil hub offering traditional crawfish with mix-ins like snow and king crab legs alongside spicy fries, egg rolls, 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

Crawfish & Noodles

Chef/owner Trong Nguyen started offering mudbugs in mouth-numbing garlic butter more than a decade ago, just as that style was becoming a staple of the Houston crawfish diet. An order of Viet-Cajun medium here is fiery enough, but don’t stop there: Nguyen’s eclectic menu includes other non-mudbug dishes you simply cannot miss, from the Vietnamese fried chicken dish com ga xa xiu to savory hot-pots like the lau duoi bo with oxtail. Come prepared to wait up to an hour—it’s totally worth it.

11360 Bellaire Blvd. 281-988-8098 

Crawfish Cafe

At his café inside Hong Kong City Mall IV, and now at a new second location in the Heights, owner Kiet Duong uses real butter as well as sugar, which makes his crawfish sweeter and, let’s be honest, more addictive. The flavors—Original Cajun, Kickin’ Cajun, Garlic Butter, Lemon Pepper, Thai Basil, and The Mix, a blend of garlic butter and lemon pepper—appeal to a range of palates. Duong says that customers like to customize their flavors, with Garlic Butter/Thai Basil now one of the most popular blended orders. 

11209 Bellaire Blvd, #C36. 281-575-1746; 1026 N. Shepherd Dr., 832-649-7102

Floyd’s Cajun Seafood

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

A platter at Honore's Cajun Cafe.

Honore's Cajun Café

This is the place for the ultimate Cajun crawfish fix, thanks to the 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 crawfish étouffée.

19430 Hwy 6. 281-489-7777

Jolynn's Crawfish

This family-run strip mall joint dishes out mudbugs in flavors including garlic butter, lemon pepper, Cajun, and Thai basil. An order of “mix all” combines everything but the Thai basil, with beautifully tangy, rich results. Whether eating inside at one of its several tables facing TVs or taking your grub to-go, tack on an order of the pork-and-shrimp fried rice, and kick back with a beer or two.

10834 Beechnut St. 281-988-5870

Juju’s Cajun Crawfish Shak

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

LA Crawfish

What started out as a small stand inside 99 Ranch Market in Memorial in 2010 has expanded to include 25 franchised locations across Texas, with 13 alone in the Houston area. It’s counter-service only, but customers can park themselves at a table inside with their own case of beer (it’s BYOB) and go to town devouring flavors including garlic butter, hot & sour, and house Cajun (the best) with dips they customize themselves. The Asian-fusion menu is also quite extensive, with offerings like the crawfish pho and empanadas. Because it’s a franchise, quality varies from location to location, but the original inside 99 Ranch remains the best.

Multiple locations.  

Larry’s French Market & Cajun Restaurant

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

Pinchers Boil’n Pot

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

Pook’s Crawfish Hole

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

Ragin’ Cajun

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 loads of Louisiana staples—gumbo, chargrilled oysters, boudin, even Natchitoches meat pies—and does barbecue sauce-marinated, deep-fried blue crabs in season (usually from June to October). Crawfish is sold by the pound with all kinds of extras—corn, potatoes, sausage, crabs, you name it.

4302 Richmond Ave. 713-623-6321

Repka’s Grocery & Kitchen

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.

The Barking Pig

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  

The Cajun Stop

Step into Lisa Carnley’s EaDo domain and be transported to New Orleans. Her regulars, who follow her on social media religiously, come in as much for her hospitality as her menu. While much of her food is traditionally Cajun, Carnley—who is of Vietnamese descent and re-settled in Houston after Hurricane Katrina—also offers a few Asian-esque crawfish flavors: garlicky lemon (our favorite), Hot Lips (super-spicy garlicky lemon), Krazie Asian (soy and basil), and Big Lips (buyer beware, this one’s really hot).

2130 Jefferson St. 713-222-8333

The Crawfish Pot & Oyster Bar

The popular House Special flavor—a blend of garlic, butter and myriad other spices—is far less sweet than anything you’ll find in the predominantly Vietnamese area on, or around, Bellaire Boulevard. And while the crawdads are delicious, they’re not always the main event. Owner James Duong says that their Hungry Home Platter—a mouthwatering mix of king crab, blue crab, snow crab, sausage, Gulf shrimp, crawfish, corn, and potatoes for about $54 (a steal)—is a best-seller.

9820 Gulf Fwy, #7. 713-360-6547

Wild Cajun

The flavors here—lemon pepper, hot and sour, garlic butter, and wild Cajun—are less buttery than at other places, something that owner Lee Ngo says he was aiming for, because too much butter makes you want to eat less. And, frankly, since some joints tend to go way overboard with the stuff, we can’t disagree with his methods. Wild Cajun also boils blue crab, snow crab clusters, crab legs, and jumbo shrimp, and for an over-the-top experience, get the turkey neck platter. A big ol’ heap of garlic butter covers the top, and it comes with corn, potato, and sausage.

6533 Wilcrest Dr., #104. 832-328-4000; 13602 Bellaire Blvd., #A1. 281-564-6500