Is it possible to be a good Houstonian and not go bonkers for crawfish every year? I would argue yes, only because I consider myself to be a good Houstonian, and, let’s just say, at the few boils I’ve been to, corn and potatoes have been my best friend.
But when we decided to do a whole cover feature on crawfish—a no-brainer, given the insatiable appetite for the crustacean shared by seemingly every other resident of the Bayou City—I knew it was time to give this regional delicacy another try.
So I asked an expert, Houstonia managing editor Katharine Shilcutt, to take me to the most Houstonian of all Houston crawfish joints for lunch—her choice. Given the reins, she picked a Viet-Cajun place over a straight Cajun one, citing its approachability: LA Crawfish inside 99 Ranch Market off I-10.
“I love 99 Ranch because you can get tiny chairs, suitcases shaped like pandas, and pineapples all in one spot,” she observed as we made our way through the market’s mini-mall to the little restaurant, where we placed an order for a pound of crawfish with garlic butter, plus a dozen wings—half Thai tamarind, half five-spice basil.
We’d barely put our plastic tablecloth down when it all arrived to the table. Soon, I was following Katharine’s lead, pulling each tail back, twisting it, and eating the meat. If I didn’t love the taste, I definitely did like it, up until she started chatting about how much she likes the heads, as well as the…innards.
I know, I know—if I’m going to eat an animal, I might as well eat the whole thing. I get that in theory. But it can be a little tough in practice. I set the crustacean I’d been working on down. By the end of the meal, Katharine had a much larger pile of crawfish shells than I did, while I’d obliterated the tamarind wings (I’ll be dreaming about those, no question).
My very un-Houstonian squeamishness aside, I still rate the experience a ten. It was fun catching up on our lives as we worked our way through the meal, and to feel like I was finally in on such a well-loved local tradition.
I have an uncle who doesn’t like tomatoes. Still, every year when they’re in season, he eats a few slices with Russian dressing, just to make sure things haven’t changed. He does this because, seeing others’ enjoyment, he knows he’s missing out. I think I’ll follow his lead and try crawfish again soon. As I work up to that, I’ll have plenty of inspiration, right here, in this very magazine.
As for the rest of you crawfish fanatics: Is “bonkers-er” a word? Can I coin it here? Because, with this awesome issue in hand, that’s what all y’all will be.