Often I'm asked, “Where’s some Louisiana-style food?” My go-to answer is very simple: There seems to be a Cajun-themed restaurant on every corner of Greenville Avenue, from Shuck n’ Jive on upper Greenville Avenue to the Big Shucks off Mockingbird Lane and its little sister, Aw Shucks, across from the Granada Theater. Further south you have what seems like five Dodie’s and their offshoot upscale Cajun restaurant 504, located near the original Dodie’s. Greenville Avenue may have more crabs than Harry Hines Boulevard on a Saturday night.
And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Texans bathe in hot and spicy liquids, and luckily for us, Louisiana is our friendly neighbor. They may have a few teeth missing, but damn if they can’t cook food that has more spice than the '90s girl band. When Ragin’ Crab Café raised a white banner announcing its takeover of a former hookah lounge on lowest Greenville, my eyebrows lifted with curiosity. Does our little strip need another Cajun-style restaurant? Are we slowly being invaded by our neighbors with the hopes of lower Greenville becoming Bourbon Street? I mean, no complaints if true.
When the hookah lounge evaporated, Steve Sohn and Tiger Park, owners of Hibashi Teppan Grill across from the Galleria, grabbed this 1920s-era building across from Trader Joe’s with the desire to bring their spin on a Louisiana boil to the area. Along with a buzz of bright neon signs and a sports bar feel on the inside, the restaurant offers a patio that looks like it belongs next to a bayou, not a busy street. Guests can expect fresh catches of Gulf and Pacific seafood, and should be warned to roll up their sleeves and tuck in a bib.
I imagine there's a section of heaven that caters to Southerners with a special menu of fried food — and I’m almost positive the menu at Ragin’ Crab is an earthly prototype. Starters range from lightly fried crab cakes to Cajun-fried calamari to coconut-crusted fried shrimp. If you want to be a trendsetter, order hushpuppies as a side because 2016 is the year of the hushpuppy, according to me. You might as well request a bowl of soul-warming gumbo while you’re at it. There's also a choice of fried baskets that includes shrimp and catfish, or you can be basic and get the chicken tenders. Don’t get chicken at a seafood restaurant. Just don't.
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Now that our arteries are primed with grease, it’s time place ourselves in New Orleans. If you want to catch a Bourbon Street buzz, there’s the classic Hurricane to nurse on, but if you want to feel the relaxation of the French Quarter, sip on a Sazerac. Either way, you may find yourself raising your shirt for beads. Other cocktails include their Vampire Blue, which is devised of bourbon, sherry, lemon juice, bitters and cinnamon, and the Devereaux, filled with bourbon, elderflower liquor, lemon juice and sparkling wine. The latter is a great daytime beverage.
Ragin’ Crab Café will boil any creature that has a shell on it, even a ninja turtle if they're ever in season. Choose from lobster, clams, green mussels, three varieties of crab, sea scallops and crawfish (when in season); all, of course, are set at market price. There are catch combinations that vary in size and price, but we recommend going for broke. At a reasonable price of $69.95, get the family special, their version of Pecan Lodge’s ‘The Trough.’ You get one pound of the following: Alaskan King and Snow crab, shrimp, sausage, a side of red potatoes and two pieces of corn on the cob. Here’s where the magic happens. When ordering, you have your choice of seasoning: classic Louisiana, ragin' bang, lemon pepper, garlic, garlic butter or cajun. Now it’s time to get willy-nilly and choose a heat level from mild (they skip medium) to hot, very hot and turbo-charged hot. Holy smokes! Go get your boil on for Fat Tuesday and remember to “Laissez les bons temps rouler.”
Ragin' Crab Cafe, 2100 Greenville Ave., 214-827-2722