When I was a kid, the best eating of the year was crawfish season. My people are from Louisiana, so at least once a year, someone was buying several cases of beer and a few hundred pounds of crawfish for a big-ass party. The crawfish of my childhood were cooked in huge boiling of pots of water by my grandfather and most recently my uncle, spiced with so much Louisiana Crab Boil that the steam burned your eyes. And they were the best damn crawfish I've ever had, every single time.
In Dallas, I haven't fared so well. Every seafood restaurant in town posts a big sign in front of their doors announcing "WE HAVE CRAWFISH," but it usually ends up being overpriced and overcooked and bland, just poor imitations of the slap-yo-mama spicy and juicy 'bugs I remember.
Now that the crawfish season is just starting, a blogger at ILiveInDallas put together his list of best crawfish in town, but my Louisianan sensibilities scoff at his selections -- Dodie's, Big Shucks, and Aw Shucks (these two are basically the same place!) in Dallas, Nate's Seafood in Addison and Flying Fish in University Park.
None of these joints are worthy of the title "best crawfish in Dallas," and only one cracks my top five. In fact, I've been to all of these joints, and I couldn't even come up with five places I would recommend to people. Especially not displaced Louisianans. If you're looking for the real deal, these four crawfish spots may not be just like they are at home, but they'll satisfy your cravings until you can finally make that trip back to New Orleans.
It should come as no surprise that the Oak Lawn location of Dallas' best seafood market is also the best place in town to get crawfish. Every Sunday, TJ's hosts a crawfish boil that is pretty comparable to home-boiled 'bugs, just in a fancier setting than the beer flats on a tailgate that I'm used to. The crawfish here could be a little spicier, but the tails are always pretty big and they're perfectly cooked.
#2: The Boiling Crab
Even though The Boiling Crab's namesake is an inferior crustacean, their crawfish are pretty damn good. The Boiling Crab is unique from other crawfish joints in that it lets customers choose from different seasonings for their always plenty spicy crawfish. I normally don't like riffs on the traditional Cajun recipe, but The Whole Sha-Bang, a blend of the restaurant's Cajun, garlic and lemon pepper seasoning is really excellent. This blend makes a flavorful boil that produces perfectly spicy crawfish, something that most other Cajun restaurants fail miserably at.
#3: Nate's Seafood
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When I first moved to Dallas, Nate's Seafood & Steakhouse was the first Cajun restaurant I tried, and it just happened to be at the tail end of crawfish season. I ordered a few pounds, and was pleasantly surprised at how good they were. I like that Nate's only uses Louisiana crawfish, which is special considering that most places probably import theirs from China, and there's no telling what kind of waters they've been fished from. Order your crawfish "turbo-style," and you won't be disappointed with the spicy blend.
#4: Crawfish Hut
To say the least, I was very skeptical of a crawfish joint that also served fried rice and Vietnamese food. Crawfish Hut in Grand Prairie it isn't anywhere near a traditional Cajun joint, but the crawfish here are really pretty good. The sauce is spicy with a little lemon, and the copious butter just makes it all the better. The best part here is the price -- crawfish at Crawfish Hut are usually a few bucks cheaper per pound than anywhere else, but they definitely don't skimp on the spice. If you dare, ask them to make yours extra spicy and enjoy the eye-watering goodness. Crawfish Hut is seriously a hidden gem, especially for those of us who aren't afraid of a little adventure. (Find it at 2615 W. Pioneer Parkway #122).
I wish there were more great places to find crawfish in Dallas, but there just aren't, and you shouldn't be wasting your cash on mediocre crawfish. They're far too glorious to be boring. Thankfully, these four spots are plenty to keep your belly full of mudbugs all season long.