New Orleans Crawfish Heat Index: The Best Spots for Belly Suckin' and Tail Slurpin'
By Kristopher Neild
Palm Beach / West Palm Beach Local Expert
Just around the time that Lent approaches, New Orleanians can sense that the season of the crawfish is upon them. The unique aroma of a crawfish boil tends to linger over New Orleans for the period between March-June, when just about every restaurant is serving up their rendition of a crawfish boil. Belly suckers and tail slurpers rejoice!
Many joints use the famed Zatarain's seasoning when conducting a boil, but others concoct their own special blend of spices in order to stand out from the crowd. Next is the matter of what else to throw in the pot - corn and potatoes are the staples. Others have been known to toss in shrimp, lemons, garlic and locally caught rabbit!
When the season dies down, it doesn't mean crawfish stops showing up on menus throughout the Big Easy. The tails of the scrumptious crawdads make their way into many famed dishes like gumbo and etouffee year round.
The list below contains a mix of joints that serve up in-season boils (Lucy's), and others that incorporate the craw in their meals perpetually (Bon Ton). Click through the list and check out websites/menus in order to identify which venue suits your needs. If you find yourself in New Orleans during March-June, don't leave town without slurpin' a mud bug.
10 Superior Seafood & Oyster Bar
Superior Seafood, located on the important corner of Napoleon and St. Charles is the preeminent seafood restaurant of Uptown New Orleans. The enchanting exterior and decor of the inside make you feel like you are entering a steamboat filled to the brim with tasty selections from the sea. While specializing in oysters (50 cent raw oysters from 4-6:30 daily), they also have great seafood pasta dishes and french bread. Their tantalizing wine list will undoubtedly include the vino you crave, and the servers will be happy to explain anything about the menu. Easily accessible off the St. Charles streetcar, be sure to stop in during your travelings to Uptown! ((504) 293-3474)
9 Cooter Brown's Tavern & Oyster Bar
Cooter Brown's is without a doubt the place to go for sports in Uptown New Orleans, and could be the number one spot for those who like to get a little rowdy when watching their team play. This venue has a front and back bar, a handful of large projection screens and copious televisions to make viewing possible from every nook and cranny of the establishment. In the middle of the bar is picnic style seating for eating (the food is top notch here), drinking and viewing. The pool tables are covered up with hard tops to make more seating available on game days. Their beer list may be the most comprehensive of any bar on this list, with beer from over 15 countries (check their website for the complete list). (504-866-9104)
8 Gazebo Cafe
The Gazebo Cafe is an open air restaurant right in the middle of the French Market of New Orleans. This is a great place to grab some shade while still being able to soak up the sounds and smells of the vibrant New Orleans marketplace. Live jazz music is a constant here, with piano sounds chiming over the stand-up bass thumps. Their menu is loaded with Louisiana favorites like seafood po-boys, muffulettas and crawfish. This is a great place for families and groups, as there is always conversation flowing, as well as drinks and good times. Everything is generally laid back at the Gazebo Cafe, so don't plan on a thirty minute eat and run type of deal. ((504) 525-8899)
7 Grand Isle Restaurant
Grand Isle is the strip of land off mainland Louisiana known for its amazing fishing. Grand Isle Restaurant, with its menu of fresh local seafood and vintage photos channeling the same gulf goodness as its namesake. Situated on busy Fulton Street, Grand Isle spotlights the talent of chef Ryan Haigler, a South Carolina native who's come light years from his Waffle House beginnings. With a resume that includes working with Sean Brock in Charleston, Tom Colicchio in New York and Emeril in New Orleans' Delmonico, Haigler lassos a lot of flavor in gulf specialties like smoked fried oysters with garlic aioli and a version of grilled oysters with havarti and tasso that is completely off the hook. The smoked drum chowder with roasted corn is another treat, and you can't miss with anything seafood. But Haigler handled the butcher program for Delmonico for two years, so steak specials or the winning combo of confit pork cheek and baby clams served with crunchy popcorn rice pilaf. This is a relaxed yet surprisingly sophisticated option just steps from Canal Street and the Convention Center. (504-520-8530)
6 Bon Ton Cafe
Crawfish is a staple in The Big Easy's culinary traditions, from crawfish etouffee to jambalaya, and no place has mastered traditions like Bon Ton Cafe. Housed in a charming 1840s building, Bon Ton exudes an old-city ambiance that perfectly complements authentic Cajun cuisine like red fish smothered in mouthwatering crawfish etouffee and creamy crawfish bisque with parsley buttered rice. The famed Rum Ramsey cocktail and decadent whiskey bread pudding are menu musts, as well. Bon Ton is located on historic Magazine Street, with its flickering gas lamps beckoning the romantic couple to stroll in for a delicious New Orleans meal. (504-524-3386, 888-524-5611)
5 Ernst Cafe
Ernst Cafe has existed in the Warehouse District of New Orleans for over a century, nestled in a Pre-Civl War structure. The atmosphere is a friendly, family type of setting where talking, chattering and having a good time are all allowed. Ernst is known for having "Crawfish Fridays" during crawfish season, where you can get a tray of the famed shellfish for $5 and enjoy discounts on the local brew as well (Abita). If you happen to visit outside of the normal crawfish season, they always serve up a mean crawfish etouffee which is something everyone visiting New Orleans should try. ((504) 525-8544)
4 Mid-City Yacht Club
The Mid-City Yacht Club is the ultimate neighborhood bar. Perched on the intersection of two dead end roads, the joint is a post-Katrina creation in every since. Its interior is fashioned with re-purposed, warped wood from the 2005 hurricane. The bar isn't a yacht club at all; it uses that name in jest (their bar was waterfront property after the storm for a bit). Feel free to venture down here for some suds, a game of darts, some Golden Tee or perhaps a movie (the bar offers movie showings on a regular basis). Mid-City Yacht Club has a trove of televisions, perfect for football season. ((504) 483-2517)
3 Deanies Seafood
Deanie's Seafood is a New Orleans powerhouse when it comes to from-the-Gulf seafood offerings. Most famous for their seafood platters, Deanie's has made a name for themselves by being the best at boiling, broiling and frying various ocean critters. Shrimp, oyster, crawfish, gumbo, jambalaya, crab and fresh fish are always to be found here. Deanie's has a location in the French Quarter with a great courtyard eating area. If you are coming to the city for a business outing or something involving a large group, consider Deanie's. They have large private dining areas, and their platters were basically created for group dining. (504-834-1225)
2 Chartres House Cafe
Crawfish is truly the star of the menu at this casual French Quarter cafe. Unique and utterly delicious crawfish cakes, rich crawfish pasta, fried crawfish tails and, of course, perfectly-executed etouffee make this one a favorite, and excellent prices enable visitors to fill up without emptying their wallets. Additionally, the peaceful wraparound balcony is an ideal spot to people watch while sipping one of Chartres House's local brews or rave-worthy Cajun Bloody Marys. Chartes House Cafe is located in the French Quarter of New Orleans, in walking distance of Jackson Square. Stop by for dinner if you find yourself craving some delicious local seafood. (504-586-8383)
1 Lucy's Retired Surfer's Bar & Restaurant
Lucy's Retired Surfer Bar is a fun joint in the Warehouse District of New Orleans. They serve a variety of bar foods, seafood, tacos and salads as well as burgers and sandwiches. They also have a full menu for canine companions. During crawfish season, Lucy's hosts boils multiple nights per week where you can get a plate of crawfish, corn and potato for a very reasonable price. Lucy's is for the blue collar, beer drinking, relaxed-minded individual. A super cool interior with courtyard dining makes this a must hit if you find yourself strolling the Warehouse District after taking in a conference or Mardi Gras World. ((504) 523-8995)
About Kristopher Neild
Kris is a South Florida resident, living close to the coast in West Palm Beach. The area lets him delve into his vices - beaching, bar-hopping and baseball. Besides writing about travel & leisure, he is a CFA candidate, hoping to pen an investment newsletter sometime in the future.
Read more about Kristopher Neild here.