With Mardi Gras in the rear view mirror and the season of Lent underway, another season is also on most New Orleanians' radar - crawfish season. The distinctive aroma of a crawfish boil tends to linger over New Orleans for the period between March-June, when corner stores, bars and restaurants all over town dish up their rendition of a crawfish boil.
Many joints use the famed Zatarain's seasoning to flavor 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. Other chefs have been known to toss in shrimp, lemons, garlic and even locally caught rabbit.
When the season dies down, it doesn't mean crawfish stops showing up on menus throughout the Big Easy. The harvested tails of the freshwater crustaceans 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, and others that incorporate the craw in their meals perpetually. 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.
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!
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). Cooter's combines boils with the game during the season.
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 30 minute eat and run type of deal.
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 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. Love love their fried crawfish po-boy and boils are ever-present during the crawfish season. The smoked drum chowder with roasted corn is another treat, and you can't miss with anything seafood. 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.
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.
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 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.
The Mid-City Yacht Club is the ultimate neighborhood bar and come Fridays starting at 4pm during the season, around 320 mudbugs go into the boil. Order a heaping plate of crawfish for $6 with plenty of fixings on the side. There is a wide selection of beers on tap on in the can, ideal pairing with these spicy bites. If there's a game being played, it's on the flat screens and the crowd is always friendly. There's not yacht in sight, by the way, although for a brief time this place was waterfront property after Hurricane Katrina. Look up neighborhood bar in the dictionary, and chances are Mid-City Yacht Club will be there.
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.
Crawfish is truly the star of the menu at this casual French Quarter cafe. Unique and delicious crawfish cakes, rich crawfish pasta, fried crawfish tails and, of course, perfectly-executed etouffee make this spot popular with tourists and locals alike. 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 in walking distance of Jackson Square. Stop by for dinner if you find yourself craving some delicious local seafood along with Cajun specialties popular in South
Rivershack Tavern is a neighborhood watering hole and eatery located adjacent to the Mississippi River (on River Road). The big "Dixie Beer" sign out front invites passersby to come in for a pitcher of local beer and boiled seafood. The neighborhood/sports/live music bar has indoor and outdoor seating. The bar inside has at least 20 beers on tap and a variety of import and domestic bottles. For food, seafood po-boys are amazing here, and if you come in-season, you can be treated to an authentic Louisiana crawfish boil. Live music is popping off at least four nights a week, with blues, classic rock and funk/jazz being the genres of choice.