Eschewing the more scientific name of “crayfish” for the more down-home “crawfish,” Houston’s crawfish season is like a nonstop party from January to July. Eaten by Native Americans for ages, after The Great Expulsion of 1755, French Acadians from the Canadian maritime provinces arrived in Louisiana desperately missing their seafood staple, lobster. Settling for seafood that's not even from the sea, crawfish became a seasonal delicacy that trickled along the Gulf Coast and into Houston. Nowadays, a crawfish boil is as much a social function as it is a meal, and it’s no surprise that Houston’s history and culture have put a wholly unique spin on the Cajun classic.
A favorite of Beyonce’s during her hometown visits, BB’s Cafe in Montrose is the perfect blend of Tex-Mex and Cajun cuisine as the self-proclaimed hub of Tex-Orleans cooking. Queen B loves their fried shrimp and catfish, but diners also swear by their signature Tex-Cajun fries, topped with queso, gravy, and roast beef. Serving traditional boils all day until closing, crawfish-lovers also flock to the cafe for their étouffée — a thicker, crawfish-focused version of gumbo smothered on a bed of rice.
Decidedly “Cajun-Tex” cuisine, Gumbo Jeaux’s in The Heights adds BYOB options to the mix. Take on the big, spicy boils for large groups, or dive into the Gumbo Jeaux’s specialty — crawfish bisque. This rich, sandwich-dipping delicacy is a dressed-down take on the stuffier, more traditional lobster bisque. Also in The Heights, Boil House on 11th St. is a no-frills hangout that plays into the social heart of the crawfish boil. Serving heaps of crawfish by the pound, Boil House is said to have the perfect amount of Cajun “mouth burn” in their spice ratio. Pretty much as classic as you can get with the sides of corn on the cob and potatoes cooked with the mudbugs, Boil House also serves pounds of crawfish to “geaux” for boil parties at home.
The pioneer of Houston’s now infamous Viet-Cajun cuisine, the owner of Crawfish & Noodles in Chinatown was featured in the late great Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode on Houston. Gulf Coast culture is now deeply intertwined with Texan Vietnamese culture. The harmonious result is Viet-Cajun crawfish, drenched in garlicky butter with bright pops of fresh orange slices, sometimes cooked with lemongrass or ginger for an extra Asian-influenced kick.
Running with the patently Houstonian Vietnamese fusion trend is Saigon House in Midtown. With various spice blends to choose from, including one called “H-Town,” Saigon House is just as famous for crawfish as it is for pho and bánh mì. Drenched in spices and fresh herbs, their crawfish spice combos will leave your lips tingly and Kylie-Jenner-plump for hours.
What started as a booth in grocery store Ranch 99, LA Crawfish’s spinoff location in Greenway allows for a little more elbow room to crack open crawfish heads. This Viet-Cajun endeavor is known for their explosive crawfish drowning in herbed butter, including a special crawfish pho dish filled with spicy, plump crawdads with slices of Cajun sausage floating in the hearty both.