Austin has variety of places to enjoy crawfish season


Pu Ying Huang

Quality Seafood Market boils live crawfish every Thursday for their sit-in restaurant, offering some of the freshest crawfish around. Crawfish purchase can be made at the market with the minimum purchase of a 30 pound sack.

Karin Samelson

It’s peak crawfish season, and restaurants around town are crawling with the tasty critters. Technically, you can get crawfish almost year round, but they tend to be the biggest and tastiest from March to June.

Widely known around the world as crayfish, or écrevisse in French, these freshwater crustaceans are also called crawdads or mudbugs. They are related to lobsters but are much smaller, averaging about seven inches long and dating back to the late 1700s.

Most people connect crawfish to Louisiana, which is a valid assessment because 98 percent of the crawfish in the United States are harvested in the state of Louisiana. The two most commonly consumed crawfish are red swamp and white river.

Most grocery stores around town have fresh crawfish to buy by the pound, but some of the freshest comes from Quality Seafood Market on Airport Boulevard. Every Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m. the market has live crawfish boiled for $6.99 a pound, which can be eaten in their restaurant. They get fresh shipments in weekly on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“They’re wild caught, cleaned and purged. Some crawfish are field run, and while they might be cheaper, you may have a pound of dirt, fish or tiny turtles along with the crawfish. Our yield is higher but all you’re going to get is clean crawfish,” said Carol Huntsberger, owner of Quality Seafood Market.

If you want fresh crawfish to take home for your own boil, the market only caters to bigger parties, and sells a pound for $3.75 with a minimum purchase of one sack, which is about 30 pounds. If you’re looking to feed less, try H-E-B, where crawfish are going for about $2.50 a pound this weekend.

“We have crawfish deliveries about twice a week per store, so that on the weekends when most crawfish boils are taking place, customers can choose from the most fresh crawfish available,” said Kayla Rice, H-E-B public affairs representative.

If you choose to put on your own crawfish boil, remember that fresh crustaceans are the best and yours should be alive and kicking. If you find that some crawfish are already dead, the only way they are safe to eat is if they haven’t been dead for more than a few hours and have been kept chilled throughout their transportation. A good test of edible crawfish is in the meat — if it’s mushy, then don’t eat it.

To celebrate the season, Roadway Productions is putting on the Louisiana Swamp Thing and Crawfish Festival this Saturday in Buda. The festival will boast over 7,000 pounds of all-you-can-eat crawfish.

“Last year, it took about eight hours [to cook], but we can do it faster,” said Bobby Neutze, crawfish chef for the festival. “I went to Baton Rouge and bought a trailer that has two vats that can produce 700 pounds of crawfish every 30 minutes,”

A typical Cajun crawfish boil contains rich seasoning like cayenne, lemon, garlic, salt, bay leaves, potatoes, corn on the cob, garlic and onions, but every chef has their own variation. Bobby uses Louisiana seasoning mixed with Tony Chachere and Zatarain’s.

Most of the meat is in the body of the crawfish, but if they’re big enough, the claw meat can also be eaten.

And if you’re brave, try sucking the head after you pull it apart from the body, because the seasoning builds up there during the boiling process creating a potent flavor. A common phrase derived from crawfish season in Louisiana is “suck the head, pinch the tail.”

Local places like Evangeline Café on Brodie Lane and The Original New Orleans Po-Boy and Gumbo Shop on South Congress are great places to start if you’re looking for a quick crawfish fix without the work.

“I’ve eaten crawfish at Evangeline for years. Chef Curtis is from Louisiana so he knows how to do it right,” said Rachel Goodwin, a diner at Evangeline Café,

Whether you can make it out to the festival this weekend or bring the party to your own backyard, crawfish boils are a sure way to get your fingers dirty and your mouth happy.

Printed on Tuesday, April 10, 2012 as: Crawfish season in Austin: 'suck the head, pinch the tail'