There’s no other way to describe — and absolutely no way to hide — the crimson-colored exoskeletons piled in front of me at the Crawfish House, a kitschy seafood joint in White Center, where my fellow diners are outfitted in plastic lobster bibs and eating with gloved hands.
As large as my pile seems, I’m a bit player here. Servers are accustomed to orders of five, 10, even 40 pounds of crustaceans, and it’s not hard to see why.
The spicy seafood boils are served piping hot by the pound, accompanied by hunks of corn and sausage slices.
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Judgments about cholesterol are best left at the door; the deep fryer works overtime here, pumping out shrimp, soft-shell crab and catfish encased in a light, spicy batter.
The portions are generous, and the staff is upbeat even when the place is going full-tilt.
If you’ve never had crawfish before, the cook is happy to step away from the kitchen for a quick tutorial.
Definitely one of the friendlier dining experiences in the southwest end. Not a place for cranky clock-watchers.
The menu: Seafood boils rule the menu: Choose from crawfish, three kinds of crab, clams and/or shrimp sold by the pound at market prices. Crawfish run about $8.99 a pound. You can order 5 pounds for $35 on Friday nights, or pay $5.99 a pound from 3 to 5 p.m. on “beat the clock” Mondays.
Appetizers include fried pickles ($2.50), tater tots ($3.99), fried gizzards ($5.99), Cajun wings and fried calamari ($6.99 each). Crawfish corn or clam chowder are $3.99 each; add nine hunks of corn or nine slices of sausage for $1.50.
Baskets of fried shrimp, catfish, tilapia, oysters, crawfish and soft-shell crab are served with fries both as entrees (between $8.99 and $11.99) and po’boys ($5.99 for a half sandwich; $8.99 to $11.99 for a whole.) Specials include crawfish or shrimp étouffée ($8.99), fried catfish smothered in étouffée sauce ($12.99), barbecue shrimp ($20 a pound) and oysters on the half shell ($7.99 for half dozen, $14.99 for a dozen).
Lunch specials offered from 1 to 3 p.m. include a Cajun burger; sausage and egg sandwich; rice with pork or chicken; and fried rice with chicken, shrimp or sausage ($5.99 each). Soft drinks are $1.99, flavored lemonades are $2.49 and bottled beer is $3.
What to write home about: The “house” boil, featuring seafood cooked in garlic butter and a medley of spices. Also hard to beat the welcoming atmosphere.
What to skip: As much as I loved the boiled crawfish, the tiny crustaceans get overwhelmed by batter when they’re breaded and fried.
The setting: A spacious storefront on the south end of White Center’s main drag. Decorated in fishing kitsch — think nets, plastic lobsters and Mardi Gras beads. The restaurant easily accommodates large groups, but expect to wait Fridays and Mondays when crawfish is on special. They’ll close early if they get a run on the crustacean, so you might want to check their Facebook page before heading out on those days.
Summing up: A pound of boiled crawfish Monday special ($5.99) and a large, spicy serving of shrimp fried rice cost $16.14, including tax and tip.
Susan Kelleher: firstname.lastname@example.org