In the Bayou State, crawfish is a season of its own. As the rest of the country anticipates warmer weather and longer days, Louisianans look forward to the time when mudbugs are plentiful and backyard boils fill our social calendars. Although frozen Louisiana crawfish tail meat is available year-round, there is nothing quite like crawfish season in Louisiana.
While we make sure to get our fill of boiled crawfish during spring, that’s not the only way we like to eat the crustaceans. Whether boiled, fried, smothered, or tucked into hand pies, we love crawfish any way we can get them. Tail meat stored from springtime boils makes for the perfect addition to étouffées, crawfish pies, and creamy pastas throughout the spring and into the rest of the year.
Chefs throughout the state pay homage to Louisiana’s official state crustacean with infinite variations, including traditional étouffées and fried seafood po’ boys as well as internationally inspired dishes like enchiladas.
From New Orleans to Lake Charles, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite places to experience some of the best crawfish dishes Louisiana has to offer. Stop by the one closest to you or take a road trip to try them all.
Set in a cinder block building in New Iberia, Bon Creole is well known for its overstuffed po’ boys and plate lunches. Owner Randy Montegut, a biologist by trade, originally started Bon Creole in 1982 as a crawfish processing plant. After he began packing his own bowfin caviar in the 1980s, he bought the building as a place where he could run that business while offering plate lunches and po’ boys year-round.
Today, Bon Creole has evolved into a lunch counter featuring scratch-made daily plate lunch specials, overflowing po’ boys, gumbo, and other Cajun classics. Most of the restaurant’s business is takeout, with all orders served in white paper bags. One of Bon Creole’s outstanding menu options is the Seafood Platter Po boy, a sandwich brimming with fried shrimp, crawfish, catfish, and oysters and served on fresh, toasted bread smeared with a mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise.
“It’s a lot of food,” Randy says. “Most people order a half. Half a po’ boy will have half a pound of shrimp or better on it.”
As a biologist, Randy is very particular about the seafood he purchases. He sources shrimp very carefully and purchases crawfish and oysters from local purveyors.
Smoked meat and fresh seafood take center stage at BRQ, where Baton Rouge native Justin Ferguson is cooking up a mix of regional barbecue styles and Louisiana seafood. Prior to opening BRQ in the summer of 2017, Justin was the corporate chef for a restaurant group in Chicago, where he perfected the art of barbecue alongside pit masters Lee Ann Whippen and Art Smith.
With BRQ, Justin represents several different styles of barbecue, including Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Memphis/Kansas City. He and his team make all of the rubs and sauces in-house. Everything is rubbed and smoked, and sauce is served on the side as an accompaniment.
While pulled pork, brisket, and ribs anchor the barbecue menu, the seafood portion showcases fresh Louisiana fish, shrimp, and more. One highlight of BRQ’s appetizer menu is the Crawfish Cornbread, a hearty poblano cornbread covered with crawfish étouffée made with Louisiana crawfish tails and fresh crab stock. Justin changes the menu seasonally, which gives him the opportunity to get creative with dishes like smoked rabbit pot pie and smoked barbecue octopus, and he often runs specials that include dishes like homemade gnocchi with crawfish tails.
“We’re constantly doing other things than what you see on the menu because we run specials every night and come up with new ideas, and when those new ideas stick, then they are added to the menu,” Justin says.
When Jason Seither talks about boiling crawfish, his passion is clearly on display. The self-taught chef has been boiling crawfish since he was a kid helping his dad chop onions for backyard boils. Fifteen years ago, Jason noticed that a building was for rent while passing by one day. He decided to open a seafood market where he could sell boiled crawfish, and Seither’s Seafood was born.
“Normally, if you go to a backyard boil, that’s where you’re going to get the best crawfish, not a restaurant. I wanted to do that through this place,” Jason says.
Instead of making his crawfish super spicy or salty, Jason tries to capture the flavors of ingredients like garlic and citrus fruits. He also makes sure to add things like potatoes and corn to the pot.
“I love sitting down at a crawfish boil and being able to eat the different fixings,” Jason says. “Those different ingredients that you put in there, they affect the taste of the crawfish.”
While Seither’s is best known for its boiled crawfish, it has converted to a full-service restaurant and oyster bar that also serves classic seafood dishes and Jason’s other creations.
ARTS AND CRAWFISH
At Blue Dog Café, diners can enjoy classic Cajun cuisine while taking in original artworks from renowned “Blue Dog” artist George Rodrigue. Owner Steve Santillo says that Blue Dog Café first opened in Lafayette in 1999—before George opened a gallery of his own—as a place where people could see George’s early Cajun paintings and contemporary “Blue Dog” pieces. The second location opened in 2015 in downtown Lake Charles in a building with 16-foot-high antique brick walls.
“It was like a blank canvas [from which] we could create the restaurant of our dreams with regard to Blue Dog Café,” Steve says. “Having not had another location since our opening in 1999, we could really express ourselves with a more contemporary version of the restaurant.”
The menu is a mix of Cajun favorites, including Corn & Crab Bisque and Crawfish Étouffée, and fusion dishes, such as Seafood Wontons with plum ginger sauce and Crawfish Enchiladas. As the restaurant’s most popular crawfish dish, the enchiladas feature a blend of crawfish, cheese, onions, and peppers rolled in a tortilla and covered with a cumin mornay sauce. The dish is completed with sides of corn maque choux and dirty-dog rice.
In the shadow of the I-10 overpass at Causeway Boulevard in Metairie, travelers and locals alike could very easily miss Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop, tucked away between hotels in a strip mall. And they would be missing out. Chef Ron Iafrate has become well known for his Louisiana-style specialties, including po’ boys, shrimp Creole, red beans and rice, and an award-winning seafood gumbo.
One of the standout gems is the Yumbo Mumbo Gumbo, a filé and okra gumbo packed with chicken, shrimp, crabmeat, smoked sausage, and tender morsels of Louisiana crawfish, then topped with golden-fried shrimp. Ron credits the gumbo’s glory to the roux.
“I always liked a thicker broth so [that] when you’re eating it with rice, you get a nice full-bodied texture,” Ron says. “The okra adds some texture and keeps it thick. My gumbos definitely have a saucy gravy texture.”
Additionally, Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop is one of the few places in the New Orleans area that offers a gluten-free gumbo. Ron started making gluten-free gumbos with a rice flour roux, but eventually moved to an all-purpose gluten-free flour, which gives a better texture.
The aroma of sizzling chargrilled oysters and warm bowls of gumbo fill the dining room at Neyow’s Creole Café, where Tanya Dubuclet and her family have been serving up authentic Creole cuisine in New Orleans’ Mid-City neighborhood for about eight years. At Neyow’s, Tanya draws upon family recipes for her menu of gumbo, red beans, fried chicken, and more.
“We cook everything from the heart,” Tanya says. “We have passion for everything that we do. My philosophy is good food as quick and fast as possible.”
Neyow’s is a family affair, with Tanya’s mother, Tekakwitha Wilson, and some of Tanya’s children also working at the restaurant. The restaurant originally opened in the building next door to its current location, but moved to its more spacious home in 2016. The new location features an oyster grill at the front of the dining room, a roomy outdoor patio, and a large bar area.
On Neyow’s menu, you’ll find po’ boys, seafood plates, and daily specials, such as the mustard greens that are served every Wednesday. In addition to its daily specials and extensive menu of Creole classics, Neyow’s is also popular for its enormous plates of pasta. The Pasta on the Bayou dish features fresh Gulf shrimp and Louisiana crawfish tossed in a creamy sauce and served over penne pasta.
ALL ABOUT THE SAUCE
In 1868, Edmund McIlhenny started producing TABASCO® Original Red Pepper Sauce on Avery Island. Now, 150 years later, TABASCO® brand products are still made on the same island, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. In 2015, the company opened its first restaurant on Avery Island, Restaurant 1868.
“We’ve seen tourists here on the island for as long as I can remember,” says Angie Schaubert, senior manager of brand sales. “And we’ve always had the comment, ‘Is there anywhere to eat?’ Two years ago, we did a huge renovation to our visitor’s center, and part of that plan was to open a restaurant to provide an eating place for our tourists.”
The buffet-style restaurant serves a variety of authentic Cajun dishes—including gumbo, red beans and rice, and a boudin po’ boy—all prepared using a different TABASCO® product. One of the restaurant’s delicious Cajun classics is the Pepper Barrel Crawfish Étouffée, served over rice and flavored with the original red pepper sauce. Additionally, diners also have the option to order the crawfish étouffée over a buttered biscuit or cheesy nachos.