The Great Crawfish Battle of Dallas

'Tis the season to enjoy some mudbugs and Dallas has plenty of restaurants to choose from. Photo Courtesy: R. Trevino
‘Tis the season to enjoy some mudbugs and Dallas has plenty of restaurants to choose from.
Photo Courtesy: R. Trevino

By Steven Doyle

This year promises to be a great one for crawfish. For those who love the crustacean, spicy, steaming delicious in all its glory, we have a fantastic list for all in Dallas to get your fix. Notice a few newcomers this year that will excite your palates with their rendition of the spicy treat. Enjoy a few pounds and have a beer on us. Here are our favorites:

The Boiling Crab
A leader in Dallas crawfish lore is noted for its spicy and very spicy sauces plied to the seafood offerings. This actually is part of a chain of restaurants scattered across the west coast. All the seafood is boiled in a bag with an assortment of sauces available, but it is best to order the “whole shebang,” which gives you all the flavors in a buttery sauce. You may order plain to XXX in the spicy department. XXX will hang with you for a long time, and for the faint of heart it will make you weep tears of joy. Expect an extremely long wait time, usually three hours during peak times. Look for this marvelous Mecca to seafood located very near Garland.

Shell Shack
The Shell Shack does the same seafood offerings as The Boiling Crab, but without the long wait time. It is located in Uptown, so it’s easy access to most of the population. The Dungeness Crab is one of our favorites, but Shell Shack also offers seasonal crawfish at market pricing. The owners of the fairly new hot spot claim they will carry all grade A mudbugs once the season gears up, and that means huge crawfish at a premium – a premium well worth paying. On our last visit we paid $6.99 a pound (market price so it can change up or down), and they were meaty and tasty. You may order the crawfish with varied degrees of spiciness with wet sauces or a dried rub. Watch for a new location coming soon to Plano.

Nate’s Seafood
Located in Addison, Nate’s has been a long-time player in the crawfish game. Here the water is seasoned extra spicy where the bugs are given a mild hot bath to retain their crispness. You may have an added level of dried rub spice applied that will give you some terrific finger burns as you plow through piles of the wonderous large and plump crawfish. Once the season gets into high gear you can expect a highly-discounted night mid-week. You generally will find a cool Cajun band playing Zydeco hits. It is best to position yourself at the bar for the best service, and quick returns on re-orders and cold beer.

TJ’s Seafood Market
Owner Jon Alexis doesn’t fool around when it comes to seafood. The noted fishmonger also takes pride in obtaining the very best crawfish available to mankind. You may enjoy crawfish by the pound at the Oak Lawn or newest location on Preston and Royal while sipping one of the signature beers, or chat up Alexis about doing your own boil at home. TJ’s can supply you with all the needed equipment, or it can cater your crawfish party. Look for only grade A once the season officially starts in the coming weeks.

Tasty Tails
If you haven’t been to the Food Court on Legacy off of I-75 in Plano, you are missing the boat, folks. It is here we have enjoyed some pretty special Asian cuisine. Let’s do a quick rundown of the highlights of the Food Court, which is BYOB. Hong Kong for steamed and baked buns, Hanni Indonesian for some terrific rice dishes, and Palayok for the very best and most authentic Filipino fare. Where else can you enjoy a vast assortment of nine Asian restaurants in one setting? It is here you will find some of the very best Cajun food in the city. Be sure to order a side of gumbo with your crawfish. You also may want a po boy (awesome) or some of the oddball items like a turkey neck. The crawfish can be ordered with a varied degree of spiciness. Thank us later for this recommendation.

The Free Man Cajun Café
Think live jazz nightly with your Cajun food. Great gumbo, fried catfish and alligator. Also, be sure to check out the huge fried jalapenos that are so spicy they will take the chrome off your Cadillac. The crawfish are prepared very well, and are market priced. Dixieland is the jazz of choice before 10 p.m., then it is anything goes.

Aw Shucks/Big Shucks
Aw Shucks is located on Greenville Avenue and in Lewisville, and Big Shucks is not terribly far away in East Dallas on Mockingbird (a second location is on South Coit). Plenty of terrific fried options like catfish and shrimp, but it also carries crawfish. It is seasoned well, but extreme on the heat like several locations we mentioned above. Very good gumbo and one wonderful Caldo, which is a shrimp and fish soup. All locations get extremely busy, and it is best if you are bilingual, but not required.

Fish City Grill
Plenty of seafood options here including a nice selection of oysters. Our favorite menu items includes a crab bisque, red beans and rice, and fish tacos. We also love the oyster nachos and the bread pudding. In addition, Fish City serves up some very good boiled crawfish.

Shuck N Jive
Serving Dallas with multiple locations, Shuck N Jive is an uber neighborhood spot for all things seafood. The gumbo is superb with a smokey roux that gives the soup a depth of flavor. The crawfish come out steaming, spicy and very serious. You won’t find soggy bugs here as they are cooked to order.

The Flying Fish
This place has it all. Great seafood selections to fit any hunger, along with some really good crawfish. Last visit the crawfish were very large, and very spicy. Love the rainbow trout. The menu selection is vast, making decisions tough – we call that a high-class problem. Many locations to serve you, but we generally dine at the Preston Center spot. The Flying Fish serves breakfast, and a damned good one.