I was busy on a recent trip out to Southern California, but not too busy to get my regular fix of crawdads at The Boiling Crab, a chain of New Orleans-inspired seafood shacks with locations throughout Texas and California.
The Boiling Crab is known for two things: their sweet and succulent crawfish, and their signature method of service. Just about everything they serve is cooked and brought to you in a plastic bag, to be dissembled in one giant, messy feast at the table.
From Dungeness and blue crab to shrimp and crawdads, the items of seafood are thrown into the bags with segments of lime, corn, and seasonings of your choice. As the name of the restaurant suggests, the seafood is quickly boiled, thereby preserving tenderness. The bags, in addition to being convenient units of transport, ensure that the juices of the crustaceans do not diffuse into the cooking water.
The typical seasonings are: Rajun-Cajun, Lemon Pepper, and Garlic Butter. However, most people are addicted to the Boiling Crab for one thing only: The Whole Sha-bang, a strangely harmonious combination of all three regular seasonings. Deeply red and viscous with little bits of garlic and celery, the Whole Sha-bang may be the most pungent sauce I've ever eaten. A bag of the Whole Sha-bang may leave your fingers, your clothes, and your car smelling like crawfish and garlic for days, but the draw of spicy, tangy, buttery sauce is unstoppable.
The crawfish are at their juiciest during the spring and summer months, but even in the fall and winter, the critters are plump enough for good shelling. Like miniature lobsters, the bulk of the meat in crawfish is in the tails.
While the boil-in-a-bags are the most popular orders, their fried catfish is tender and flaky with a golden and crisp casing. Cajun fries are well executed, having a crunch on the exterior reminiscent of tater tots. Free refills of their sodas tops off their very reasonably-priced menu.
The waiting time to be seated is almost always interminable. Once I arrived at five in the afternoon and waited outside for an hour; come six in the evening, the waiting time is usually two hours or more. Now, instead of waiting and battling the throngs of families and raucous teenagers that dominate the establishment, I generally order my huge bags of crawdads to go. That way, I can shell and spit in the comfort of my own dining table.
The Boiling Crab
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