Eating crawfish can be a messy, manicure-ruining experience, yet with each addictive slurp and twist, I have often secretly wondered: “Are these really good, or have I had too many beers?”
At many area restaurants, mudbugs — in season from roughly March to June — are covered with so much Old Bay that it can become hard to make heads or tails of them. During one such recent dinner at a local restaurant, our order of 2 pounds of crawfish was smothered with the spicy stuff, but when it came down to it, the rewards were few. These guys were tiny fellas, and tasted bland and overcooked.
But that was before I discovered — through an Instagram follower, full disclosure — Acadia Parish, where crawfish reigns supreme.
Owner Daniel Demaline, a Louisiana native, started his business last fall, and he’s been hiding in plain sight at Lola’s Saloon, just off West Seventh Street. Weekends have him in the throes of the boil, serving up hundreds of these little sisters to lobsters (on a good patio day) to a growing group of fans from Fort Worth and beyond.
We ordered 2 pounds ($9/pound) of his specialty last Thursday night, when the weather had us searching for an outdoor venue where we could torture our crawfish-averse children.
It's a good thing Demaline has a variety of other Cajun items on his menu, from Natchitoches meat pies ($4 each) to chicken and sausage jambalaya ($9). As our kids settled in with a relatively pedestrian — but delicious — choice of fried shrimp and hush puppies ($12), we paid, then took our ticket to the screened-in unit across the patio where one of Demaline’s employees was expertly boiling up pot after pot of the spicy delicacy.
A few minutes later came our platter of crawfish, but I almost didn’t recognize them.
These guys were huge, more like mini-lobsters. Another difference is that Acadia’s crawfish were a gorgeous, bright red, and looked ready for their close-ups — no Instagram filter needed.
Demaline pays a premium for such fine ‘fish — about 25 percent more than other restaurants shell out for so-called field-run crawfish. He gets the select-grade crawfish from Frugé Aquafarms in Branch, La., just northwest of Lafayette. Demaline also sells live crawfish to customers on Saturday mornings.
A quick twist of the head from the tail and a pull of a few rings showed a meaty interior, ideally spiced with a tried-and-true seasoning mix Demaline has been tweaking for years.
“It’s just a typical dry crawfish seasoning,” Demaline says. “Salt, black pepper, a closely measured amount of cayenne, lemon zest, garlic powder, allspice, and about four or five more ingredients that you’d have to hang me off a 10-story building to get me to tell ya.”
It's hard to top Acadia, which leads off the list below, but here are a few other venues where the crustacean impresses.
Acadia Parish Crawfish
How they’re served: With potatoes, corn and Cajun-style hard-boiled eggs
Standout garnish: The eggs prove to be a perfect palate cleanser
Heat level: Slightly spicy, building with each crawfish you eat
Mess factor: Not too bad, not too bad at all.
- 6314 Camp Bowie Blvd. (other area locations include north Fort Worth, Burleson and Arlington)
- Fort Worth
How they’re served: On a large plastic tray with two potatoes, an ear of corn and lemon wedges.
Standout garnish: The potatoes, on the large side, were pillowy, spicy perfection.
Heat level: Coated in a thick layer of seasoning — we ordered them “hot” — the crawfish were almost too spicy to handle.
Mess factor: Moderate
- 770 E. Road to Six Flags (a north Fort Worth location opens this summer)
How they’re served: A tangle of mudbugs on a tray, with the requisite potatoes and corn.
Standout garnish: Shell Shack has a variety of “wet” preparations including Cajun, garlic, lemon pepper, The Kitchen Sink and Naked. The crawfish get doused with your choice of sauce, are shaken in a bag, and then poured onto the platter.
Heat level: You can order them “Diablo,” but don’t.
Mess factor: Off the charts
How they’re served: Corn. Potatoes.
Standout garnish: The corn had a nice kick, and wasn’t too annihilated by the steam from the crawfish.
Heat level: Pretty good. The crawfish are boiled with Frank’s Hot Sauce and then seasoned before serving with Old Bay.
Mess factor: Worth the experience