The Crawfish Pot offers Cajun favorites in an environment where it’s okay to make a mess 

The staff at The Crawfish Pot are ready for a mess.

The southside restaurant, 2142 W. Interstate 240 Service Road, is full of clean lines and a carefully constructed faux backwoods chic. The tables are lined with plastic and white butcher paper because there are very few dainty dining options at this eatery.

E’s Crab Wontons (four for $5.99) are the exception, not the rule. Large triangular folds of crisp wonton wrapper are filled with a familiar blend of crab and cream cheese. After so many blah versions from Chinese buffets, it’s a joy to have a freshly fried taste of this sweet appetizer. One warning, though: Being freshly fried means the cream cheese filling is hot enough to burn. Give them a second to cool off if you can.

click to enlarge 1 lb. boiled crawfish in The Maria seasoning and 1 lb. boiled shrimp in The Don seasoning at the Crawfish Pot, Friday, June 2, 2017. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • 1 lb. boiled crawfish in The Maria seasoning and 1 lb. boiled shrimp in The Don seasoning at the Crawfish Pot, Friday, June 2, 2017.

How anyone can resist chicken wings (six for $6.99) is beyond me. The wings are deep-fried, and the skin puffs up and gets crispy while the dark meat gets juicy and tender. The Crawfish Pot serves three flavors of sauces with its wings: Cajun, lemon pepper and Saigon, which is a sticky, sweet lacquer with mild spice. One of my favorite things about the wings was the way the cook left some of the extra skin on them before dropping them in the oil. More skin means more flavor and more surface area for the sauce to stick to.

Flavor was sadly lacking in the gumbo ($6.99). When the crock arrived at the table, steam whipping off the scoop of rice waiting to be stirred in, everything looked in order. The gumbo was full of sausage and chicken with nice chunks of vegetables in the thick broth. There was even a little twinge of heat coming from the background spices slowly climbing up my throat, but it was largely flavorless. A little added salt could go a long way.

One fun detail is the grilled cheese sandwich served with the stew. It was extremely thin and crispy with grooves left by the metal press it was cooked in. I generally don’t eat grilled cheese with gumbo, but this was a perfect accompaniment. The texture of the bread helped hold on to the liquid like a supplemental spoon.

While the gumbo was a minor letdown, I was majorly impressed by the fried shrimp po’boy ($9.99).

As with most great sandwiches, this one started with the bread. The hoagie roll was split top to bottom all the way through. The bread was soft without feeling insubstantial — the perfect weight to hold a mountain of fried shrimp while still easy to bite through.

I recommend you get the po’boys fully dressed, with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and pickle. The toppings keep the sandwich pleasantly moist and have just the right amount of chew to go with the crunch of the shrimp.

My fears of being skimped on shrimp were allayed as soon as I saw the sandwich emerge from the kitchen. Not only was the po’boy stuffed full of gorgeous, golden shrimp, but they were literally overflowing into a pile on the plate.

But one of the main draws of The Crawfish Pot is its classic Cajun-style seafood boil.

Diners can look over the chalkboard menu on the wall, which lists specials and by-the-pound prices for clams, king crab, snow crab, whole Dungeness crab, crawfish and jumbo shrimp. They come to the table dripping with seasonings inside a heavy-duty plastic sack.

“Go ahead and make fun of me in your review,” said my mother, who cringed at the head-on jumbo shrimp ($14.99 per pound) as she pulled one out of the bag.

First of all, the name jumbo is accurate. The shrimp were monstrously large. It’s a bit of work releasing the meat from the shell, as everything in the bag was smothered in The Don garlic butter sauce. But once you tear off the head, rip off the legs and peel back the shell, you are left with a mighty large piece of beautifully boiled seafood. Warning: The shrimp are not deveined. I didn’t notice a grainy texture, but your mileage might vary.

Even more difficult to extricate from their carapaces are crawfish ($8.99 per pound). I legitimately googled “how to eat crawfish” while I was at the table because I couldn’t figure it out.

Here’s the short version: Grab the crawfish by the head with one hand and the tail with the other. Squeeze and pull. The head comes off, along with its pincers, pretty easily. You can suck the head for a little extra flavor or just tear off the first few rings of shell around the tail and then suck the meat out of the remaining tail while pinching it.

click to enlarge Saigon hot wings at the Crawfish Pot, Friday, June 2, 2017. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Saigon hot wings at the Crawfish Pot, Friday, June 2, 2017.

The amount of work compared to the amount of meat is ridiculous. Crawfish must be a diet food, because you will absolutely burn more energy getting the meat out of the shell than you will gain eating it.

If that sounds too taxing but you still need to eat those tiny crustaceans, the restaurant serves fried popcorn crawfish ($9.99), crawfish étouffée ($8.99) and a fried crawfish po’boy ($10.99).

The boiled crawfish came in The Maria seasoning, which is a blend of Cajun spices. On either sauce, you can choose the heat level — medium, spicy or extra spicy. Adding some corn on the cob is $.79, and a potato is $1.29 extra. While the sauces don’t necessarily penetrate the seafood, they do soak into the vegetables quite readily. I recommend both to make it a more rounded meal.

The server will probably offer you a bib and rubber gloves. Take them. When the seafood first arrives at the table, it’ll be too hot to handle otherwise. Plus, it’s fun to pretend you’re a surgeon in an ER catering specifically to shrimp and crawfish, especially when someone else is there to clean up the mess.

Print Headline: Boiling over; The Crawfish Pot offers Cajun favorites in an environment where it’s okay to make a mess.

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