Fish City Grill, LA Crawfish and Comal Crawfish Co.

Pamela G. Knowles

There were crawfish the night before the last time the world ended, too.

That was March 18 of last year, the night before a pandemic-driven shutdown of restaurant dining rooms that would last until May 1. My wife and I plowed through crawfish at Fish City Grill like it was the restaurant at the end of the universe.

This time, it was the calm before the blizzard. There we were Feb. 13, at the same place, making sure we didn’t touch our eyes after our third round of turbo-spiced crawfish. Neither of us knew that snow and ice and power failures that would begin the next day would make it our last meal out for a while.

The season for live crawfish is never certain. It starts sometime in January and trails off in early summer. Even then, it takes a special breed of restaurant to pull it off, one that’s willing to bring them in all bristling with claws and antennae without knowing how many pounds they’ll sell before the bristling stops.

This year is even more challenging for crawfish sellers, with dining room capacity and demand throttled by the pandemic. One of San Antonio’s best places for crawfish, Pinch Boil House, won’t be bringing in live mudbugs until mid- to late April.

“It’s hard to manage because of COVID,” said Pinch co-owner Sean Wen, whose downtown shop has seen business cut almost in half. “The shelf life of the product is obviously shorter than, say, chicken.”

But there’s good news for fans of live crawfish. Two restaurants in San Antonio and one in New Braunfels are doing a great job serving them by the pound, spicy and hot, piled on a tray with corn and potatoes if you choose, with cold beer on the side. So get on over to Fish City Grill and LA Crawfish on the North Side, and Comal Crawfish Co. in New Braunfels before it’s too late.

At Comal Crawfish Co. in New Braunfels, get your crawfish boil extras such as corn and potatoes, crawfish boudin, jalapeño-and-cheese boudin and alligator sausage.

Photos by Mike Sutter /Staff

Comal Crawfish Co.

Out on the hangar-style patio at Comal Crawfish Co., the wind whipped a little cup of spice powder into a customer’s face, and a red-eyed coughfest broke out. The live crawfish game is not for the faint of heart.

At Comal Crawfish, they cost $9.49 a pound, a market price that’s subject to change, like all the restaurants in this report.

Grab the tail with one hand, the top with the other, then twist and pull at the same time. The tail part is easy, like tiny bites of poor man’s lobster. The top part — that’s when the theater happens, with hard-core fans going at it like a wet-dry vac.

The reward at Comal Crawfish is a mixture of the crawfish good stuff with a Cajun seasoning blend that’s spicy even without the extra powder blowing in the wind. Toss the shells in the handy bucket on the table.

The extras are fun here, like a fat, juicy link of boudin sausage with crawfish and rice ($5.50 per link) and alligator sausage ($4.99 per link) that’s like pork with an attitude.

311 FM 306, Suite 1B, New Braunfels, 830-643-5939, Open 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 5 to 10 p.m. Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. Dine-in, curbside and third-party delivery available.

Fish City Grill on the North Side features a spice level called

Fish City Grill on the North Side features a spice level called “nitro” for its live crawfish boil.

Mike Sutter /Staff

Fish City Grill

If you ask here on any given night whether the crawfish are live, they’ll bring a mudbug out to the table to sing and dance for you — or at least look vaguely annoyed.

This link in a regional chain serves a full seafood menu, from simple fried catfish to fancy blackened redfish with lump crab. But during the season, it’s also a Louisiana crawfish shack, and it’s a nightly spin of the roulette wheel to see if you can get there before they sell out. The draw for me is a “nitro” seasoning blend with the big herbs and black pepper of a crab boil, except turned up to 11.

Fish City does a good job getting the biggest bugs available at a competitive price ($9.99 per pound earlier his month), and the atmosphere can be whatever you choose: civilized and calm with your crab bisque and fresh oysters, or loud and proud with a tall glass of beer and crawfish all over your fingers.

18130 San Pedro Ave., Suite 104, 210-495-6600, Open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Also at 7010 W. Loop 1604 N., Suite 111, 210-455-3474. Dine-in, curbside and third-party delivery available.

This spicy Cajun crawfish boil at LA Crawfish is customized with corn, potatoes and andouille sausage.

This spicy Cajun crawfish boil at LA Crawfish is customized with corn, potatoes and andouille sausage.

Mike Sutter /Staff

LA Crawfish

The give you a bib after you order at LA crawfish, one of those big plastic cartoon-type things. Hilarious, right? No way you’ll need that.

But then they spread out a big sheet of white paper on the table and dump your crawfish ($9.99 per pound, market price) on it from a steaming bag full of all the juice, corn, potatoes and sausage you can handle before it starts dripping into your lap.

There’s a charm to it, this fast-food version of live crawfish, and the buying power of a big regional chain means the mudbugs are fresh and reliable, with a Cajun spice blend that can be kicked up a notch at your request. It’s fun and simple, served in a sparse dining room with a polished floor, because we’re gonna need a cleanup at Table 3.

25 NE Loop 410, Suite 124, 210-236-5556, more locations at Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. Dine-in, curbside and third-party delivery available.

[email protected] | Twitter: @fedmanwalking | Instagram: @fedmanwalking

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