If it’s Mardi Gras season again, that means it’s crawfish season also. Finding a crawfish restaurant in this area is akin to finding a coffee shop in Seattle; they’re on every street corner. Whether it’s drive-through, sit down, or on the buffet Cajuns love boiled crawfish. The trick is finding a place that cooks them to perfection.
As I stood in what seemed like the line for a ride at Disney World, I could see the lucky patrons already being served inside Richard’s restaurant in Abbeville, La. On weekend nights the line for crawfish is at least 30 to 45 minutes, but well worth the wait. The unassuming white building on LA-335 hides some of the best crawfish, crab, and shrimp eating in South Louisiana. As we slowly crept up to the threshold that takes you to the promised land of hot boiled crawfish, the exterior door opened and a farmer in his sixties popped his head in, his wife just behind. He took one look at the line of hungry people and exclaimed, “Damn! They must serve some good food in this place.” Everyone in line chuckled. This is a comfortable down home kind of place where your neighbor is two tables away and Maw Maw has purple surgical gloves to eat her crawfish that match her purple blouse and sweater. In fact as we drank a few beers while deciding how many pounds of spicy mudbugs to order, we were greeted by a friend who travels from Lafayette at least twice a month because she and her husband love Richard’s seafood.
An absolute necessity for boiled seafood of any kind is the dipping sauce. Everyone I know makes theirs differently. I love mine equal parts ketchup and mayonnaise with a dash of worchestershire and garlic hot sauces; maybe a squeeze of lemon juice when available. I don’t know why we reserve this to solely dip seafood into because anyone in their right mind would smear this on everything, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s probably for the best that I only eat it with boiled seafood, as my arteries already suffer from every drop of brown gravy and fried food Cajun country has to offer.
Any good athlete knows you have to stretch before a big event, same with eating crawfish; start with an appetizer. The fried alligator gave our hands and stomachs a warm up as the crawfish were boiling in the perfectly seasoned water. They were battered with a mix of cornmeal and top secret ingredients I couldn’t distinguish, then crispy fried. I dipped those in my sauce which probably contributed to the need for another round of sauce mixing after about a pound and a half of crawfish.
What I love about Richard’s crawfish is they are boiled in highly seasoned water and absorb all those spices. The seasoning is in the tails not sprinkled on top, which gets all over your hands, like at other restaurants. Every room of the building was filled with people pinching tails and sucking heads. One thing we learned is how to time your trip to Richard’s. If you get there before 7:00 you’re going to wait a while, but as we were washing our hands (and faces) around 8:30 there was no line. There is risk involved with arriving later; you may be taking the chance that the restaurant runs out of those beautiful crawfish. Needless to say we left satisfied and lips slightly burning in the afterglow of a great night of crawfish.