Published on April 9th, 2012 | by Nature Humphries2
Crawfish Season Is Here!
Oxford, Miss. (TLV) – Ah, springtime in the South. What’s not to love about a sunny Mississippi afternoon? We’ve got baseball, fantastic weather, good people, and tasty food. And one spring staple for so many is that favorite of all crusty critters – the crawfish.
As a native Mississippian, crawfish have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. From the very first time I sampled the Cajun treat, I was hooked. My granny had taken me grocery shopping at the Piggly Wiggly in Port Gibson and when I saw the package of mysterious creatures, I begged and begged until she bought me some.
“You ain’t gon’ like them thangs, Nature!” she said. Well, she was wrong. I couldn’t have been more than about seven or eight, and she couldn’t peel the tails fast enough for me; I was just shoveling them in with both hands. I’d caught live crawfish out of the creek near my house, but who knew that they’d be so delicious?
Every year since then I’ve looked forward to the start of crawfish season, usually accompanied by outdoor music festivals. The year I was away in Navy Boot Camp, my mom sent me some polaroids of people eating flats of mudbugs in the streets of Vicksburg at Riverfest, and the homesickness I’d managed to stifle finally hit me with a slap. I spent an afternoon explaining the delicacy to my fellow recruits from far off places like Chicago or New York. It’s just tradition where I come from, I tried to tell the girls who crinkled their noses at such strangeness.
I’m sure most Mississippians have similar stories. Think about it…can you recall the first time you smelled that spicy, slightly muddy aroma of the boil? That first tender tail meat? Or the first head you ever sucked? Good memories, I’ll wager.
So, what makes this favorite dish so great? I think it’s a combination of things. The quality of the crawfish and how it’s boiled are huge factors, sure. But I truly believe that the atmosphere of where and when you eat them, as well as the company you keep really make a difference.
The juicy factor is a big deal to me, as a head-sucker, because in my opinion that’s where all the fun and flavor come from. What you’re getting isn’t brains (like some squeamish person once told me, tongue extended in disgust) but fat and juices from the boil. It’s got a buttery flavor that goes so well with a cold beer. If you don’t suck heads, maybe you should reconsider, no? Also, take a little extra time to try and wrench a little of the claw meat out—it’s super sweet and tender, and worth the effort.
The extras are important to me if I’m very hungry. I like potatoes, and the corn supplies a sweet contrast to the spicy that just makes life good. Sausage is a great addition, be it Andouille or whatever is at hand (I’m pretty sure Rib Cage’s kielbasa would be mighty nice). And some places get a little creative with what they serve. Last year Bouré included some mushrooms and garlic cloves in one batch that just took it over the top.
Below is a list of some of the places you can get your hands on our little red friends. Everyone has their own style, so experiment and see what best fits your bill. Most of all, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and dig in!!
Dixie Crawfish Co.
Thursday though Sunday, open at noon
What if you want to get some crawfish to bring home or for a picnic? Get ‘em to go from Dixie! Nothing livens up a Springtime backyard BBQ or trip to Sardis better than a plastic sack full of steaming hot Louisiana Lobsters. Or, buy them live and cook ‘em yourself! Dixie sells them both ways and you can stop by their North Lamar location all weekend, starting at noon Thursday and going all the way through Sunday. The cooked ones are complete with all the fixin’s if you so choose and once you tote em off, the atmosphere of your feast is up to you! Newt Rayburn and I had a little front yard picnic in the garden while we watched the world roll by from the comfort of our home.
Irie on the Square
Served every Wednesday from 5 pm until
Sold by the pound in ceramic bowls or plastic trays, we ordered one pound each. The spice level was dead-on—hot enough to get my lips pleasantly burning, and salty enough to merit that 34 oz. mug of draft beer. Each of our servings came with one piece of corn and one potato, but no sausage.
As for the atmosphere, it’s Irie, so you know the vibe is good. Friendly bartenders and wait staff, oodles of beers to choose from, and groovy tunes. The chance of running into friends is pretty high, too, as they get packed each Wednesday with hungry crawdad lovers.
Note: Get there early! We walked in around 6 pm and the place was crawling with people, but we lucked out and snagged two seats at the bar. Order one of the huge $5 Big Boy Drafts if you dare, or one of the other killer Happy Hour deals and get ready for some spicy bugs!
Frank & Marlee’s
Served every Thursday evening
Frank & Marlee’s has a fantastic patio complete with swings for the more adventurous among us. The music wasn’t too loud and we had a great time sitting around with friends, crackin’ jokes and the shells of those precious little crustaceans.
The first time we had crawfish there it was super spicy and juicy, although a little too salty. The second time, they were less moist, maybe because the seasoning had been sprinkled on top, rather than cooked into the liquid. Corn and potatoes accompany their bugs, and of course Frank & Marlee’s provides plenty of quality quaffs to help wash down your mess of mudbugs.
The laid back ambiance of the patio keeps the customers happy and refreshed. Get there early if you want to give the swings a whirl. (Just be careful, they can be treacherous – just ask my friend Winn McElroy.)
Served Thursday through Saturday on the Patio
The patio at The Levee is a perfect place to sit with friends and chow on some mudpuppies, as long as conversation isn’t too important. They keep the music cranked, but that gives you an excuse to concentrate solely on shuckin’ and suckin’ those little spicy bad boys.
Taylor Murchison and I stopped in and ate a few pounds apiece, which was served with the usual corn and potatoes (which were ginormous) as well as some too-salty sausage—nothing an ice cold pitcher of brew couldn’t cure, and at Happy Hour prices, The Levee has a deal that’s hard to beat.
Crawdad Hole (Water Valley)
Thursdays through Sundays until they run out!
Don’t let the short drive South of Oxford deter you from trying The Crawdad Hole. The bugs they served us were outstanding! It’s definitely worth the quick road trip to sample their specialties. They sell them by the pound to go, or you can grab a picnic table out in front of the old service station-turned-kitchen. If you’re real hungry, all the extras are, well, extra. You can get corn, taters, sausage, and even mushrooms cooked up in that tasty boil to go with your crawfish. But they don’t stop there! Owned by one of Oxford’s favorite musicians, Justin Showah, the Hole also offers boiled shrimp, crab legs, and even peanuts! A little bird also told us that they have a sno-cone machine that soon will be cranking out the icy treats alongside the steamy snacks.
This article was published in The Local Voice #153 (April 5-19, 2012)…Click here to download the PDF of issue #153.