When I was doing research on places to eat in or near Lafayette, I was primarily looking at restaurants that offered crawfish boils. Then I hit a snag – it wasn’t crawfish season. As a result, all of the places that I had on my list were closed or not offering boils this time of year. I was pretty disappointed but didn’t want to give up hope. When I saw that Breaux Bridge was the “Crawfish Capitol of the World”, I knew that it would be our best bet for finding live crawfish.
After our tasty breakfast at Meche’s Donut King, we asked the friendly young women behind the counter if they knew of anywhere to get boiled crawfish. They suggested either The Fruit Stand or Crazy ‘Bout Crawfish. The latter was right off the highway and looked a bit touristy, plus I couldn’t find a menu online that said if they were currently serving fresh crawfish. The Fruit Stand, on the other hand, looked like just that – a farmer’s market, not a restaurant. But there was a sign outside that said “boiled crawfish”, so we were pretty much sold.
The outer part of The Fruit Stand is Foti’s Market & Cafe, where you can order burgers, sandwiches, and other assorted grill/fry items. We went inside to the supermarket part of the store, which has assorted fruits, vegetables, seafood, and grocery items for sale. We asked about the live crawfish, which they said was fresh, but that because it was winter time, the specimens available were smaller, as the larger crawfish bury themselves deep in the mud to avoid the cold. We took a peek at the big bucket of crawfish, and they seemed pretty decent in size to us so we ordered up three pounds (the minimum) at $4.99/pound. We were asked how spicy we wanted the boil to be, and when we asked how spicy “spicy” was, it was recommended that we get the mild version. We didn’t argue, but wondered how spicy a boil could possibly be. Silly us.
We waited at a table back in the cafe area while they cooked up our crawfish, which was presented to us in a giant tray and topped with two boiled potatoes and a piece of corn on the cob. The crawfish were brilliant red in color, both from the shells and to the seasoning liberally applied.
After dropping off our tray, the guy who made the boil offered to rinse off some of the seasoning for us. We made the mistake of declining. Initially, the first few bites were great. The crawfish were sweet and perfectly cooked so that they were tender, not dried out or tough. The seasoning, which appeared to be predominantly salt, ground cloves, and cayenne pepper, had a nice kick. But gradually, that kick built. And built. Until we had tears in our eyes and runny noses. At first, we were cracking open and eating the tail meat, and then sucking on the heads. In the end, sucking on the heads proved to be too painful due to all the spice in the seasoning.
After drinking a lot of beer (me) and water (Josh, since he was driving) and chewing on the boiled potatoes, we decided to just take some time to let our mouths cool off while we shelled all of the tails at once. Once we were done shelling and had a mountain of crawfish meat in front of us, we wiped the spice off our hands as best as we could and proceeded to feast on the tail meat. I was sad to leave all the heads behind, but there was no way to get past the seasoning. Eventually, all I was tasting was the cloves and cayenne anyway, not the briny goodness of the head innards.
Considering this was our first crawfish boil, I thought we got through the mountain of crawfish well enough. We had no issues pulling off the heads and cracking open the tails with our hands. Even though these were off-season “smaller” crawfish, I didn’t find their size to be too puny, and the flavor was better than any frozen crawfish tails we’ve tasted before. The small size did prevent us from enjoying the claw meat, which yielded so little return that it was just not worth our effort to crack them open.
I have to admit that I wasn’t a huge fan of the crawfish boil seasoning used here, as I have an aversion to cloves. I don’t know if most boil seasonings taste like cloves, but the flavor was really overwhelming after a while and I wished that we had chosen to have the crawfish rinsed before we ate them. But the crawfish themselves were obviously fresh (we saw them alive) and their meat was sweet and tender. At $4.99/pound, I would be buying many pounds if I had access to these back home. Next time, we’ll know better that “mild” is still “super spicy”. Overall, however, I was just thrilled to have found a place that prepared crawfish boil in the off-season.
The Fruit Stand/Foti’s Market & Cafe
200 W Mills Ave.
Breaux Bridge, LA