Driving down through Louisiana this past weekend I saw cars parked alongside the road where the water inlets came in, or a bayou jutted out. In France when cars are parked alongside a hill you assume it’s people foraging for mushrooms—in Louisiana, it’s crawfish. And dare I say, I’d much rather get my feet wet for crawfish than get my hands dirty for mushrooms. Luckily, Pensacola is close enough to Louisiana that we can reap the culinary treasures that come along with crawfish season.
Many restaurants and vendors in the Pensacola area supply crawfish to locals directly from Louisiana. While this season was off to a slow start (typically the season peaks in March and April), the crawfish are slowly starting to catch up due to the good weather of the past few weeks. “Louisiana prices are better than last year. Currently, it’s about $2.89 a pound,” Fee Sonnier, Office Manager of Cajun Specialty Meats, explained, “when last year we paid up to $3.80.”
So get on it, because whether you like your crawfish at a restaurant with a beer, thrown in some homemade bisque at your house, or eaten from the back of your truck bought off a trailer, Pensacola has got the place for you.
65 Via De Luna Drive, Pensacola Beach, 932-0864
Always a locals favorite beer cold beer and bar games, The Break gets even better on Sundays, when it offers up $10 flats of crawfish. Get there early to enjoy $1.50 Landsharks, then hang out for the night with live music, or work up an appetite for your second round with a game of pool.
400 Quietwater Beach Road, Pensacola Beach, 916-9888, bamboowillies.com
If you weren’t able to make it to Bamboo Willies’ annual Crawfish Festival (for shame!) then repent by coming here and making things right on Sundays, when they do traditional boils with corn and potatoes. Get your hands dirty and enjoy a small or large flat along with great beer specials. If you’re new to a crawfish boil, then take the heat off (things can get spicy) with one of their Fat Tuesday daiquiris. It’s almost like being in New Orleans—except that the cleanup is so much easier when you can just jump into the sound at the end and be done with it.
Cajun Specialty Meats
600 E. Heinberg St., 469-9400,
Whether you want to dine in for lunch or grab it to-go for dinner, Cajun Specialty Meats has crawfish anyway you want it. Their freezer section is loaded with crawfish pies, crawfish stuffed baked potato, etouffée and crawfish and corn soup. Or get one of their crawfish po-boys (sauteed or fried), along with a cup of their seafood gumbo for lunch. Pick up a crawfish etouffée-stuffed chicken breast for company—or be selfish and hide it away in the freezer until you have a moment alone.
Joe Patti’s Seafood Company
524 South B St., 432-3315, joepattis.com
Joe Patti’s is even busier—if that’s possible—on the weekends now that it’s crawfish season. Get them live by the 30-40 pound sack for $2.50 a pound, or cooked and seasoned for $3.49 a pound. Head next door to the gourmet market to pick up some fresh bread and garlic spread for an easy, awesome meal.
400 Quietwater Beach, Pensacola Beach, 934-5999
Newly opened, this breezy oasis located on the boardwalk is already attracting a following. And I imagine it’ll be even more so once word gets out about their crawfish etouffée. Their chef hails from Cut Off, La., so this my friends, is the real deal. No frozen crawfish and bought stock in this joint. Get it loaded up in a bread bowl with an Abita Amber draft anytime of the week, or try their take on a Mojito, made with Cabo Wabo Blano, agave syrup, house infused simple syrup, fresh basil and fresh strawberry. Live music on the weekends and a great tequila bar keep things jumping here well into the night.
Louisiana Seafood Sales of Florida
937 Creighton Road, 484-0816,
Driving by this place always gets a Louisianan’s attention; The trailers—which dish out crawfish any way you like it and are often found in bayou country—are seldom seen around these parts. That’s why owners Will Gaspard and his wife Sheila (both Louisiana natives) opened this place. “When we first opened, in February of this year,” Gaspard explains, “we started with 15 sacks of crawfish a week, and now we’re up to 500.” Doing retail, wholesale and having a distribution license has made this place popular with local restaurants, chefs, and of course, the do-it-yourselfers. Their crawfish all hails from Louisiana and can be purchased boiled and seasoned, or live. They also sell alligator sausage, etouffée and crawfish bisque—making coming here for lunch and leaving with tomorrow’s dinner an awesome possibility.
Pensacola Crawfish Festival
If you just can’t enough crawfish, then head to Pensacola’s 27th Annual Crawfish Festival in Bartram Park April 29-May 1. The 16,000 pounds of crawfish the festival goes through are provided by Mike’s Crawfish Boils from Duson, La. If you’re crawfished out (blasphemy!), then red beans and rice, boudin balls, Cajun pasta and fried gator can ease your hunger pains and keep you in the Cajun spirit. Enjoy live music all weekend, including Travis Matte and the Kingpins. Hailing from Acadiana, La., Travis Matte is one of the state’s most popular Cajun fiddlers and should not be missed on Friday from 8:30-10:30 p.m.
PENSACOLA CRAWFISH FESTIVAL
WHEN: Friday, April 29-Sunday, May 1
WHERE: Bartram Park, 211 W. Main St.
COST: $5 per day, $10 weekend pass
Courtesy of Rob Theriot
Resort Executive Chef of Portofino Island Resort & Spa and Laguna’s
1 pound shelled crawfish
1 small onion, fine diced
1/2 green bell pepper, fine diced
1/2 red bell pepper, fine diced
1 stalk celery, fine diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, minced
1 stick butter, unsalted
2 cups shell stock
3 tablespoon flour
Salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
Your favorite Creole seasoning blend to taste
Melt 1 stick of butter over medium heat and add flour to make a blonde roux. Do not let roux go past a light brown. Add diced onion, celery and bell pepper, tomato…stir a few minutes, add garlic. Once onions are clear, add stock and crawfish, and bring back to heat. Add and adjust seasoning over the next 10 minutes at a low simmer. Add green onion and parsley in the last minute of cooking.