The story: Crawfish is a Louisiana staple, where it’s affectionately known as “mudbugs.” In San Francisco, you can find crawfish boils at Vietnamese restaurants, which seem odd, at first, until you understand that Vietnamese immigrants worked the shrimp industry along the Gulf and have adapted the cajun-style of cooking into their cuisine, including the crawfish boil.
Why I went: My friend Tat and I were near the Civic Center recently and walked around the Tenderloin looking for dinner. We both spotted Red Crawfish, and decided to give it a try. I like the idea of a crawfish boil, where a pile of mudbugs are brought to your table in a plastic bag and you dig into it, eating with your hands. I just forgot how much effort it is to get much tasty meat from those little creatures. Definitely in the category of food that takes a lot of effort.
The vibe: Casual with a lot of tables for groups, which makes sense since a lot of families like to come and eat around the bag of crawfish.
The booze: Beer is the drink of choice to go with crawfish boil although wine is also offered. The list isn’t very extensive though, like how you’d imagine at an Asian restaurant.
The menu: While the main attraction is the crawfish, the menu has a lot of other items, which doesn’t make sense to me since you wouldn’t think most people would just order crawfish. There are set dinner specials (ranging from $49 to $249 depending on how much food you want) providing a festive feast if you have a big group, and offers up a variety of crawfish, Dungeness crab, garlic noodles and Louisiana sausages. Since it was just Tat and I, we just got 2 pounds of crawfish with the house-made Cajun sauce and an order of the garlic noodles with sausage and crawfish ($13).
My favorite dish: I can’t say I had a stand-out favorite. The crawfish was especially spicy and piping hot, making my fingers hurt just handling the little buggers. And the garlic noodles was just alright, tasting like something that would come from a home kitchen.
Insider tip: Listen to your waitress when she says something is spicy. They make their sauce every day, so it can vary day to day. So leave it to the experts to recommend the right spice level as ours was medium but tasted especially spicy that night.
The last bite: While the regular flow of diners coming indicate Red Crawfish is popular, I didn’t see a lot of people ordering crawfish and instead ordering typical Vietnamese dishes or fried foods like the Cajun hot wings ($6). The service is friendly and they provide you a plastic bib and lots of napkins, but the food is just average and doesn’t rise above anything you can do yourself at home.
The rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Red Crawfish, 611 Larkin St., San Francisco. PH: 415.771.1388. Open Sunday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. redcrawfishsf.com