Crawdaddy’s Shack is inexplicably located in southwest Arlington, in a fairly hard-to-access strip mall. I say inexplicably because I don’t think there’s a large contingent of head-sucking, tail-pinching folk out that way. But judging by the packed dining room when my family and I ventured out earlier this month, the Cajun-flavored place offers something that lots of people want: tasty, moderately inexpensive Looziana fare.
The Shack is decked out in New Orleans kitsch. The Saints’ fleurs-de-lis and black and gold are everywhere. (Who Dat? Nation might enjoy watching the games on Crawdaddy’s big-screen –– as long as they’re not on Sundays. Crawdaddy’s is closed on Sundays.) Much of the interior siding consists of corrugated tin, which made one of my guests comment that you could probably play it with your spoon like a zydeco washboard. And the joyfully raucous décor also includes several trophy-mounted bucks draped in purple-and-gold Mardi Gras beads. For the time being, Crawdaddy’s is BYOB.
Gumbo seemed an appropriate appetizer. Neither too heavy with roux nor too spicy, the broth also was a little thinner than I’m used to. But there was no shortage of meat, shrimp, and veggies in the bowl. Another got-to app was the boudin, the classic rice-stuffed sausage. The non-greasy two links, though, played second fiddle to the fabulously spicy dirty rice, which was zesty without being too hot. Skip the Crawpuppies. They’re mostly just hushpuppies filled with small chunks of shrimp and crawfish. They tasted fine, but save your carbs for the sides that come along with your entrée, like that dirty rice. Or the baked beans, which start with a lovely maple flavor but pack a spicy punch on the backside. Even the green beans, served in a sausage-tinged broth, were delicious.
The shrimp and grits were a delicious combo of sweet, smooth grits, perfectly cooked plump shrimp, and spicy, white wine-based broth. The sauce on top wasn’t as creamy as I’ve had, but the dish was solid.
The crawfish stew came out impressively presented in its own little stock pot. The creamy, spicy sherry-augmented broth held some crawfish tail meat, a chunk of corn on the cob, veggies, and potatoes. The pot also featured six crawfish simmered in the broth –– too bad they didn’t taste very fresh. The corn, however, was a treat. Usually, when it’s cooked in a stew, the result tends to be mushy. But not here. It was toothsome, spicy, and delicious. The stew itself was heaven in a pot, and we made it a little better by dumping in the side of dirty rice, sopping up the gravy-like stew.
I judge a po-boy sandwich by the standards established by N’awlins native and former Chow, Baby columnist Christy Goldfinch. Basically, Goldfinch advocates a soft-on-the-inside, crunchy-on-the-outside bun that leaves a trail of crumbs down your front. Crawdaddy’s bread, which comes from New Orleans and meets Christy’s lofty standards, was stuffed with a generous helping of deliciously breaded, perfectly fried shrimp, plus pickles, lettuce, and tomato. Be prepared for a sweet tang with your tartar sauce –– Crawdaddy’s uses Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise. (Maybe this is a Cajun tradition I’m unaware of.)
Save room for dessert –– it’s house-made. The bread pudding was a lovely, moist, cinnamon-y hunk of goodness covered with sweetened condensed milk (not a brandy sauce, but it almost didn’t matter). And the banana pudding: Sometimes, it can turn out like a science experiment gone haywire, with a lot of fake banana flavor. Crawdaddy’s version featured pudding that just hinted at banana flavor, with vanilla wafers and real banana slices on top. The cup was big enough to serve three people –– or one selfish, banana pudding-loving tween.
4101 W Green Oaks Blvd, Ste 301, Arlington. 817-692-7460.
Closed Sun, 10:30am-9pm Mon-Thu, 10:30am-10pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Boudin ………………………………… $5.99
Crawpuppies ………………………. $4.99
Cup of gumbo ………………………. $5.99
Shrimp po-boy ……………………. $10.99
Shrimp and grits …………………. $13.99
Crawfish stew …………………… $13.99
Banana pudding or bread pudding ………………. $4.99