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Eat with your hands: NYC’s season of crawfish and crab boils arrives

Heralding the warm-weather season, crawfish and crab boils debut at New York City restaurants. Check out these Southern shacks and American eateries for a messy seafood feast.

Forget spring’s ramps and rhubarb, ’tis the season for eating sans forks and knives. New Yorkers never need an excuse to get down and dirty with food (see: dollar slices, dripping street-meat sandwiches), but sweet-tasting crustaceans—a harbinger of summer sunshine—provide an extra good reason to roll up our sleeves, snap on a bib and dive right in. At The Redhead (349 E 13th St at First Ave, 212-533-6212)—Meg Grace Larcom’s love letter to her years in New Orleans—Sunday afternoons loll by with buckets of mudbugs, the bayou’s pet name for finger-length crawfish ($30 for two pounds, offered for six Sundays starting April 14). The seafood pails are served with piquant andouille sausage, new potatoes and garlicky mushrooms, and you can take yours with cans of Louisiana beer Abita ($5). Down in the LES, find another Southern-style retreat, The Boil (139 Chrystie St at Delancey St, 212-925-8815), an aptly named seafood shack singularly focused on piles of spiced and buttery crabs, lobster, shrimp and clams, as well as raw-bar items. Open since late January, the brick-walled hideaway promises Cajun crawfish in season, which typically starts in March, served in a plastic bag and dripping with a house sauce made from garlic butter, lemon pepper and Old Bay ($12 per pound). Order sides, like corn on the cob ($3), separately. If what you seek is an open-air feast, head out to Red Hook’s Brooklyn Crab (24 Reed St between Conover and Van Brunt Sts, 718-643-2722) to order the Brooklyn Crab Royale: an exercise in excess with one-and-a-half pounds of lobster, one pound each of king and snow crabs, six Jonah crab claws, corn and slaw ($98, serves two). Work off the calories with a cornhole (bean-bag toss) game behind the waterfront hangout. In the beginning of June, the signature all-you-can-eat crab boils will return at popular farm-to-table eatery Back Forty (190 Ave B at 12th St, 212-388-1992), with a tumble of Chesapeake Bay blue crabs poured onto the center of communal tables, served with string beans, potatoes and stone-ground corn bread ($45). Diners can round out the seaside-inspired spread with refreshing pitchers of beer and fruit cobblers. Jitney jaunts and beach daytrips are right around the corner, but who needs turnpike traffic when you can enjoy a finger-licking, briny blowout right here in our concrete playground?
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