A handful of years ago, I’d send diners in search of Louisiana-style seafood boil to eat in King County.
I’m happy to report that we can keep seafood boil local now. In 2015 we scored a gem with the opening of Dragon’s Crawfish in Tacoma’s Lincoln neighborhood with an everyday menu of seafood boil (and it’s outstanding). Bourbon Street Creole Kitchen & Bar in downtown Puyallup also occasionally lists seafood boil on its menu.
Now we’ve got a third choice with the opening of Boiling Crawfish. The South Hill restaurant opened June 21 in the former home of Pho The Best in the same strip mall as the Rock Wood Fired Pizza. Boiling Crawfish is an outpost of a Kent restaurant by the same name and from the same owners.
Like Dragon’s Crawfish, Boiling Crawfish offers market-priced seafood that diners can order by the pound prepared with a choice of sauces and seasonings. It also adds in chunky discs of corn-on-the-cob and boiled potatoes, just as you’d find in Louisiana (but no Abita listed on the beer menu, sorry Louisiana transplants!).
The list of seafood choices is dizzying: crawfish, lobster, three kinds of crab, oysters, mussels, clams and shrimp. The meal is meant to be messy with diners using their hands to dig into the feast. At Boiling Crawfish, plastic gloves are offered for those with delicate sensibilities. Not me. I dug in and ate like a happy preschooler.
Here’s a first-bite look at the new restaurant. It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism of food and service only in the restaurant’s first month.
Dining room: It looks much as it did in its former life. Long, narrow space with a high ceiling and seating for more than 75. Tile floors, cushy booths, a percolating water feature, dramatic artwork and a melodramatic piano soundtrack make for an unusual find in South Hill, a community short on date-night restaurants. It’s casual enough to bring the kids, but add a cold beer or one of the specialty cocktails and you’ve got an instant night on the town.
For big parties: Communal tables sit six each. Trust me when I say that crawfish boil is an epic group dining sport. Try it.
The boil menu: Market-priced seafood listed on whiteboards in the dining room. Prices are per pound. The opening menu included crawfish ($11.99), shrimp with head on ($13.99), shrimp with head removed ($14.99), mussels ($13.99), clams ($14.99), snow crab ($23.99), lobster tail ($45.99), king crab ($39.99). Also, oysters ($12.99 half/$23.99 dozen).
Boils include: One piece each of corn or potato. Extra $1.49 each. Sausage is a $1.99 add-on. A toasted baguette or garlic bread ($1.49) also available.
Boil combos: People with big appetites or groups should look to nine combo choices priced $23.99 to $72.99. Combos range from one pound each of crawfish and shrimp with corn and potatoes ($23.99, for two) to a behemoth combo easily feeding four to five diners that includes a pound each of snow crab, mussels, crawfish, shrimp, clams and jumbo scallops, plus corn and potatoes ($72.99).
Sauce choices: Four, including house butter-garlic sauce with seasoning, lemon-pepper seasoning with garlic butter, garlic butter with Cajun seasoning or Louisiana boil style with Cajun seasonings. Spicing levels range from 1 to 5 stars.
Rest of menu: Fried seafood baskets ($8.99 to $14.99), fried rice dishes ($10.99 to $12.99) chicken wings ($8.99 eight-piece to $28.99 for a 32-piece). Po’ boy sandwiches include catfish, cod, shrimp, oyster or soft-shell crab served with fries ($10.99 to $14.99).
For your comfort: Plastic gloves, plastic bibs, crab crackers and scissors for cutting away shells provided. Tables are paper covered. Do not wear anything nice. This is messy eating.
On a first visit: A combo is an efficient way to get elbow-deep in the seafood. The three pound combo #5 had two clusters of snow crab legs and a pound each of head-on shrimp (don’t be afraid) and crawfish ($42.99). Our server recommended the garlic butter with Cajun seasoning. Flavor score. Butter laced with garlic and smoke-punched spicing clung to the freshly-boiled seafood. It arrived in a plastic bag, which we had to untie to unfurl into the bowl. It took almost an hour to pick our way through those three pounds, plus the still-crunchy corn, boiled potatoes and smoky sausage we added on for $1.99. Order a small baguette to soak up the garlic butter.
About that plastic: I make note of the use of the plastic bag because single-use plastic utensils, bags and to-go containers are rapidly falling out of favor with diners.
Cocktail menu: South Hill is in dire need of more cocktail lounges beyond nearby Speakeasy and Karma Lounge. This will fit that need. A full list of spirits, specialty cocktails, wine, straightforward list of domestic and import beers. The cocktail menu shows promise with high-end spirits (by South Hill standards). Don’t miss the Miss Saigon with hibiscus infused vodka, agave, lime and muddled mint ($9).
Where: 4301 S. Meridian Ave., Puyallup
Info: 253-256-7423 or facebook.com/boilingcrawfishpuyallup
Hours: 3-10 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. 3 p.m. to midnight Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday. Closed Tuesdays.