Dozen Best Soft-Shell Crabs
The soft-shell crab season ran a little late this year, but they are very much with us. They’re on menus all over the place, and if you love them you should go after them with gusto. They will not get any better or bigger than they are now. An oddity of this seasonal delicacy is that the peak of the season is very shortly after the season begins.
Crabs are definitely one of those things that get better as they get bigger. A gigantic soft-shell crab contains, among many other wonderful things, two massive jumbo lumps of a size one rarely gets in straight crabmeat dishes. I’d prefer one “whale” (as they’re known to the trade) to two smaller ones any day, even if the two smaller ones together weighed significantly more than the big one.
Although a few chefs have experimented with other cooking methods, there is no doubt in my mind that any method other than frying returns an inferior result.
1. Clancy’s. Uptown: 6100 Annunciation. 504-895-1111. They bring them out with the claws held high, greaseless and crisp. They also make a smoked version, reminiscent of the one at the extinct Christian’s.
2. Impastato’s. Metairie: 3400 16th St. 504-455-1545. Beautiful, big live crabs, two to an order, with crabmeat and shrimp or artichokes and mushrooms in a lemon-butter sauce.
2. Sal and Judy’s. Lacombe: 27491 Highway 190. 985-882-9443. Same as at Impastato’s. (Joe and Sal are brothers and share a lot of recipes.)
3. Mr. B’s Bistro. French Quarter: 201 Royal. 504-523-2078. Monster-size crabs, fried perfectly.
4. La Thai Cuisine. Uptown: 4938 Prytania. 504-899-8886 . This is almost insane: a soft-shell crab, topped with jumbo lump crabmeat–with a crab cake underneath. The chili glaze makes it a unique taste.
5. Galatoire’s. French Quarter: 209 Bourbon. 504-525-2021. “They’re still playing the piano back there,” says waiter John Fontenot. And here they come: two, with brown butter.
6. Cafe Lynn. Mandeville: 3051 East Causeway Approach. 985-624-9007. Soft-shells run as a special here, usually in the Grenobloise style (with caper butter).
7. Antoine’s. French Quarter: 713 St Louis. 504-581-4422. Antoine’s overfries its crabs a touch, but they make up for it by topping them, with Colbert sauce–the same stuff as on oysters Foch.
8. Tommy’s Cuisine. Warehouse District: 746 Tchoupitoulas. 504-581-1103. Big, beautiful, and simple.
9. Bourbon House. French Quarter: 144 Bourbon. 504-522-0111. Nice-looking crabs. Get them with the brown meuniere sauce.
10. Vincent’s. Riverbend: 7839 St Charles Ave. 504-866-9313. Metairie: 4411 Chastant St. 504-885-2984. Vincent’s first house specialty was a fried soft-shell crab covered with a sauce mixing red sauce and garlic butter. Still great.
11. Trey Yuen. Mandeville: 600 Causeway Blvd. 985-626-4476. Good local seafood here, including crabs. The tong-cho sauce is miraculous.
12. Casamento’s. Uptown: 4330 Magazine. 504-895-9761. Known for its oysters, Casamento’s does just as fine a job of golden soft shells when they’re in season.