By Robin Sussman / April 18, 2016
'Tis the season for sweet Florida stone crabs, spicy crawfish, soft-shell crabs, fresh Gulf shrimp and wild salmon. Whether you're looking for locally caught fish or something more exotic, here's where to get your seafood fix while the getting's good.
Head to the ritzy raw bar at SaltAir Kitchen in River Oaks for shrimp, prawns, various types of crab, and oysters on the half shell from the East and West Coasts on display nightly. Other raw options include tuna tartare, snapper crudo and scallop ceviche, and there's even a section of the menu dedicated to California caviar. Even more lavish are the selections at chic State of Grace, also in River Oaks, which features a room dedicated to global oysters and showy towers of mixed chilled seafood (pictured). Downtown, Holley’s oyster bar is separated from its main dining room with a come-as-you are vibe and a huge selection of freshly shucked bivalves with a variety of sauces.
Photo by: Peska
Enchanting, aquatic-themed Peska Seafood Culture in Uptown’s BLVD Place is a combination seafood market and upscale eatery. Fresh seafood flown in from all over the world, including Italian branzino, wild tiger prawns from Nigeria and soft-shell crab from Malaysia, is used in dishes like tacos, paella, red snapper tiradito and various crudos (strawberry grouper pictured). There's also an extravagant eight-course seafood tasting menu with wine pairings held every Thursday night ($100 per person). At bustling Rice Village Helen Greek Food and Wine, fresh catch is flown in from Greece for the stuffed branzino dish, the massive prawn and more. It's also a great opportunity to work your way through the all-Greek wine list.
Photo by: Chuck Cook
At Reef, chef Bryan Caswell’s award-winning seafood joint in Midtown, the kitchen breathes life into fresh Gulf-caught fish and bycatch. Witness a huge chart at the entrance with the species on offer each day. Expect dishes like grouper with summer corn pudding and a grilled peach, along with the top-selling redfish on the "half shell." Louisiana native Graham Laborde brings Southern cooking up to speed at hip Bernadine’s in the Heights with hits like wild catfish with mirliton slaw and buttermilk dressing; spicy barbecue Gulf shrimp toast; chile-laced Gulf blue crab claw; and grilled Gulf pompano over cheesy grits with sweet roasted carrots.
Photo by: Liberty Kitchen
Everything but the Kitchen Sink
The vast menus at F.E.E.D. TX's concepts offer something for everyone. Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette near the Galleria sports an oyster bar with lots of East Coast selections, big American breakfasts, and upscale eats ranging from Hawaiian poke to live Maine lobster. The newest location, Little Liberty in Rice Village, is anchored with seafood dishes like hickory grilled shrimp and spaghetti with mussels. Both also offer plenty of options for the non-seafood lover.
Photo by: Goode Company
Native Houstonians consider West University area Goode Co. Seafood in a class by itself. Cool eye-catching design (the original location is housed in a silver train car) and a Texas-style menu featuring the likes of mesquite grilled Gulf fish, fried shrimp and stuffed flounder (accompanied by the requisite ice cold local beer) has drawn crowds since 1986. The most sought-after menu item? Campechana, a mouthwatering mixed seafood cocktail laced with fresh jalapenos and avocado chunks served overflowing in a tall sundae glass served with tortilla chips.
In Uptown, stylish Caracol showcases Mexican coastal seafood dishes including conch ceviche, Spanish octopus, wood-roasted Gulf of Mexico oysters, and coal-roasted peppered tuna Las Brasas with bell pepper escabeche. At Pico’s in Upper Kirby, chef-owner Arnaldo Richards celebrates the seven regions of Mexico including the South Pacific Coast and the Gulf. Dig into ceviches (including a campechana tower), or signature huachinango a la Veracruzana (broiled Gulf red snapper in a tomato, green olive and caper sauce). Rustic and relaxed Tampico near the Heights serves fresh, Mexican-style seafood like its signature snapper a la plancha, along with Tex-Mex staples, all at gentle prices. You even can pick your own seafood from the case to be prepared as you like.
Mudbugs are in high season from March until around June, so get cracking! Houston pioneer Ragin’ Cajun in Briargrove remains popular for its counter-serve convenience, stellar gumbo, fried shrimp po’ boys, tasty crawfish and icecold beer. In Chinatown, Crawfish & Noodles stays packed for its Vietnamese style mouth-burning boiled crawfish and all the fixings. Also popular: cua rang muio (fresh blue crab stir-fry) and fried catfish. Loyalists of 88 Boiling Crawfish near Briar Forest crave the namesake 88 spicy sauce on their boiled crawfish, though garlic butter is an option too. Expect a wait on weekends. Great vats of spicy boiling crawfish with corn and potatoes draw crawfish fanatics to kitschy BB’s Café in Upper Kirby where sport screens reign supreme and a late-night menu is served.
Crawfish & Noodles, 11360 Bellaire Blvd.; 281-988-8098
Ragin’ Cajun, 9600 Westheimer Rd., #80; 832-251-7171
88 Boiling Crawfish, 1910 Wilcrest Dr.; 713-789-8288
BB’s Café, 3139 Richmond Ave.; 713-807-1300
Photo by: Brennan's
Elegant Brennan’s, an offshoot of the original in New Orleans, remains Houston’s finest example of classic Creole, offering favorites such as brandy-flamed shrimp Chippewa (pictured); signature pecan-crusted fish with Creole meunier sauce; and Gulf fish Pontchartrain topped with jumbo crab, shrimp and crispy Matagordaoysters. Stalwart Tony Mandola’s Gulf Coast Kitchen near Montrose puts on an upscale spread of oysters (try the fried oysters Damian with pico de gallo), in addition to dozens of fish dishes (Texas red fish, blackened tuna, pan seared trout) and a popular mixed grill. Bustling Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen dishes out Cajun favorites including grilled Texas redfish topped with shrimp, baked crab mac ‘n cheese, red beans and rice, crispy fried alligator, and shrimp etouffee. For giant Cajun shrimp po’ boys, soulful gumbo, and terrific oysters in a no-frills setting, hit Danton’s in the Museum District.
Brennan’s of Houston, 3300 Smith St.; 713-522-9711