Seafood City: Crawfish abounds in Abbeville

Situated in the heart of Acadiana in Vermilion Parish, Abbeville is a beautiful town filled with people who really know how to cook. I have yet to come across a household without a fabulous cook in it. Abbeville is centered by Magdalen Square with huge oak trees, a gazebo, a fountain, and a statue of the town’s founder, Pere Mégret, the Catholic priest who established St. Mary Magdalen Church just a block away from the town square. Rich with historic preservationists, an Abbeville group is currently renovating the old Frank’s Theater, founded by entrepreneur Frank deGraauw. The town lays claim to a popular theatrical group, the Abbey Players, and a host of wonderful restaurants.

Some of my favorite restaurants are the Riverfront, an elegant haven overlooking the Vermilion river, Black’s Oyster Bar, Dupuy’s Oyster House, and Shuck’s, also known for its oysters and fried seafood. But there is no better place to really get your hands dirty with boiled crawfish than Richard’s Seafood Patio. You sure can’t find anything as good as this in New Orleans, which is teeming with famous chefs. Ultra casual and very popular, it has a tin roof and tables filled with more condiments than just about anywhere else in this culinary town. In fact, Richard’s puts out its own seasoning blends (check out the green onion seasoning, which is quite spicy).

You order either three pounds or five pounds of hot boiled crawfish with potatoes. Once you get started, your hands won’t be able to peel them fast enough. They are served hot and are full of marvelous seasoning. The family that owns the restaurant takes their crawfish very seriously.

“All of our crawfish are selected and touched by hand every day,” says Roxanne Richard. She owns the restaurant with her husband, Calvin, who started the business in 1957. “The crawfish are graded on a machine and each one is passed over by my husband and my son Derrick.” It’s a family affair, with daughter Megan as the head waitress. She runs the front of the house. “All the recipes are my husband’s recipes,” Roxanne says. “Our crawfish boiling pot is so big that you can take a bath in it!”

The menu is a paean of beloved Louisiana classics: seafood gumbo, beer boiled shrimp, boiled crabs, fried crawfish, oysters, catfish, shrimp, and frog legs. Side orders include boiled potatoes, boiled onions, corn on the cob (with all that wonderful crawfish seasoning), grilled potatoes, spicy onion petals, and potato salad (which some people actually plop into their gumbo). The dinners here are generously apportioned. My favorite combination is the half fried crawfish and half etouffée platter, or the fried soft shell crab topped with crawfish etouffée. You can also get grilled seafood here. The po-boys are good but that is not what I come for. There is also a seafood buffet but I never go for it, preferring certain favorites each time I go.

I always start a meal at Richard’s with grilled oysters in garlic butter, which are fabulous, and crawfish roll-ups (you get two to an order). Then I delve into the boiled crawfish during the season. Other good starters include the buffalo crawfish, fried catfish nuggets, fried alligator, and mozzarella sticks. You can order appetizer portions of some of the entrées, including crab cakes, grilled oysters, and crawfish etouffée. There is a children’s menu and the portions are generous. The best bet for dessert is the Mississippi mudslide pie, which is big enough for two people. Richard’s is located at 1516 S. Henry Street, just about a half mile from the bridge in the middle of town. It intersects Pumping Plant Road; call (337) 893-1693 for directions; it is easy to miss at night if you don’t know your way around, but you will spot the cars because the parking lot is usually full.

Check out the recipe for Crawfish Roll-Ups courtesy of Richard’s Seafood Patio in our recipe section here!


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