The day after we had dinner at Hot n Juicy Crawfish, my friend walked up to my desk and said, with some degree of astonishment, “My hands still smell like garlic!” Yeah, mine, too, despite a morning shower, numerous hand-washings in the intervening hours and even a few hand-lotion applications.
And that, my friends, pretty much sums up the Hot n Juicy experience, which is unique in Las Vegas. You will use your hands, because there’s no other choice. They will smell like garlic should you choose either the garlic-butter or Hot n Juicy Special seasoning options. Oh, and there’s a good chance your clothes won’t escape unscathed, either; we ended up with lots of spots despite the fact that we were given big plastic bibs and dutifully wore them.
This is how it works: You sit down at a plastic-covered table. You order the house specialty, or shrimp, or snow, Dungeness or blue crab in season. You choose the seasoning style (Juicy Cajun, garlic butter, lemon pepper or the Hot n Juicy Special, which is a combo of the three). You specify whether you want it mild, medium, spicy or extra spicy (and while our waitress suggested we order one level down, we considered the medium we ordered mild by any standard).
In due course, your server brings the food, in most cases in a plastic bag tied at the top. You untie the bag and dig in, the only assistance provided by a roll of paper towels.
It’s not something you’d want to do on a first date. It’s not something you’d want to do with prospective in-laws or a potential employer. My friend and I dine together fairly often, so it worked for us. But I think it probably worked even better for the two extremely large parties that came in — one a multigenerational family group and one a table of 30-something couples escaping the kids for the evening — because they ordered a bunch of stuff and passed it up and down their tables and clearly had a rollicking good time.
So how’s the food? Delicious, for the most part. Our crawfish were perfectly steamed and we loved the Hot n Juicy Special seasoning, even if it was milder than we expected. The crawfish — like the crab and steamed shrimp choices on the menu — were listed as market price, and on the evening of our visit that was $9.99, which I consider pretty reasonable.
But let’s remember there’s not a lot of meat in a crawfish tail, and while hard-core crawfish eaters love to get what they can out of the heads, we’re no head-suckers. So it seemed like a lot of crawfish shell and not a lot of crawfish meat.
The snow crab ($13.99 a pound on the evening of our visit) provided a somewhat better return on our investment of time. We got those with garlic butter, which was delicious — real butter and lots and lots of garlic; hence our hands — but it was even messier than the crawfish because the sole cracker they gave us to share was only marginally effective at penetrating the shells. (Note to HnJ: I once was given a much more effective plastic implement in a crab restaurant in the Midwest. And then there are mallets, like the Florida blue-crab places give you.) But the crab itself was perfectly cooked, sweet and wonderful.
We tried an appetizer basket, too, of fried shrimp and fries ($6.95), which was pretty good, the fries seasoned to a heat level that made us grateful for our nice cold beer. The shrimp were a little heavily coated, but deftly fried.
But feeling that we ought to eat something other than seafood and fries, we also ordered some corn (75 cents), a potato (50 cents) and, just for variety, a half-dozen sausage slices ($2.50). We could have skipped those; the potato was a basic steamed (in a bag with the corn), the corn reminded my friend of the frozen half-ear variety and the sausage seemed like your basic Eckrich or Hillshire Farms. Sometimes, it just doesn’t pay to try to broaden your nutritional profile.
Service throughout was pretty good, although it suffered considerably after the two big parties were seated.
Would I return? In a heartbeat. But here’s what I’d do: Skip the corn, potato and sausage. Order a pound of crawfish, slightly hotter. Double up on the crab, and try to scare up some bread or rolls to soak up all the garlic butter in the bag.
And I’d be sure to wear jeans.
Las Vegas Review-Journal reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or e-mail her at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com.REVIEW
who: Hot n Juicy Crawfish
where: 4810 Spring Mountain Road
pluses: Good steamed seafood, especially the crab.
minuses: It’s get-down-and-dirty.