In six months, Crawfish Shack Seafood will have gobbled up the empty retail space next door in its mini-mall, expanded it table seating five-fold and turned its small fresh seafood case into a full-service market.
This small Buford Highway restaurant, which has been quietly chugging along for over a year, is just about ready to break out of its shell.
Customers come early for lunch and dinner, line up patiently, and wait in prey for one of the four (count ‘em) tables inside and two outside. Carryout is an option, but with the fried and boiled seafood comes fresh from the kitchen, you want must eat it right away.
Owner Hieu Pham keeps things simple. The menu is that of a classic old-fashioned fish shack: a few common varieties of finfish and shellfish, plucked from an ice-filled display case and served raw to take home and cook yourself, or fried or steamed to go or to eat in house. Everyone, of course, wants fried fish to eat in house. This is basic human nature.
We order a wholly snarfable combination platter ($6.99) that includes four of the jumbo fried shrimp above with two farm-raised Mississippi catfish fillets, hush puppies and a side of potato salad, butter-drenched corn on the cob (from frozen corn), fries or red-skinned potatoes.
We also order these six jumbo shrimp (left) boiled (1/3 of a pound at $8.99) per pound. They’re fantastic — cooked to a juicy snap and swimming about in a spicy Cajun marinade. A side bowl for shells with a damp towel to clean your hands provides a nice touch.
When I ask about the namesake crawfish, Pham gives us a couple to try. Firm, spicy and hard-shelled, they really remind me of Louisiana.
Other choices include oysters, grouper and tilapia. Pham says he will start serving fried crawfish tails, soft shell crabs and po’ boys (!!!) by the end of the month. He seems to be a freak for freshness, which is an admirable thing.
Pham, who is part Vietnamese, serves eggrolls and cha gio (Vietnamese spring rolls), which I didn’t try. He also has nuoc mia — fresh sugarcane juice served with a slice of orange, and just the ticket for a little non-alcohol to wash down this great fish.
I can’t help but ask. Is he looking at the space next door.
“Yes,” Pham says. “Though nothing has been been settled. I have to tell you I almost closed so many times in the first six months, but now I think I’m ready to expand.”
If he keeps offering this quality at this price, Pham should have no problem filling every seat.
Are there any other great little fish joints in Atlanta?