Some days, you just need to ditch the niceties of dinner: Throw away the silverware, toss on a bib, and work up a sweat slurping and sucking your food. In the Gulf Coast, land of crawfish boils, they understand this better than we do in the staid Pacific Northwest. Luckily, Crawfish King (725 S Lane, 623-3622) is here to help.

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Right now is the perfect time to visit Crawfish King because it's crawfish season. The wild season corresponds to the rise and fall of the Mississippi River, typically beginning around late March and running until July. Though there is high demand in the Gulf Coast during Lent, desirability (prices go down, size and juiciness go way up) picks up after Easter. So you've got the next three months to get some of the biggest, fattest wild crawfish of the year.

Gather a group of good friends (this is not first-date territory), order up a a few pounds of crawfish ($8.99 a pound, flown in fresh daily from down South), pick your spice level (Lil' Crazy, Crazy, or Extra Crazy) and sauce (I recommend The Big Easy for a garlicky, buttery mess), roll up your sleeves, tie your bib, and wait for dinner to arrive at your table in steamy plastic bags. Enjoy the zydeco music and cheesy fishing dock decor, rip those heads off (don't forget to slurp out the pungent crawfish essence from the head and lungs), suck out the sweet tails with abandon, and create a hot, spicy mess.

A Cajun seafood boil restaurant in the middle of the International District, incongruous though it seems at first, actually makes perfect sense. As Houston Press restaurant critic Robb Walsh explains, "After the fall of Saigon, Vietnamese immigrants gravitated to the Gulf Coast because they were familiar with the seafood industry. Their affinity for Cajun food was a natural. Both cuisines are rice- and seafood-based, extremely spicy and French-influenced. Baguettes, strong coffee and crawfish are common to both."

Thanks to Crawfish King's owner James Nguyen, a Vietnamese Houston native, Seattle is fortunate to get a taste of this delicious diaspora.
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