While Vancouver has almost an abundance of riches when it comes to Asian cuisine comfort food there is a real dearth of spots for southern US versions of the same. I’m talking about places that specialize in grits, po boy’s, muffalettas, collard greens, ham hocks and my favorite, crayfish.
I missed the southern “mud bugs” so much that a few years ago I flew in a 50 pound bag of fresh crayfish from a Louisiana farm at almost $700 (mostly airfare) and almost lost the whole lot in customs. At the time there was no place in Vancouver where you could get crayfish on the menu, not even at the only Louisiana restaurant in Vancouver.
So I was totally stoked to see the teaser sign for Cray on Main St. a couple of weeks ago promising Louisana crayfish and other southern goodies. Cray is at the former spot of the Tempest at 2470 Main St.
While the menu consists of the usual pub fair like fries, chicken wings, calamari with a couple of oyster items, the heart of any good crayfish joint is the seafood boil. In Lousiana, during crayfish season you can occasionally find shacks by the side of the road with a couple of large metal drums of spiced boiling water and a few picnic tables offering boiled crayfish and crab by the pound. They then toss your raw shellfish into the boiling drum of your chosen spiciness of seasoning. Sometimes, chunks of corn and potatoe are optional fixings. When it’s ready, they scoop it into plastic bags where you take it to the nearby tables to eat.
Cray offers a similar experience. You order the crayfish at market price, currently $13.99/lb, your spiciness of choice and it comes to you a few minutes later in a boiling hot plastic bag. It’s kind of hard to screw up, the hard part is getting the crayfish.
Rip off the head, suck on it and squeeze out the soft shrimp/lobster tasting meat, toss back with a few beers and all is right with the world. The Granville Island Winter Ale went especially well with the spiciness of the crayfish. (There are about 8 drafts on tap.)
Cray also offers boils for crab, shrimp, king crab, lobster all at market prices. Their andouille sausage was lovely but the gumbo was bland and lacking. I spoke to the server and he admitted the gumbo was kind of messed up due to them just being opened so hopefully, they’ll get that sorted out.
Since this is a eat with your hands kind of place, expect the table to look like a massacre at the end, especially if you’re in a large group. They do offer plastic gloves and bibs for those wimps in your party.
If you like Louisiana crayfish and shellfish boils there is no other place in town. Thankfully, someone is bringing this stuff into YVR. I can see myself being a regular here.