Las Vegas City Life

April 15, 2016

A FEW WEEKS AGO, I GAVE a very positive review to Sweet Water Prime Seafood in Green Valley, which I visited with my wife and our friend Maggie. What I didn’t mention in that review was Maggie’s disappointment that it didn’t offer crawfish, a classic Southern delicacy she’s been unable to find since moving to Las Vegas. But her complaint reminded me I’d been driving past a new restaurant called Hot N Juicy Crawfish on Spring Mountain Road for the past several weeks and hadn’t had the chance to check it out. So, much to Maggie’s dismay, my wife and I hit it up without her before meeting her at the July 26 Deftones concert at The Pearl. But I’m sure she’ll get a chance to join us there sometime in the future, because we absolutely loved the restaurant’s casual “do it yourself” vibe, as well as the spicy seafood it offers. 

As the name suggests, the specialty at Hot N Juicy Crawfish is, in fact, crawfish. But they also offer shrimp, raw oysters and either blue or Dungeness crab when they’re in season. All of the cooked seafood runs you about $8.99 a pound, with the exception of the Dungeness crab, which isn’t available right now, but is usually priced around $20 a pound when they have it. The oysters cost $7.99 a half dozen or $13.99 a dozen.

 In light of the restaurant’s Chinatown location, and that every server and customer I encountered on my visit was Asian, I originally expected the food to have an Asian flair. But Hot N Juicy is a straight-up Louisiana style seafood restaurant. The cooked seafood is available four ways: juicy Cajun; garlic butter; lemon pepper or “hot n juicy special” (a combination of the other three). And each of those seasonings is available in four levels of spiciness: mild, medium, spicy and extra spicy. The appetizer selection is small and basic. Fried shrimp, fried catfish, chicken wings and chicken nuggets are all available for $6.95 a basket, and each is accompanied by Cajun fries. For side dishes, you can have corn or potatoes for 50 cents a pop, sausage for $2.50 or $4 (depending on the size of your order), or Cajun fries for $2.50.

 All of the food is served whole, and arrives at your table in a plastic bag, which makes for an extremely messy meal. But for those raised in areas where either blue crabs or crawfish are readily available, ripping them apart and devouring them is an incomparable visceral experience — and Hot N Juicy offers large rolls of paper towels at every table to help clean up.

 Those who weren’t lucky enough to grow up eating this food might be a little put off at first. But have no fear, the menu includes clear instructions on the proper way to eat crawfish — summarizing the old adage of “suck the head, pinch the tail” into four even easier steps. When it comes to crabs, you’re on your own.

 My wife and I split an order of crawfish prepared juicy Cajun style, asking for them about halfway between “medium” and “spicy,” and accompanied by a small order of sausage. They were absolutely delicious, although I might opt for “mild” the next time around because the chef here clearly isn’t a wimp when it comes to what he considers spicy.

 We also had a pound of blue crabs, which translated into three medium-sized females. Having grown up pulling blues out of the waters of the Jersey shore, I absolutely loved them (Hot N Juicy import theirs from Texas). If I have a single complaint about the restaurant, it’s their failure to offer traditional bay seasoning, which is really the only way any true blue crab fan would eat these babies. But the “hot n juicy special” version was spicy and good, and the rarity of finding blues here in Las Vegas means beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to seasoning.

 Between blue crabs and crawfish, Hot N Juicy is offering a pair of delicacies incredibly difficult to find locally. And they’re both served up in a very friendly, laid-back atmosphere, at extremely reasonable prices. And, most important, the restaurant offers a small selection of cheap domestic beer to wash them down.

Al Mancini