It’s been more than a few years since I’ve been to the original Spring Mountain Road location of Hot N Juicy Crawfish, but I remember it as a fairly basic place, much in keeping with the idea of dumping a plastic bag of cooked seafood onto a paper-covered table and having at it with your fingers.
My, how things have changed. Noticing that the Hot N Juicy Crawfish empire had expanded to eight locations (including outposts in California, Washington, D.C., and Florida, and a second spot on Spring Mountain Road, which I don’t understand, but whatever), I decided it was time to stop in for an update. And was it ever.
We went to the Henderson location on Eastern Avenue, which is in a foodie-mecca plaza between Serene Avenue and Silverado Ranch Boulevard, and what we found was far from the way we remembered it. Today’s Hot N Juicy has an attractive, vaguely New Orleansy vibe, though that might have been exaggerated by the Mardi Gras beads and other trinkets festooning the place in advance of a Fat Tuesday party. The table-service seating is comfortable, with the normal accoutrements. Except, of course, for that paper on the table, the absence of flatware and that they offer plastic gloves, since the aroma on your hands will linger for hours or maybe even days. And I know of few other restaurants with a double-sink setup in the hallway providing for hand-washing without the need to enter a restroom.
The menu’s more extensive than it was in 2004, too. Back then you could get crawfish, of course, plus shrimp or snow, Dungeness or blue crab in season. In the intervening years, lobster, black mussels, green mussels, clams and king crab have been added to the list, all of which are sold at market price, with the prices on a card brought to the table.
But in the past decade, one thing hasn’t changed: This is fresh seafood, obviously whisked from the market to the kitchen, where it’s deftly cooked according to the customer’s desired seasoning and spice level and served promptly, without even removing it from the bag.
We’d have to indulge in the titular commodity, of course, which on the evening of our visit was $10.99 for a pound, and we’d get it Louisiana style, with a mild spice level. We were served a mess o’ crawfish in a slightly startling range of sizes, the bigger ones a little difficult to pry apart with our fingers. I’m not a head-sucker (I know, I know …) so I demurred there, but the meat in the tail was sweet and fresh, the seasoning distinctive but not aggressive, exactly as I wanted it.
We also decided to try some mussels, the green ones ($9.99 a pound), with garlic butter, which was lovely, and a spicy level of heat, which was definitely up there. The mussels were impressively fresh, sweet and tender.
Unless you get 2 pounds of crawfish the seafood at Hot N Juicy Crawfish comes without accompaniment, so we decided to get three small potatoes (60 cents each). Our bag of mussels instead contained three short ears of corn (75 cents each), which our server rectified by bringing some potatoes in a plastic-foam cup. And here was where we became intimately familiar with the spice level, because they definitely defined “spicy” and made us wonder what “extra spicy” is like.
A side of sweet potato fries ($4.99) was fine, nice and crisp, although I thought ketchup sort of an odd choice for an accompaniment. Better was the creamy sauce that came with the corn fritters ($5.95), which were more like battered and fried nuggets of creamed corn. Which is a good thing.
Service throughout was great, the mix-up rectified promptly, food brought quickly and someone stopping by to check on us regularly.
You wouldn’t want to go to Hot N Juicy on a first date and unless you use the gloves you’ll probably still have dinner on your hands the next day, no matter how many times you wash. But that’s also small potatoes, because the crawfish and other seafood is indeed hot and juicy, the real thing, and spectacular.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com, or call 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.