Cowboy Cafe, Arlington, VA

“What are ya drinkin’, honey?”

That’s the greeting I got when I took a seat at the bar at Cowboy Cafe on a Tuesday evening, with country rock playing in the background.

A lot of people might remember Cowboy Cafe as a semi-decrepit place with pretty good food, but that was before they changed owners; now, it’s a clean place with food a notch up from what it used to be.

I noticed when I walked in that they had crawfish as a daily special, both boiled, and also in a Po Boy. “Are the crawfish fresh?” I asked my bartender.

“I go to National Airport every Friday and pick them up myself,” she said, adding that they’re shipped live, on ice, and are still crawling around when she takes delivery.

I ordered an Abita Restoration Pale Ale and a plate of Boiled Crawfish ($13, they also offer all-you-can-eat for $30). Ordering all you can eat would be insanity given how large the plate was – it was an inch-high platter, filled with about three dozen crawfish – you’d have to eat close to 100 of these things to justify the $30 price tag. I was eating my plate pretty much non-stop for about 30 minutes.

And even though it was half-price burger night, I decided to stick with the crawfish theme, ordering a Crawfish Po Boy ($8.95) which came with a bag of Dirty Potato Chips with sea salt. Coincidentally, this is the first day in many years that I happened to get a bag of potato chips with both lunch (at The Bagelry) and dinner (here). If it sounds glutton-ish to have ordered more food after my boiled crawfish … well, it was. But there really isn’t much meat in a boiled crawfish, I didn’t feel like going home, and I really wanted to try the Po Boy for scientific purposes.

If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, and really want to cozy up to some crawfish, getting the boiled plate is the way to go, but the Po Boy was a great sandwich, and came stuffed with crawfish meat – it saves you a lot of work, not unlike ordering a crab cake instead of fiddling (pun intended) with steamed crabs.

Bayou Bakery is getting a lot of press for its crawfish boils, but it’s well worth remembering the ones at Cowboy Cafe – they have them each weekend, starting on Friday night, and usually run out of crawfish by Monday or Tuesday.

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