Taking time on a Sunday afternoon to go eat fresh crawfish is a summer activity of my dreams, and that dream came true this past Sunday at Crane Alley. The Urbana staple hosts an annual crawfish boil, serving up the delectable crustaceans alongside craft beer on tap and classic cajun sides.
Ticket prices for this year’s boil went up a couple bucks from last year; they were $25 ahead of time and $30 at the door. Granted, that price covers all-you-can-eat (while supplies last) crawfish. I repeat: all-you-can-eat crawfish. That’s as many freshwater lobsters you can muster. So, yeah, it’s worth it. Drinks aren’t included in the price of the ticket, but Half Acre was set up in the beer truck on the patio serving four different brews at $5 each. Plus, sticking with the theme, Hurricanes were readily available for $5, too.
The event started at 11 a.m., but when I arrived in the early afternoon I was a little nervous for a couple of reasons. I was worried that as soon as I’d get there the heavens would open up and it would rain (again), thus raining on my crawfish parade. I was also nervous they’d already have run out of food. Thankfully, I lucked out. The sun was trying its hardest to shine and there were still fresh batches of crawfish on hand. I loaded up a carton, pulled up a chair on the patio, and enjoyed some live music. Crane Alley’s patio was pretty crowded, with everyone soaking up the little, but much-needed sun peeking through the clouds.
The staff were prepared, donning a special event t-shirt (you could’ve scored one for $13, too!) emblazoned with “suckin’ heads and pullin’ tails” on the back, and serving up drinks and dishing out crawfish to us dayglo-orange-band-wearing folk. I’m not sure of the crowd size when the boil began, but when I arrived a few hours later, the staff seemed a little worn out, but rightfully so — crawfish is a big deal!
Crane Alley doesn’t use just any crawfish you can get frozen at a supermarket. Nope. They fly in these bad boys fresh from Louisiana overnight and boil them right on the spot. Steaming pots were set up outside right beside the tent. I savored those crustacean morsels because apparently it’s not going to be a banner year for crawfish (weather, man), so who knows the next opportunity I’ll have to enjoy them.
Along with your crawfish, you could load up on corn on the cob, peppers and onions, and potatoes and andouille sausage. And that’s just what I did. Those bright red, clawed little guys were scrumptious: moist, seasoned, and hit the spot on a June afternoon. The potatoes? Just right. The sausage? A perfect addition. And the corn? Well, you can’t do a crawfish boil without corn on the cob.
In addition, Crane had cajun spices on hand to add even more flavor. I went ahead and sprinkled that magic salty dust over everything. The Half Acre special taps were Beachweed (5%) with hints of coconut and lime zest flavor; Volo (4.6%) with light hints of florals and herb; Tuna Extra Pale Ale (4.7%) that includes hints of green apples, watermelon, peaches, and guava plus a lemon lime citrus zest with tropical fruit juices (really, really wish I tried this one in retrospect); and then Beer Hates Astronauts (a whopping 7.5%) a simple hops and malts brew. Plus, they were serving up the New Orleans staple Hurricanes in appropriate technicolor cups. Of what I could see, everyone but me did the smart thing and grabbed a drink (or two or three…I saw a lot of those Hurricane glasses). I stuck with iced tea, but next year I plan on hopping on that bandwagon.
I think Crane Alley is a great place to grab a bite to eat, so I really appreciate the themed events they add to their calendar. They do this event annually so they really know what they’re doing, and it shows. I don’t know where else in the area you can go to a casual, laidback crawfish boil that serves up quality dishes, but Crane takes care of it. It’s a place to kick back, imbibe on some good food and good drink, and often enjoy some tunes, and this Sunday’s event was no different. If you missed out on it this year, make sure you keep an eye out for next year’s event. I highly recommend it. If you like crawfish it’s great. If you’re not sure if you like crawfish, this is the place to go find out. But FYI: you’ll like it.
115 W Main
11 a.m. to 2 a.m., daily
Photos by Remington Rock