One doesn't find a restaurant as representative of its place as much as Hawk's very often. Hawk's,located in Rayne, Louisiana and open only five months of the year during crawfish season, is, in their own estimation, "in the middle of nowhere!" While it is not the easiest place to find, it is most certainly located somewhere and that somewhere is in the middle of Louisiana crawfish country. Scott and Tanya Boswell brought us there to fill out our Louisiana experience.
Another hint of how much this restaurant speaks of its place was the spurs on the boots of a number of the regular customers, both male and female. This is a restaurant the locals come to for their crawfish. The room is large, spare and for the most part unadorned. Incongruously for a family oriented restaurant, one must go through the bar to get to the rest rooms. This would not be such a big deal were it not for the sign posted by the entrance to the bar stating "no children allowed."
Needless to say, the draw here is the crawfish, big, plump and flavorful. Unlike most places that purge their crawfish only briefly in salt water, Hawk's does so for up to a full 24 hours using a system developed at Texas A&M and put into place at Hawk's by the late L.H. "Hawk" Arceneaux, who first opened the restaurant in 1983. Previously, the family had farmed crawfish, but soon after the restaurant opened, they put all their energy into that. Many of the crawfish they use still come from the property they once owned, however. The result of their purging efforts, which use clean, local non-chlorinated groundwater, is non-gritty and non-muddy, full flavored crawfish. These crawfish form the basis of their boils, which they offer three ways, mild, hot and with jalapeño. We ordered the hot. These were delectable and addictive. We started with a five pound platter, quickly moved through that and followed it with another. The advantage of ordering them to follow one another is to keep them fresh and hot. The spice mix was just right.
Our 10 y/o son, not knowing what to expect asked for fried crawfish. These were very good too, but the real stars were the boiled ones, something he learned very quickly once they arrived and he tried one. Potatoes and corn were also available a la carte. We stayed away from the potatoes wanting to save precious room, but the corn, served initially too hot to eat, was a delicious and satisfying adjunct to the spicy crawfish.
Bread pudding for dessert also rocked. This place is the real deal, serving great, down home food, albeit a little out of the way for anyone who doesn't actually live in Rayne. I haven't tried enough crawfish boils to say definitively that this is the best there is, but I find it hard to imagine that there could be better or more fun places for it. Open from January until about mid-May (until it gets too hot and the crawfish start burrowing) from Wednesday to Sunday – evenings only.