Perino's Boiling Pot
3754 Westbank Expy
Harvey, LA 70058
Napoleon's Ratings: ***/*****
We are in the heart of crawfish season now, when typically the best and most product we'll see all year comes pouring out of Cajun country and into our restaurants and markets. Perino's Boiling Pot is open year-round, serving seasonal seafood and fried seafood too. But this time of year is it's time to shine, and it's well-worth a trip to Harvey to experience the place.
Perino's doesn't look too promising from the street. In fact, it doesn't even look much like a restaurant. It's attached to a budget motel and if you didn't know any better you might think it was the standard motel diner stuck there by the highway. But those who do know better flock to this place, and it's a whole different story inside. There's a busy bar and then a big, very bright dining room with long, family-style tables and a décor of hunting trophies - everything from bears to wasp nests. The jukebox plays a mix of pop, soul and country - reflecting the diverse crowd that gathers here, and there are video games for the kids around the room.
Perino's is quick and no-nonsense, which is just what you want from a place that specializes in crawfish and cold beer. Still, the waitresses we've had have bent over backward to accommodate special family requests, even when they were very busy. They clearly have the demands and rhythm of quick, family-style service down pat.
You're not coming here for courses. You're coming for boiled seafood, and lots of it. The first pitcher of beer is usually your appetizer. Still, you can get some interesting side items that might or might not come out before the crawfish. There are whole stuffed artichokes, for instance, garlicky and wonderful to pull apart and share around the table, while links of crawfish boudin proved too mushy when we ordered them. The seafood gumbo has big shrimp, lots of crab and good flavor. Onion rings and calamari can also get things started. In the right season they have oysters on the half shell too.
Here's the main act, and the reason you came: boiled crawfish, brought out steaming hot on huge trays. The spice level is respectable, though it won't bend anyone's ears back, and the size this time of year is good too. Perino's does a good job with shrimp, which are consistently large and not overcooked, and crabs too. A stackable tray system makes handling all the discarded shells a little easier, especially at a crowded table. Other than boiled crawfish, your options are fried seafood baskets, and an unusual approach to po-boys. You order a seafood basket, then add on a few bucks to the price for bread and dressings to build your own at the table. Don't bother with the made-ahead salads.
Dessert at Perino usually means another pitcher of beer or a sno-ball from some stand on the way home. The restaurant doesn't serve sweets.
Perino's serves some of the coldest beer in town, with the help of iced mugs, iced pitchers and ice rods dunked into the pitchers to keep them cold. The beer selection is limited, however. There's a full bar. Wine is very basic.
Crawfish prices seem to fluctuate like gas prices, so your bill here at this time of year will be based on prevail market trends. This is a place to feast, and with the beer pitchers going around, plan to spend at least $25 per person.
Perino's is one of those places that makes you realize how unique and robust our local food culture is. This is a place to convene with family and friends and dig into a feast in true Louisiana fashion. Well-run, family-friendly and focused on the staples, it's a great place to keep in mind for your next seafood outing.