Shoal Creek Saloon brings a piece of New Orleans to Austin

Crawfish season,  from mid-January through June, is the busiest time at Shoal Creek Saloon. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
Crawfish season, from mid-January through June, is the busiest time at Shoal Creek Saloon. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

Crawfish season, from mid-January through June, is the busiest time at Shoal Creek Saloon. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

When Ray Canfield took over Shoal Creek Saloon in 1993, the business was not yet known for many of the things it is today: there was no crawfish on the menu, and New Orleans Saints fans did not flock in on game days. But Canfield soon put his stamp on the place.

“It was kind of just a beer joint. It sold burgers and hot dogs. When I took it over, I started introducing shrimp and catfish. That’s all we did for a little while,” Canfield said.

The menu expanded to include a range of Cajun dishes—including crawfish—when Canfield brought in former chef Bud George, an experienced Cajun cook who happened to love the Saints.

“He said, ‘If you show the Saints in there, I can bring you 25 people.’ Back in that day, we only sat 30, so I said, ‘I guess that’s gonna be my team now,” Canfield said.

After he was left without an NFL team when the Houston Oilers left town, Canfield said his Saints fandom now runs deep, as does his love for the recipes George made popular. Now under the leadership of chef Justin Burk, crawfish season, which runs from mid-January through June, remains the restaurant’s busiest time—second only to when the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2010, a day Canfield said he had to turn away around 1,000 people.

Most years on Fat Tuesday, Shoal Creek Saloon serves up crawfish, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and cochon de lait, or roasted suckling pig.

“We’re not going to really push it this year because of COVID,” he said. “We don’t want too large a group together. We want to keep people safe.”

COVID-19 has dealt a blow, with sales down around 30% most months of the pandemic, Canfield said. Fortunately, however, he was prepared. Canfield said he set aside assets in case of floods, such as the one on Memorial Day in 2015.

“We prepared for a disaster, and I just never thought that it was going to be a pandemic,” he said. “I always thought it was going to be another flood.”

Assuming that risk has been worth it, he said; the restaurant’s location along Shoal Creek, with a clear view of the downtown skyline, has kept regulars coming to the Shoal Creek Saloon patio through thick and thin.
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


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