480 S Victoria Ave.
When I heard about the latest hands-on, peel-and-eat seafood restaurant, I jumped on the opportunity to give it a try. Now, even I have some issue taking off the heads of little sea critters to fill my belly, but if one is to eat any kind of meat, this is at least a less shocking road to go down in culinary adventures.
After my companion had surfed enough at Silver Strand one Saturday morning, we headed over to Ragin’ Crawfish, which is nestled between Pirates Bar and Grill and CJ’s Barbecue on Victoria Avenue in Oxnard. Inside, the décor is clean and simple yet calming, striking a balance of black, gray and wood scheme with an underlying nautical theme. The clerk at the register was patient and nice as we perused the menu. We chose crawfish, shrimp with heads on, fresh oysters, frog legs and Cajun fries, plus beignets, because why not? I also ordered Vietnamese cold coffee — both bitter and sweet and it went down smoothly. And so we waited outside for our massive lunch to arrive.
First up, the frog legs, lightly battered — so much so that it was barely noticeable — and fried, the meat in portion and size similar to the drumettes that come in chicken wings. My companion, who delighted in eating them, told me that he hadn’t done so since he was as kid. Added bonus: Nothing like going back down memory lane. The flavor couldn’t be any milder than chicken; and while frogs aren’t a common item at home in the kitchen, they really aren’t something to be weirded-out by. At least they aren’t snails, so there’s that. One recommendation: If you eat meat, don’t knock it till you try it.
Next out, Cajun fries and Hillman oysters on the half shell. The Cajun fries were basic cut-and-peeled Idaho russets, but the seasoning had a nice half-spice, half-salty match. The oysters were creamy and went down easy with zero fishy smell — sometimes even the best restaurants can’t deliver that so, so far so good!
Halfway through our meal, we had a special guest appearance by an old friend of my companion. While they had been in touch over social media, it had been roughly 20 years since they had seen each other in person. Watching them talk about crazy times back in the ’90s was certainly an interesting spectacle, one that I was happy to be a part of. What makes life special if we aren’t reflecting on old memories while making new ones?
As they chatted, our final entrees showed up boiled in bags: a pound of crawfish in garlic butter, medium heat, and shrimp, Ragin’ Special, medium heat, with a side of the Ragin’ Hot XXX sauce. Admittedly, by this point, we were starting to relax, if not falling into a food coma. It was quite a lot of food, but we dug in for the last round, though we ended up with the rest in to-go boxes.
The shrimp were large succulent prawns; the flavor was fairly mild. While I didn’t ask for the ridgeback shrimp, judging by pictures, that’s exactly what we got and they are found right off our coast in the Santa Barbara Channel. Peeling off the heads to reveal some less than appetizing innards takes a lot of machismo to hold down the rest of the meal. And that I do have, apparently. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s a good test to see what you’re made of. The tails were just scrumptious, I have to admit. The crawfish, or crawdads, which is really a much more fun name to call them, are cute little minilobsters but not much meat in the tail. But if you grew up eating these freshwater crustaceans, eating them is more like a tradition than a hearty filling meal. The garlic butter was a very basic way to cook them — can’t go wrong with that. As for the Ragin’ Hot XXX, each little taste I had of it was easy for me, but I am not a good litmus test for people who can’t handle the heat.
To finish the meal, the beignets were on point, fluffy, airy, slight crispy, lightly dusted with powdered sugar and a drizzle of chocolate. Perfection.
While the meal was a messy one, the company and even our server were well worth it. It was a beautiful day in Oxnard and we got to go on a unique journey for lunch. If you want something easy, maybe one of the nearby eateries. If you want adventure and variety, try out Ragin’ Crawfish.