Cajun Kitchen in Houston, Texas

Set in an Asiatown strip mall, Cajun Kitchen is Houston’s preeminent destination for Viet-Cajun—a hybrid cuisine that emerged when Vietnamese refugees along the Gulf Coast began applying the techniques of Southeast Asian seafood boils to local crawfish. Though it can be found nationally nowadays, Viet-Cajun is undeniably a Houston specialty. 

Originally opened in 2005 as a traditional Cajun crawfish restaurant, Cajun Kitchen took on a more Viet-Cajun focus in 2015 when current owner John Nguyen assumed the reins. Nguyen, who grew up in Norway, was first introduced to crawfish by Vietnamese relatives in Louisiana. Originally moving to Houston to work in a corporate job, he found a passion for crawfish. 

Today, Cajun Kitchen’s menu ranges from traditional crawfish seasonings such as garlic butter to more Southeast Asian styles, such as a Thai basil–perfumed variation. The Kitchen Special, which comes with citrus wedges, is particularly popular. Nguyen has also extended the Viet-Cajun ethos to other seafood dishes. Think: mussels steamed in lemongrass and Maine razor clams topped with Vietnamese chili butter sauce and Vietnamese coriander leaves. 

Due to the seasonal availability of fresh crawfish, typically from January to July, Cajun Kitchen has diversified its menu beyond its signature crustaceans. Throughout the year, the restaurant serves classic Cajun favorites such as gumbo, po’ boys, and crab pan roasts. There are also traditional Vietnamese street foods, like fried rice, grilled squid, and escargot.

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