“Best crawfish in New Orleans,” said Ralph “Plumber” Berlin, then the head trainer for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tunch and I immediately perked up our ears, because Ralph had never given us a bum steer when it came to fine food in any of the NFL cities we played in. It was late 80’s and Tunch Ilkin and I were fired up for some real New Orleans Cajun-style crawfish to knock down the night before we played the Saints in New Orleans.
Normally I am of the type, when I traveled on away games, to hunker-down-dawg and go room service the night before a game. Not that I’m anti-social, but when your a night’s sleep away from kick-off I prefer to keep to myself and spend a lot of time mentally gearing up for a days-full of chaos. I was always big on “Getting your mind right.”
Occasionally though, if I had a special hankering for some particular chow, I’d forage out and go get it even though being around normal people during lock-down time tended to get on my nerves.
With that in mind, I’d been told that Cajun-style crawfish was awesome. And after inquiries were made, Ralph told us that he’d had an unforgettable eating experience at a certain New Orleans restaurant that was a sure thing. I could barely contain myself (I do have a food problem).
After flying into New Orleans, checking into our rooms, then going downstairs for the special teams meeting, jumping the bus to the Superdome, whisking through practice, then grabbing the “First bus” back to the hotel (another story altogether), I said “C’mon Tunch them crawfish are waiting on us!”
We grabbed a cab, cruised on over to the restaurant (which shall go un-named) and blew through the front doors to settle in for a good night’s grubbing.
After ordering up what was certain to be a home run food-fest, Tunch and I talked about the upcoming game and other stuff, all the while waiting on this incredible delicacy that had been highly recommended by every Louisiana man we could find.
When the bowl of crawfish hit the table and the lid lifted off, I felt my heart sink. Staring up at me from the bottom of the bowl were these huge shrimp-like critters with big, bulging eyes and some extra-terrestrial antennae. I’m not sure what I was anticipating, but whatever was looking up from the bottom of that bowl wasn’t it.
It wasn’t until two years ago, while killing time up at training camp, I took in a movie called “District 9” and realized that I’d seen the aliens in that movie before. They looked like just like what was sitting in that fish bowl in that New Orleans restaurant so many years before.
Ugliest food I’ve ever seen in the history of my life.