Live Crawfish & Seafood brings a delicious taste of New Orleans boiled seafood to Richmond’s West End — and you can order it by the bucketful.
Walking into Live Crawfish & Seafood RVA at Tuckernuck Square on West Broad Street, customers will find themselves surrounded by beach themed décor and pop music. Nathan Ngo and his girlfriend Angie Le opened this New Orleans boiled seafood restaurant after they moved to Richmond in 2018.
Ngo was from Boston, Massachusetts and Le was from Atlanta, Georgia. They met each other in 2016 through a friend, and Ngo used to drive to Atlanta each week to visit Le. Because Le loves seafood, the couple got to visit numerous seafood restaurants during their time together in Atlanta. Ngo said he was inspired by the seafood restaurants they visited, and he and Le decided to open one themselves.
“We struggled a lot in the beginning when we first moved here,” Ngo said. “We dealt with a lot of delays. Before this, I worked in retail and Angie did nails, so we also had to go through training and get licensed.” But with family support, they were eventually able to open Live Crawfish & Seafood in late August 2018.
Ngo said the most popular dish at Live Crawfish & Seafood is the seafood bucket. Customers can enjoy a variety of seafood, from the crawfish and shrimp to the snow crabs and lobsters. Customers can also build their own bucket, by first choosing the seafood, then the sauce, and lastly the sides.
“I’m really confident in the type of food we do,” Ngo said. “We source ourselves with the best-quality seafood.”
Ngo and Le gets their seafood from Maryland, Alaska, Louisiana, California, and sometimes Canada. Crawfish is a popular item on the menu. During live crawfish season from March to late July, Ngo and Le buy live crawfish from Louisiana. The restaurant still offers crawfish when crawfish are not in season; Ngo said he imports frozen crawfish from Spain and Egypt from late September to February.
Ngo and Le believe their signature sauce is what made them stand out from other similar seafood restaurants.
“New Orleans Mix is our house sauce,” Ngo said. “Our sauces are more liquid-based, while other places rely too much on dry seasoning.”
Le, who came up with the recipe for the sauces, said she tested multiple formulas when making the New Orleans Mix. Although she wanted to keep the recipe a secret, Le shared that she marinates all of the seafood several times in the liquid sauce before boiling.
“We want to reach the perfect balance between the sauce itself, butter and garlic,” Le said. “So it was not too oily or bitter, which would make our customers uncomfortable.”
“Our business is going well,” Ngo said. “Some people drive from North Carolina and Virginia Beach to eat here, and they believe it was worth the drive.” Ngo said he and Le constantly improve their services by looking at the reviews and feedback on Google, Yelp, and Facebook.
Although Live Crawfish & Seafood shares the same name with two other restaurants in Maryland and northern Virginia. Ngo made clear that despite the connection, these restaurants are independent in pricing and menu.
Ngo is hopeful about the future of the restaurant. He studied for three years as a business and psychology major at VCU. And Le was an engineering student at the University of Georgia. He looks forward to finishing his degree as the restaurant business become more stable.
Kimberly Ma, who lives in Richmond and is a frequent visitor to Live Crawfish & Seafood, said New Orleans Mix is her favorite sauce. She used to visit the restaurant four days a week when she lived close by. Ma also brought her boyfriend to the restaurant.
“After the first time we came here,” Ma said, “he told me that we should come here each weekend, and we did!”
Top Photo via Live Crawfish & Seafood RVA/Facebook