I walked out of my house last Sunday, the morning of the Crane Alley's Crawfish Boil, and held my hand up to search for a slight breeze. The recent days had been either soaked in rain, or unbearably hot and steamy. The air was cool as it passed through my finger tips and I felt the warm sun on my face as I tipped it toward the sky. I knew it was going to be an idyllic summer day. Mother nature certainly had a hand in making this year’s boil the best yet.
I showed up at Crane Alley in Downtown Urbana right at 11 a.m. when the event was set to start. I'd been right about it being a gorgeous day, complete with white puffy clouds and a bright blue sky. The gentle breeze carried the spicy Creole smells down the alley and out into the streets of Downtown Urbana. Having been to the event before, I knew to head straight out to the alley check things out.
I was lucky that there were still plenty of tables free in the alley; they fill up quickly, so I recommend getting there early next year. I put my things down on a chair and went to explore. I noticed right away that there was a lot of new things to discover this year. The tables outside were all decorated with shiny Mardi Gras beads and menus printed up just for the event. (One was the Half Acre beer menu, which also listed the t-shirt [$13] and hurricane [$5] prices.) There was a step by step guide to “the essential New Orleans skill” of how to peel and eat a crawfish. I thought that was a great idea. I continued to the end of the alley where the tents were set up and buzzed with busy staff finishing the food and set up. I gazed into the tent at the huge pans of golden corn on the cob, green peppers, onions, and sausage, and my mouth began to water.
While I waited for the crawfish to be done boiling, I turned around to admire the decor and photo booth they had created for #boil2018. I thought it was such a fun idea, and the props they had were perfect. On the main tent table they also had plastic bibs you could wear while you ate your crawfish. Across from the Half Acre Beer truck, over at Blackbird, there was a live New Orleans brass band setting up to play. I was so excited! Before I knew it a line at the tents started to form and the boats of crawfish and cold beers were flowing freely.
My pre-purchased event tickets ($23 each) got me all you can eat crawfish, flown in overnight from Louisiana, andouille sausage, boiled potatoes, green peppers and onions, and corn on the cob. (Tickets were also available for $28 the day of the event.) The tickets did not include drinks, but they had refreshing hurricanes ($5) and frosty cold beers (starting at $5) from the Half Acre beer truck. The long line moved quickly and the staff dishing out the food were super friendly. Once I had my boat of crawfish goodness, I happily sat down at my table and began to dig in. The crawfish meat was tender and sweet, and the potatoes were seasoned and cooked perfectly. The peppers and onions were flavorful and paired deliciously with the rest of the feast. The andouille sausage was my favorite; it was incredibly spicy but I just couldn’t stop eating it.
At points during my feast I could close my eyes and imagine I was in New Orleans. The smells of the crawfish mingling with the spices in the air, the New Orleans brass music coming from next door, and the bright sunny day all mixed together to create an intoxicating dining experience.
I had a wonderful time at this event, plus the food and service were stellar as always. Crane Alley really out did themselves with the boil this year. The new decorations, creative photo booth, fun t-shirts, live music, and new menus all came together to really enhance the whole experience. This has turned out to be one of my favorite outdoor events of the summer. Next year I may get a whole group of friends together so I can introduce them to the one and only Crane Alley Crawfish Boil.
115 West Main St
11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Photos by Rebecca Wells