Houston Restaurant Owner Says Crawfish Shortage Has Forced Him to Close

H-Town Bang Crawfish at Saigon House.

The 2024 crawfish shortage has taken a longstanding, Northwest Houston Viet-Cajun spot as a casualty. On March 3, owner and chef Tony Nguyen — who is also the owner of Xin Chao (nationally known chef Christine Hà formerly partnered with him on that restaurant) — announced on Facebook that he has closed Saigon House 1960 at 3645 Cypress Creek Parkway. Nguyen and his mother, who serves as the executive chef, will continue to operate the Saigon House food truck, as well as Xin Chao, so Houstonians will still have a few places to enjoy the same delicious crawfish.

 

So far, 2024 has been a bleak year for crawfish enthusiasts. The quantity available to harvest this year is abnormally low, and in Houston, demand is far exceeding this year’s supply. This season started slow and expensively, with prices ranging from $14 to $18 a pound. When available, the mudbugs have been on the smaller side. Supply and cost has gotten somewhat better now that it’s later in the season. Even so, prices are still hovering between $9 and $10 a pound at most restaurants.

Nguyen, a James Beard Award Outstanding Chef semifinalist in 2022 and Best Chefs finalist in 2023, alongside Hà for their work at Xin Chao, took the reigns at the midtown location of Saigon House in 2017 before relocating to the Champions area in 2019. Saigon House shared a strip center with a handful of restaurants that are unique for the area, including the traditional Vietnamese restaurant VN Pho and Hunan West African Cuisine. The Nguyens served several Viet-Cajun dishes such as extra-spicy dumplings and egg rolls, as well as phở, pasta and a variety of fried rice dishes. The centerpiece of the menu — and the main customer draw — was the selection of boiled seafood; in particular, crawfish tossed in Nguyen’s H-Town Bang sauce. Unfortunately, with the increased prices and delayed availability, maintaining the restaurant became infeasible. 

Tony Nguyen and Christine Ha at a function for the James Beard Foundation.
Tony Nguyen and Christine Hà at a function for the James Beard Foundation. Photo by Ryan Baker.

This closing is a personal disappointment. Ever since I first discovered the Midtown location in 2018, Saigon House has been my go-to for crawfish, both traditional Cajun and Vietnamese-inspired. While, Xin Chao is still serving Nguyen’s cooking, I will miss the cozy, neighborhood eatery vibe of Saigon House. 

Lately, reporting on struggling or closing Houston-area restaurants has become all too common. This applies to both the big names and the smaller, local businesses. Make sure to support your favorites, or there may come a time when you no longer have that option. 

 

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