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Second Helping: Red Claw Seafood and Wings

Craving a crawfish boil? While Denver's not exactly crawling with spots to get your fix, there are a few options, including Red Claw Seafood and Wings.

In this dark, dilapidated joint, you can order crawfish by the pound, flavored with your choice of a boatload of seasonings and delivered to your table in a plastic bag. Two pounds or more also nets potatoes, corn and sausage in that bag -- a welcome addition to the fishy feast.

I stopped by recently for a bag, nabbed a corner booth and started digging in. The original Cajun seasoning had a nice, light, lemony spice, but next time I'd go for the red-hot version -- I wanted a little more spice.

I supplemented the crawfish with half a dozen chicken wings -- crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside, and glazed with housemade sweet fish sauce. You can also get these bits of bird covered in original wing sauce or a number of other variations, including lemon pepper, sesame ginger and Caribbean jerk.

I was more intrigued, though, by the rest of Red Claw's menu. In addition to the Cajun and Creole standards -- including gumbo, crab and oysters -- such Vietnamese dishes as fish congee, stuffed squid, frog legs and a couple of snail variations are also offered. The best item I tried was the papaya jerky salad: a nest of shredded green papaya doused in sweet-tart fish sauce topped with shreds of tough, peppery jerky -- a definite twist on an Indochinese staple, the green papaya salad.

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While Red Claw is an uncommon find in Denver's sea of pho shops, it represents a particular kind of hybrid cuisine that developed a few years ago in the South, where Vietnamese immigrants opened Cajun and Creole restaurants that offered boiled crawfish (which can also be found in Vietnam) as well as Indochinese dishes.

The Red Claw is owned by Denny Duong, who moved to Denver from Arkansas. And while he's been cooking Cajun and Creole food his whole life, he's also integrated Vietnamese and other Asian dishes into his concept. So while you won't find pho here, there are enough unusual options that you won't miss it, either.

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