Ambiance and amenities don’t count for much when it comes to a boiled seafood feast, but the Crab Trap had the right kind.
It was just a shack, and a shack without solid walls. It had a short menu, longneck beers, breezes off the lake and a setting as satisfyingly rustic as any camp. The way proprietor Louis Lipps sourced and served his crawfish and crabs sealed the deal and inspired many excursions out to its remote location in Frenier, a notch on the western edge of Lake Pontchartrain just outside LaPlace.
After a three-year absence, Lipps has a new venture in the works that promises more of the same.
He and his new business partner, Jason Bourg, are now developing the Crab Trap Seafood Restaurant, which they expect to open in the next few weeks, pending inspections, at 105 Gary Road in Frenier.
That’s just across the road from the original location, in a building that was previously a seafood joint called Gilligan’s by the Lake. It will be a little more developed than the original Crab Trap, with an upstairs/downstairs arrangement between Lipps and Bourg. Upstairs, Bourg will run a dining room for fried seafood platters, po-boys and other local standards. Downstairs will be Lipps’ lair, which, like before, will consist of screen walls strung between pilings.
“Upstairs, you’ll have the air conditioning inside, and a little deck for a view of the lake,” said Lipps. “Downstairs, it will be just like the old place with the same menu I used to do.”
That includes boiled shrimp, crabs and crawfish according to the season and a version of barbecue shrimp (and also barbecue crab) that has proven enduringly memorable. The Crab Trap Seafood Restaurant will serve beer and wine.
The first Crab Trap met its demise when Hurricane Isaac roared through in 2012. Lipps didn’t rebuild and spent the last few years in other lines of work.
But it seemed like only a matter of time before he would return to the business, which is in his blood. In the 1960s, Lipps’ parents ran Frank & Rita’s Mama Lou’s Seafood Restaurant, which was part of that long-gone complex of stilted camps over the eastern New Orleans lakefront. As a kid, he worked his family’s shrimp dock in Venice, and for the original Crab Trap he supplemented his seafood supply with his own traps set in Lake Pontchartrain.
In Frenier, Lipps initially opened a sno-ball stand aimed at people using the nearby Peavine Road boat launch. It was elevated on pilings, and eventually he turned the area under the stand into a seafood boiling operation.
Nearby, he had an intricate system of tanks to wash and purge his crawfish, and he said he’s building these again for the new restaurant, plus tanks to nurture soft shell crabs to their desired state for harvest.
“I know what it takes to do things right, and we had a good following going,” he said. “We’ll be doing it again here.”
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.