About a year ago, the dine-around bunch and I dined for the first time at Bayou Boys Fresh Gulf Shrimp, at their old location in the Burlington complex on Johnson City’s West Walnut Street.

The brainchild of one Walter Holmes, Bayou Boys’ fish-monger, boil-master and principal investor, and daughter Julie Holmes Pecou, the restaurant’s proprietor, Bayou Boys enhanced its seafood market by adding a restaurant, allowing their customers to first select their catch and then have it cooked their way.

Given that all seafood, finned or otherwise, is the most time- and distance-sensitive of commodities, it is a tribute to father and daughter’s focus and hard work that a successful market and restaurant featuring fresh seafood exists five hours from the Atlantic Ocean, and ten hours from the Gulf of Mexico.

First impressions

Bayou Boys’ new location is the commercial space formerly occupied by Jack’s City Grill on North Roan Street. Holmes was very proud of what Bayou Boys accomplished previously, and is looking forward to further success at their new location.

The comprehensive seafood market’s display case, pricing blackboard and processing table is found just past the hostess lectern that is inside the double doors. Up a short flight of steps on the right you’ll find a dining area seating about 80 patrons at tables and booths. There are additional booths on the rear lower level next to the hallway accessing both the kitchen and restrooms. Décor is minimally nautical, with several flat screen televisions evident.

Shrimp scampi with side salad

With Bayou Boys being both a fish market as well as a restaurant, fishmonger Holmes says this gives each customer the opportunity to browse Bayou Boys’ market, make their fresh selection, and then have it prepared by the restaurant.

Additionally, Bayou Boys prides itself on accommodating customers who have special dietary restrictions.

Fortunately, my dining partner had no such restrictions in her order of shrimp scampi ($13.99) together with a house salad to our friendly server, Michelle. A good quantity of 25-count shrimp were sautéed in a reduction of white wine, garlic, lemon juice and chopped parsley, then tossed with angel hair pasta and served with thick slices of good Italian bread.

My dining partner was enjoying the mechanics of twirling her fork in angel hair pasta, then spearing a succulent shrimp on the same fork. After a quick glance for any errant strands of pasta, it was down the hatch for the forkful of shrimp scampi, a grin of pure delight crossing my dining partner’s face.

Crawfish Etoufee, Jambalaya and soft shell crab

I wanted to see how Bayou Boys kitchen would handle an off-the-menu order. With Michelle’s guidance I constructed my own supper from the side orders listed in Bayou Boys’ menu.

I ordered an 8 oz. cup of the crawfish Etoufee ($6.99), added an 8 oz. cup of their Jambalaya ($5.99) and (on Michelle’s suggestion) finished with a single soft shell crab ($4).

Bayou Boys cram a lot into their Jambalaya, the chicken rubbing shoulders with some succulent shrimp, several good-sized slices of andouille sausage, the saffron-tinted Low Country rice and all the other yummies in that 8 oz. cup.

The crawfish Etoufee made a good counterpoint to the Jambalaya, this crimson-colored tomato and garlic-flavored Cajun favorite being pleasantly populated with some superbly succulent shelled crawfish tails.

Traditionally, it is the bloom of the crocus or song of the first robin that marks the return of warmer weather.

I found my first sign of spring nestled there on my plate: Callinectes sapidus, an Atlantic blue crab in soft-shell phase, delicately deep-fried and giving off a truly remarkable mélange of aromas and flavors. For me, the flavor and texture to be found in a properly prepared soft shell crab is unsurpassed. Using a few drops of some hot sauce for extra zing is a fine way to welcome spring.

The bundling of soft shell crab together with the crawfish Etoufee and Jambalaya brought all of my a la carte supper together as a single savory whole.

The bottom line

The increased traffic and access from North Roan Street in Johnson City can only help Walter Holmes and Julie Holmes Pecou realize continued success for Bayou Boys Fresh Gulf Shrimp. The seafood market is well-maintained, the restaurant spacious and comfortable, the varied menu items uniformly excellent in preparation and taste, and the service friendly and professional.

Why not find your own sign of spring’s arrival with a trip to Bayou Boys Fresh Gulf Shrimp?

Just remember to leave some soft shell crabs for me, OK?