Swamp Boil, established in July 2020 by UF alum Son Hai Vo, is a flavorful and bold addition to Northwest Gainesville! I like that the location was away from the hectic noise and traffic on University Ave. The location allows for ample parking and seating outdoors. As a seafood lover, I am always on the hunt for a good boil and Swamp Boil’s combined Vietnamese-Cajun style immediately grabbed my attention.
The restaurant greets you with a festive energy with its hanging Christmas decorations and Christmas tree, along with the vibrant murals showcasing a huge orange and blue gator, as well as various food ingredients.
There is plenty of seating both indoors and outdoors, and the restaurant is equipped with hand washing stations. All workers were masked appropriately.
Don’t let the menu overwhelm you, as they have an impressive choice of appetizers ranging from kimchi (Korean dish made with napa cabbage fermented with spicy paste), to Bánh xèo (vietnamese crepes), to sausage meatballs, followed by sandwiches, buns, porkbelly, to gumbo. They are really covering a wide array of Asian, American, and fusion cuisines here and not afraid to go all out in doing so.
I know I had to try their “Build Your Own Boil” option in which you choose from a variety of seafoods (prices by half a pound), then sauces, then spice level. Don’t worry- they also have pre-selected pairings for those that have trouble deciding.
I chose to build my own with Crawfish ($7) +Mussels ($7) +Shrimp (peeled option $9), and Snow Crab ($14). Then I went for their signature Shabang sauce (garlic, ginger, lemon, butter, cajun spice, lemon pepper, cayenne, old bay, oregano) with a spice level of 2 (hot). Even though I’m an avid lover of spicy food, I was glad I chose the hot because it definitely has a kick. After covering the table with a layer of paper, they equip you with a bib, gloves, and a double jaw tool to prepare you for peeling. When I asked where the seafood was from, my waiter kindly informed me that their seafood was distributed through Cheney Brothers, another family owned business that is based in Florida.
The seafood boil is on the pricey side (as boils usually are) but it was worth it. The dish was a good amount to share between two people, as it also comes with one corn and two potatoes. The sauce was phenomenal. Definitely would come here just for the sauce and I wish they could sell it bottled up. The seafood was fresh, but if you ask for my #1 topping I would have to say mussels because they soaked up all that sauce and garlic slices perfectly. The shrimp also is easy to eat and flavorful. Snow crab and crawfish called for more labor than meat itself, but hey maybe that’s the fun of eating a boil right? Once you get your fill of the seafood, go ahead and soak the potatoes in the sauce. Cut the corn in kernels to mix with the sauce. Scoop up the corn kernels and sauce mixture and experience a flavor explosion with the perfect texture and hint of sweet.
I also wanted to try their pho, so I ordered the classic ($13), which comes with beef broth, rice noodle, rib eye brisket, meatballs, and a plate with pickled onions, mint, jalapeños and bean sprouts. The portion is very large so it is shareable if you are ordering a few dishes. The broth was savory, topped with scallion, and seasoned generously. I didn’t even need to use the various sauces they provided after adding jalapeños and mint. The brisket is so tender and noodles were just the right consistency. Overall, a good pho and perfect for a colder day.
With the friendly, vibrant, and young spirit this new restaurant has, Swamp Boil is my new go-to spot for boil and fusion food! I’m already thinking about that Shabang sauce again…