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This Viet-Cajun Spot in San Jose Serves the Freshest Crawfish Boils Until 4 a.m.

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Two men in glasses devouring their food ravenously. There's a big bowl of shrimp and crawfish in front of them.
By the end of our meal at Cajun Bistro 7, we’d left a pile of shrimp and crawfish carcasses in our wake. The Viet-Cajun spot in San Jose is open until 4 a.m. daily. (Thien Pham)

The Midnight Diners is a regular collaboration between KQED food editor Luke Tsai and artist Thien Pham. Follow them each week as they explore the hot pot restaurants, taco carts and 24-hour casino buffets that make up the Bay Area’s after-hours dining scene.

The first thing you notice upon walking into San Jose’s Cajun Bistro 7 is how barebones the setup is. Layers of disposable plastic tablecloth are stacked on every table, and there’s little decor to speak of beyond a potted bamboo plant and a few kitschy floral dinner plates mounted on the wall. 

It’s a vibe I like to call “Asian Mom’s Basement,” and it happens to be the setting where I feel most comfortable — where a group of friends might spend several hours with a deck of cards and a spread of snacks, just shooting the shit. 

In my experience, restaurants that look like this always serve amazing food, and Cajun Bistro 7 proved to be no exception. We trekked to this relatively low-profile strip mall shop because we heard it serves some of the best Viet-Cajun seafood boils in San Jose until 4 a.m. (!!!) every night. But if anything, that undersells just how good the restaurant is. 

At a little past 10 o’clock on a Friday night, the place was packed with Vietnamese American twentysomethings, and every table had ordered one of the big seafood boil combinations — three or four pounds of crawfish, clams, mussels and head-on shrimp served in a plastic bag full of bright red sauce. It’s the kind of restaurant where plastic gloves are provided (and highly recommended), and you still wind up with a huge pile of dirty napkins at the end of your meal.

The exterior of the Cajun Bistro 7 at night, when the restaurant is lit up as though glowing from within.
Don’t be deceived by the restaurant’s understated appearance. (Thien Pham)

I will be honest: I’ve never been to Louisiana, and I’ve spent the bulk of my adult life telling people that I think crawfish are “OK” but, truthfully, a bit overrated. I realize now that I must have been eating a whole lot of frozen crawfish. The specimens at Cajun Bistro knocked my socks off — plump and meaty with firm, sweet flesh that was tastier than any lobster.

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The other seafood was also excellent, especially the gigantic shrimp, whose heads we ripped off with our hands, sucking on the sweet, briny juices inside. What sets this seafood boil apart, too, is the sauce. We opted for the “Sweet California,” which the owner recommended. At first, I worried it would be too sweet and too far removed from the traditional Cajun style. But if anything, it grew on me with every bite — super-garlicky and buttery with slight sweetness balanced by a tingle of heat, and a creaminess that I found irresistible. The evidence? The pile of shrimp and crawfish carcasses we left in our wake.

This wasn’t just the best seafood boil I’ve had in San Jose. It might be the best one in the whole Bay Area.

As if that that weren’t enough, Cajun Bistro also serves a full traditional Vietnamese menu, including one of the tastiest bowls of home-style bun rieu — the crab-infused tomato broth noodle soup — I’ve had in the Bay: a balanced, deeply flavorful broth, impeccably fresh herbs and a jolt of funky nuoc mam (fermented shrimp paste) to make you feel alive.

Right now is a good time to visit Cajun Bistro 7, as we’re nearing the peak of the Louisiana crawfish season (though the restaurant offers crawfish year-round, sourcing the little crustaceans from the Sacramento Delta during the fall and winter months). Maybe the most unbelievable thing about the restaurant, apart from the delicious food and friendly service, is — again — the fact that it’s open until 4 a.m. every single night. That decision, we were told, was born out of sheer practicality rather than some grand plan to dominate the South Bay’s after-midnight food scene. Their live crawfish shipment comes in at 5 a.m. every morning, so they have to stay up that late anyway.

Though I must admit: The idea of eating a full-on seafood boil at 4 o’clock in the morning sounds like sheer lunacy, even to me. But if you’ve achieved that particular side quest, I’d love to meet you at Cajun Bistro someday for a pre-dawn meal. If only just to shake your hand.

Cajun Bistro 7 is open from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. daily at 3005 Silver Creek Rd. Ste. 116 in San Jose. 

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