They're always having a good time down on the bayou for Mardi Gras, the Big Easy's favorite holiday, which begins Tuesday. If you can't be in New Orleans, there are several places on Long Island where you can celebrate in true Louisiana style.
At Bayou Restaurant in Bellmore, for instance, the occasion, also known as Fat Tuesday, is a time for eating spicy food, listening to Southern music and wearing feathered masks and Mardi Gras beads.
"It's loud and crazy, like stepping into a little bar-
restaurant on Bourbon Street," the New Orleans thoroughfare famed for its Mardi Gras celebrations, says Bayou owner Lisa Livermore.
For people of Christian faiths, Mardi Gras is a last chance to indulge in life's pleasures before Ash Wednesday, the holy day that ushers in a 40-day period of penance, prayer and fasting known as Lent, says Mara Levy of Mara's Homemade in Syosset. At Mara's, you can order a Mardi Gras king cake (a kind of Danish frosted with purple, yellow and green sugar) ahead of time, or walk in the door for a Mardi Gras trinket.
"Everyone gets a string of beads," Levy says.
Here are four restaurants where you can party like it's N'awlins -- minus the city's notorious excesses.
2823 Jerusalem Ave., North Bellmore
TRADITIONAL EATS A three-course price-fixed menu includes "steak from hell," a grilled sirloin with superhot habanero and jalapeño barbecue sauce. Other dishes include barbecue shrimp and crawfish fettuccini.
SPECIAL DRINKS The classic Hurricane made with rum and fruit punch and traditional New Orleans beers such as Dixie Blackened Voodoo Lager and Abita.
HOT SOUNDS Eat to the beat of The Buzzards, a Long Island-based rockabilly band.
FREEBIES Beads, feathered masks
TRADITIONAL EATS The heat is on with a menu featuring shrimp Creole, crawfish étouffée (in a lightly spiced sauce), jambalaya, gumbo, dirty rice, crawfish rémoulade, blackened rib-eye.
SPECIAL DRINKS Hurricanes and Cyclones (a vodka cocktail)
HOT SOUNDS Zydeco CDs played on the sound system
FREEBIES They'll paint a Mardi Gras mask on your face (popular choices include Batman and a fleur de lis) and give a zydeco CD to those in costume.
1 Park Lane, Massapequa
TRADITIONAL EATS The $35 buffet includes chicken and andouille sausage gumbo, crawfish, barbecue chicken, blackened catfish and Creole jambalaya. For dessert, king cake, pecan pie and hurricane cheesecake.
SPECIAL DRINKS Hurricanes, Abita beer and Dixie Blackened Voodoo Lager
HOT SOUNDS The King Cobras, a Long Island blues band
TRADITIONAL EATS The specialty is the crawfish boil (one pound on a tray or three to five pounds in a bucket). Also on the menu are crabfingers, barbecued black-peppered shrimp, catfish and crawfish cheesecake.
SPECIAL DRINKS Abita seasonal brews, such as Mardi Gras bock, and Turbodog, a dark brown ale
HOT SOUNDS A live band plays zydeco, beginning at 8 p.m.
FREEBIES Beads and souvenir Hurricane cocktail glasses