Mardi Gras celebrations on Long Island
After weeks of gray skies and multiple snowstorms, Long Islanders deserve a bit of a party. Embrace Mardi Gras before the Lenten season begins by hitting a Fat Tuesday celebration Tuesday night. You don't have to head down south to enjoy the color and flavor of New Orleans -- here are six joints that will be jumpin'.
1. BIG DADDY'S
Go right into the kitchen for a walk-through-buffet where you can scoop up some jambalaya and gumbo and sip hurricanes from the bar while wrapped in Mardi Gras beads. The King Cobras will provide a southern blues rock soundtrack.
"A majority of people dress up," says manager Tommy Kurtz. "Costumes are not mandatory but highly recommended."
WHEN | WHERE 6 p.m.-closing, One Park Lane, Massapequa. Advance tickets are sold out, but walk-ins are welcome after 9 p.m.
INFO 516-799-8877, bigdaddysny.com
COST $30 per person
For the fourth year straight pitmaster Francisco Gonzalez is turning up the flavor for his specials.
"We like to feature dishes we don't always have on our menu," says Gonzalez. "It gives me an opportunity to be creative and for people to try other things."
Dine on blackened catfish, alligator fritters and voodoo chicken with crawfish gravy, then wash it down with Abita or Bayou Teche beer fresh from the tap.
WHEN | WHERE 4-10 p.m., 3357 Merrick Rd., Wantagh
INFO 516-308-3355, tennesseejeds.li
COST A la carte menu
Executive chef/owner Eric Rifkin gets his restaurant out of barbecue mode and moves toward a more traditional New Orleans menu with dishes like a crawfish boil, fried frog legs and baked oysters.
"Fat Tuesday is a major night here," says Rifkin. "It's just a giant party."
Authentic moonpies will be tossed out to the crowd along with masks and beads while Jack Licitra's Tuba Band plays in the background.
WHEN | WHERE 5:30 p.m.-midnight, 70 W. Main St., Patchogue
INFO 631-447-7744, bobbique.com
COST $5 entry fee, a la carte menu
4. LL DENT
Chef/co-owner Leisa Dent tips her toe in the Mardi Gras pool for the first time this year with a ragin' Cajun buffet.
"I used to do specials but I didn't fully get into it," she says. "But I'm feelin' it this year."
The all-you-can-eat dinner buffet will include Dent's spin on chicken étouffée, mustard greens with neck bone and squash au gratin.
WHEN | WHERE 5-9:30 p.m., 221 Old Country Rd., Carle Place
INFO 516-742-0940, lldent.com
COST $19.95 per person
5. THE BAYOU
Long Island's oldest Cajun/Creole restaurant offers a three-course prix fixe menu featuring New Orleans BBQ shrimp, "Steak from hell" and chocolate chili chess pie.
While the Buzzards burn down the house with their special brand of rockabilly music, get your face painted Day-of-the-Dead style.
"The place goes wild," says owner Lisa Livermore. "It blows away New Year's Eve."
WHEN | WHERE 5:30, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. seatings, 2823 Jerusalem Ave., Bellmore
INFO 516-785-9263, bayou4bigfun.com
COST $55 per person
6. R.S. JONES
For the past 20 years, R.S. Jones has made Fat Tuesday one of the biggest parties on Long Island.
"Pick your protein and mix it with our étouffée or Creole sauces," says chef/co-owner Carole Olkoski about the entree choices.
The festive atmosphere extends beyond the menu and into giveaways, Cajun/Creole music and face painting.
"It's crazy fun," says Olkoski. "People really get into the spirit of it."
WHEN | WHERE 5-11 p.m., 153 Merrick Ave., Merrick
INFO 516-378-7177, rsjones.com
COST A la carte menu
. . . AND FOR DESSERT
If you don't feel like going out, but still want to bring some Mardi Gras pizzazz home, pick up a king cake for dessert. Made with sweet dough and cream cheese filling, the cake is baked with a mini plastic baby doll, representing the baby Jesus, hidden in the middle.
"Whoever gets a slice with the baby has good luck," says Gina Gallace, manager of Dortoni Bakery in Levittown.
The cake, decorated in purple, yellow and green icing draped with beads, can be found at Dortoni and sister shops La Bonne
Boulangerie in Port Jefferson or East Norwich ($19.50, 516-796-3033, dortonibakery.com).