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BEST OF NEW ORLEANS? HERE!

With Super Bowl XLVII fast approaching, thoughts turn to the host city of New Orleans. Having recently returned from what's arguably America's gastronomic epicenter, and after days spent drifting from one super meal to the next, I've gained a renewed appreciation of how well the Cajun and Creole cuisines are interpreted by Long Island chefs.

I compared the crusty, flaky and decidedly oversize biscuits and andouille sausage gravy recollected from Biscuits & Barbeque in Mineola to the somewhat sweet and rather characterless little biscuits at Commander's Palace, a truly grand restaurant whose airy, rich bread pudding soufflé blew me away. Even so, when it came to biscuits, the Mineola big boys came out on top.

We held an ongoing gumbo contest involving bowlfuls at such various locales as Cochon, Herbsaint, Emeril's, Restaurant August and Sylvain. For the record: Herbsaint won for best in New Orleans. Even so, the chicken and andouille gumbo there didn't match the fire, depth and nuance of gumbos recalled, over the years, at Big Daddy's in Massapequa Park and The Bayou in Bellmore.

Biscuits & Barbeque is at 106 E. Second St., Mineola, 516-493-9797.

Big Daddy's is at 1A Park Lane, Massapequa Park, 516-799-8877.

The Bayou is at 2823 Jerusalem Ave., N. Bellmore, 516-785-9263. -- JOAN REMINICK

A TAVERN MENU TRY IN MERRICK

The former site of Merrick's Brooks & Porter steakhouse (2008-12) has a new tenant: The Savoy Tavern is owned by a group of first-time restaurant owners who hired noted New York restaurateur Gerard Renny to create the concept.

Renny, whose Manhattan ventures have included Bar Stuzzichini and Sushi A Go-Go, put his ear to the Merrick ground. "What I heard was that Brooks & Porter's price point was too high, that people wanted something friendly and not too expensive. That's where the 'tavern' idea came from."

Savoy's menu features New American comfort standards (wedge salad, grilled cheese, roast chicken with polenta, potato-crusted salmon, house-blend burger) interspersed with Southern Italian specialties (baked clams, rigatoni with meat ragu). Small plates range from $7 to $16; salads from $10 to $14; sandwiches $12 to $16; mussels in the midteens; mains in the high teens and family-style large plates (serving two to three) from $24 for spaghetti and meatballs to $42 for veal Parmesan.

The Savoy Tavern is at 16 Merrick Ave., Merrick, 516-506-7717. -- ERICA MARCUS

ANTHONY'S NOW ALSO IN WANTAGH

Another Anthony's Coal Fire Pizza has hit Long Island, this one in Wantagh. The Florida-based chain, headed by Franklin Square native Anthony Bruno, already has two Nassau County branches, one in Woodbury and the other in Carle Place.

The new Wantagh spot features the same menu of "well-done" coal oven pies -- the cauliflower version is unconventional -- and such "Italian soul food" specialties as coal-oven roasted wings and pork ribs.

Noted recently: Work has begun on an Anthony's in the Peppertree Commons shopping center in Commack.

The newest Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza is at 3430 Sunrise Hwy., Wantagh, 516-679-2625. -- JOAN REMINICK

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