A funny thing happened to Lisa Livermore on the way to the Cajun restaurant graveyard. First, her own establishment, the Bayou in North Bellmore, closed last November. Then in April, just a few miles west, the area’s other bastion of New Orleans cuisine, R.S. Jones, shuttered in Merrick. What were the legions of étouffée- and gumbo-mad residents of southwest Nassau County to do?
As it turns out, this was not a question that would be asked for long. Livermore and new business partner Staci Tucci struck a deal with Margaret Mueller and Carole Olkoski, R.S. Jones’ proprietors, to take over their Merrick space, which they own. And so it was that in June, a gastronomic phoenix — called, inevitably, Bayou Jones — rose from the ashes, and maque choux fans far and wide breathed a huge sigh of relief.
“It wasn’t the business that was the problem before, it was the location,” said Livermore of the Bayou. “It was in a shopping strip and the owners were not taking care of it, so it was hard.” Bayou Jones sits where R.S. Jones did before it, right on a busy stretch of Merrick Avenue. The R.S. Jones folks have no financial stake in the new venture, but they’ve been friends with the Bayou crowd for 25 years, so a certain amount of hybridizing of the menu was perhaps unavoidable.
“It’s mostly the Bayou menu with a sprinkling of R.S. Jones dishes,” Livermore said. Bayou’s standouts are still represented, including a wonderful shrimp étouffée ($24), spicy yet buttery wings ($12) and a New Orleans-style catfish po’boy ($21). From R.S. Jones, there’s the ever-popular skirt steak marinated in teriyaki sauce and Cajun spices known as the Six Shooter ($30).
But there are a few brand-new dishes of which Livermore highly recommends. These include Lucifer’s mussels ($16), which are “red hot with butter and cheese …. your head is on fire but you can’t stop eating them,” as well as alligator skewers ($15) that feature the creature blackened and skewered and served with a mango salsa.
“It was meant to be, the way it happened,” said Livermore of Bayou Jones. “This is a great location, and now all the people who loved both places can now pretty much get it all in one place.”
Bayou Jones is at 153 Merrick Ave. in Merrick, 516-378-7177, bayoujones.com. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., closed Monday.