The good times roll no more at The Bayou in North Bellmore: Long Island’s longest-running New Orleans-style restaurant has closed.
The eatery, serving Cajun and Creole food, opened in 1986 in the shopping center at the intersection of Pea Pond Road and Jerusalem Avenue. In addition to serving the exuberant cuisine of Louisiana, the bar specialized in New Orleans cocktails such as the hurricane as well as Dixie and Abita beers. Always decorated for Mardi Gras, the vibe was even more celebratory in the weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday.
Owner Lisa Livermore said that the rising costs of doing business — rent, food, labor, the discounts required to participate in Groupon and Long Island's increasingly frequent restaurant weeks — were making it difficult for a small restaurant to be profitable.
The Bayou was founded by Jean-Pierre Gelinas, the chef, and Kathleen Leskody, who Livermore said, had been inspired by the cuisine and music of New Orleans. Livermore started working there around 1990 and became Leskody's partner in 1993, when Gelinas left. The two women also ran a satellite operation, The Bayou Uptown in Rockville Centre, from 1995 to 1999. Thirteen years ago, Leskody retired and Livermore became sole owner. "It's painful — I still have customers from those first days at the restaurant," she said, "But we had a really good ride."
Two other long-running local Cajun restaurants trace their roots to The Bayou. In 1993, Gelinas opened Big Daddy’s in Massapequa. (That restaurant is now owned by Peter Sheskier, a former customer who bought it in 2002. His most recent venture, Big Daddy’s East — co-owned with Melissa Southerland, opened this summer in Bay Shore.)
The owners of R.S. Jones in Merrick also got their start at The Bayou, Margaret Mueller in the dining room and Carole Olkoski in the kitchen. In fact, Mueller said, it was Kathleen Leskody who coached the couple in the run-up to the opening of their own restaurant in 1993.
The Bayou leaves a hole in Long Island’s Cajun / Creole scene. Besides R.S. Jones and the two Big Daddys, you’ll find gumbo and jambalaya at Nawlins Seafood Company in Freeport, Mara’s Homemade in Syosset, Biscuits & Barbeque in Mineola and Louisiana Joe’s Sandwich Shop in Oceanside.