With its exuberant, kaleidoscopic flavors, the Cajun-Creole kitchen always seems to promise good times. Mardi Gras, as New Orleans’ most famous chef would say, kicks it up a notch. French for “Fat Tuesday,” the day before Ash Wednesday (this year Feb. 9) was traditionally an occasion for Catholics to get their last helpings of rich food before the privations of Lent. Here are eight places on Long Island that specialize in the food of New Orleans where you can laissez les bons temps rouler (“Let the good times roll”).
Storyville American Table
Storyville American Table, Huntington: Storyville's party started on Jan. 29 with a $30.95 three-course dinner menu served every night through Feb. 9. First courses include turtle soup, gumbo, crabmeat-Tasso ham sliders and pickled vegetable salad; mains include red snapper Nantua (in a crawfish-brandy cream sauce), Frenchman Street seafood stew, sirloin "marchand de vin" (red wine-bacon sauce) and bronzed "hot fanny" catfish smothered in a sauce of peppers, pecans, Tabasco and cream. For dessert, choose among Mississippi mud pie, bread pudding, praline cheesecake, brownie sundae and berries with cream. Music provided by Jeremy Beck and the Heavy Duty Horns.
Barbecued shrimp are served at Storyville American Table in Huntington.
The Bayou, Bellmore: Along with Mardi Gras, this year The Bayou is celebrating its 30th anniversary. The party starts on Feb. 4 with an all-you-can-eat crawfish boil. There are special events every night through Feb. 9 when there will be a $55 three-course "Amazin' Cajun" dinner menu whose highlights include gumbo (chicken and sausage or seafood), "Decatur gator" (deep-fried alligator tail meat with jalapeño sauce), crawfish-andouille-crusted catfish with Marsala-mushroom cream sauce and "voodoo-death" crawfish (death, in this case, by habanero). Music by the rockabilly band The Buzzards.
Tupelo honey shrimp and grits is served at The Bayou in Bellmore.
Big Daddy's, Massapequa: In the run-up to Mardi Gras, Big Daddy's will be offering a live crawfish boil and two-for-one oyster shooters from Feb. 4 to 6. Sunday brunch features Blue Point oysters for $1 each and Monday night is a black-and-white Zulu ball with free hurricanes, a sweet drink made with fruit juice and rum (one per customer). On Tuesday, doors open at 11 a.m. for lunch accompanied by the Jack Morelli Trio. The dinner buffet, beginning at 5 p.m., requires a ticket ($35) and will include jambalaya, gumbo, muffaletta, red beans and rice. Costumes are highly recommended. The Johnny Mac Band starts playing at 8 p.m., and it's anyone's guess when it will stop.
Ghost Pepper smoked chicken hot wings are served at Big Daddy's in Massapequa.
Biscuits & Barbeque
Biscuits & Barbeque, Mineola: Housed in a vintage diner, Mineola's Southern-barbecue-Creole-Cajun charmer will serve its regular menu for Mardi Gras, along with some New Orleans specials such as crawfish boil, crawfish étouffée, Mardi Gras mac-and-cheese (with alligator sausage), oysters served both Rockefeller-style and Bienville -- topped with shrimp, mushrooms, bell peppers, sherry, Parmesan and breadcrumbs. Also on the menu: alligator ribs. Most appetizers are less than $9, mains less than $18.
Peach cobbler is served a la mode at Biscuits & Barbeque in Mineola.
Mara's Homemade, Syosset: On Mardi Gras, Mara's opens at noon and closes when the last customer leaves. At 6 p.m., Rich Shapiro and the Alligator Allstars will strike up the band. Bar specials include $5 hurricanes, $7 monsoons and $3 drafts of Abita Andygator and Mardi Gras Bock. The menu features dozens of traditional items, from Cajun crawfish boil ($12 a pound) to deviled oysters, fried green tomatoes, po'boys, Creole catfish, blackened redfish, jambalaya, shrimp grits and house-smoked barbecue. Most items are less than $20.
The oyster po'boy at Mara's Homemade stars Louisiana Gulf oysters coated with seasoned cornmeal and fried. They're served on a baguette dressed with lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, Crystal Hot Sauce and Mara's own sauce rémoulade; no-mayo coleslaw on the side.
Louisiana Joe’s Sandwich Shop
Louisiana Joe's Sandwich Shop, Oceanside: This new sliver of a sandwich shop brings New Orleans flavor to Oceanside. Chef Joe LoSchiavo excels at gumbo, jambalaya and etouffe, but the stars of the show are the sandwiches. Classic po'boys are filled with everything from fried oysters to braised beef and, for Mardi Gras, pork chop with coleslaw. LoSchiavo's own inventions include a rich cochon panino (three cuts of pork sandwiched, red cabbage and provolone pressed into oozy submission) and pan-roasted dark-meat chicken with arugula, olives, pesto, roast-pepper mayonnaise and mozzarella. On Mardi Gras, every sandwich comes with a "lagniappe" (an extra freebie) of dessert or side. Almost everything at Louisiana Joe's is less than $10. The shop closes at 3 p.m.
The BBQ pulled pork sandwich is one of the specialties at Louisiana Joe's Sandwich Shop in Oceanside.
R.S. Jones, Merrick: It will be a carnival atmosphere at R.S. Jones, complete with decorations and a face painter. The special menu includes appetizers (around $10) such as gator-andouille-black bean chili, "mumbo-jumbo gumbo," crawfish rémoulade, oysters Alvin (pan-fried and served over baby spinach with parsley and mushroom), jalapeño pie (spicy jalapeño relish and three cheeses baked in a chipotle-bacon crust) and mains (most less than $24) such as spicy Mardi Gras pasta, sweet bourbon catfish, blackened rib-eye and crawfish étouffée. Among desserts: bananas foster, king cake, red velvet cake, bread pudding, praline sundae.
Blackbirds' Grill, Sayville: In addition to the regular menu, Blackbirds' Grill has a special Mardi Gras menu offered Feb. 5 to 7 and Feb. 9. Appetizers ($9 to $12) include buttermilk fried chicken and New Orleans barbecued shrimp over cheese grits; mains ($21 to $25) include blackened half chicken, double-cut pork chop with caramelized apples, bourbon-glazed Delmonico steak and seafood-stuffed peppers. With your meal, or at the bar, quaff $9 hurricanes or Louisiana lemonades or $6 Abita bottles. -- Selections by ERICA MARCUS