BBQ (Arkansas, Texas, Carolina), Southern, Cajun. Take your pick. We are lucky to have an abundance here and ever growing on Long Island. Enjoy!

STORYVILLE AMERICAN RESTAURANT, Huntington NY (Cajun/BBQ)

Shrimp Jambalaya

     What can I say?  We went to Storyville (which I had never heard of) because it suddenly appeared at the top of the Long Island Press' Top 10 in Cajun Food List.  If you have been checking my website with any regularity, you know that Southern/Cajun Cuisine is my favorite and these are the restaurants that get me most excited.  So,  I thought, this must have been just opened or some hidden gem (especially since its around the corner from Vitae, my Huntington fav).
     I made a reservation, expecting that it would be crowded with this top billing, but when we got there we couldn't seem to find it at the designated address.  Turns out this is because they do not have a sign.  Go figure.  Maybe they have been so crowded they have to discourage customers?  Nope.  At 5:30, there was only 1 occupied table in a lovely spacious restaurant.  We sit.   
     Now, I'm going to be up-front at the start: there was nothing very wrong with the food here, but there was nothing quite right either, and certainly nothing memorable. I wanted to try all my favorites, and char-grilled oysters are usually at the top of the list.  They were fresh and warm, but not charred or seasoned. They should have been hot and seasoned and, well...char-grilled.  They weren't.   The fried green tomatoes ok, but they were also not hot and the cornmeal coating was falling off.  The Jambalaya - that was simply odd.  We shared shrimp jambalaya and, strangely, the shrimp were overdone, yet the veggies were underdone.  How does that even happen in jambalaya when the veggies go in first???  I was determined to order a dish of all my favorites: Catfish, Grits, Mashed Potatoes.  Storyville offers Cornflake Coated Pan-Fried Catfish.  I don't know how they managed it, but the cornflake coating was as thick as the fish itself.  It was bland, but at least it was cooked correctly and they did have salt and pepper on the table, along with a lovely remoulade.  The cheese grits were good, however, the mashed potatoes...not so much.  
     Finally, skip the drinks. I ordered a "Category 4 Hurricane" which was 24 ounces of what should have been a significant amount of rum(s) and hurricane mix, and I would have passed a breathalyzer on the way out.  
     On the bright side, the menu is optimistic and the service & staff are wonderful.  Storyville definitely has potential, but with so many other fantastic Cajun and Southern restaurants nearby, they have stiff competition here on L.I.! 

 

  • Fried Green Tomatoes

  • Char-Grilled Oysters

  • Cornflake Catfish, Cheese Grits, Mashed Potatoes

Big Daddy's, Park Blvd., Massapequa Park, NY (Southern, Cajun, BBQ)

 If any of you out there know me at all, you know that this is one of my favorite restaurants on the Island. However, after a change in ownership and a stronger concentration on BBQ (which was not all that good) I was a little disappointed. In fact, their lunch menu was a better valu than dinner.
Well, on a recent visit, I was surprised to see some wonderful renovations, an expansion of the restaurant and their wonderful cajun/new orleans style food back and as lip-smackin good as ever.
You are always greeted as a friend and now there are enough tables so you don't have to wait long at the bar. The appetizers never disappoint, and the spicy mussels are soft and succulent, but do manage to bit back. The fried alligator is a specialty and is just as good when they have it sauteed. If you happen to find the vidalia onion pie on the menu, do not pass it up, as with the baton rouge broiled oysters with horseradish and gruyere.
For your entree, the staples here are Crawfish Etouffe, Jambalaya and always a blackened steak. The menu does change each day and recently we tried the Crazy Aunt Barbara's Chicken Fried Steak with peppery sausage gravy over roasted garlic basil mashed potatoes. Excellent! There is also usually a pasta, and that night, it was served with chicken, collard greens, andouille sausage, jalapeno, tomato & a touch of cream. And don't forget the BBQ - ribs, chicken, pulled meats, the whole shebang.
Now, my absolute personal favorite of all time, the reason I keep going back (besides the Hurricaines): Billy Carters Crawfish - peeled crawfish tails in a spicy, honey peanut sauce, served over rice (but which they will, if you're really nice, serve over corney mashed potatoes. This is a little slice of heaven for your mouth. And I just discovered that you can order it from their catering menu. Guess what we'll be eating this week!!!
Along with your dinner, you can have a Louisiana beer or, my choice, a Hurricaine Deluxe. The menu changes slightly daily, but you can check it on line at their website. So, go and take a look for yourself - BIG DADDYS IS BACK!

Mara's Homemade, Syosset NY (Southern, Cajun, Arkansas BBQ)

Grilled Oysters & Clams at Mara's Homemade

Despite my very long and very strong loyalty to Big Daddy's, We also strongly recommend Mara's in Syosset. One of the best Southern/Cajun food restaurants on the Island! (maybe its a north shore/south shore thing).
The char-grilled oysters and clams (pictured below) are a must try. They come to the table hot and still bubbling in their shells, but somehow still moist and succulent under this light crumb and cheese topping and some kind of secret sauce. But if you're not a fan of oysters, there's something for everyone, from crawfish etouffee and panfried catfish, to excellent hamburgers, po-boys and bar-que for the faint of heart. If it happens to be soft shell crab season, you can get them here.
If you're in the mood for Authentic Southern Cusine, try the fried green tomatoes, fried pickles and fried okra. There is always a soup or gumbo to choose from. Their fisherman's platter contains cornmeal crusted and fried catfish, shrimp, oysters and jalapeno hush puppies, along with a heap of mashed potatos. The crawfish mac-n-cheese is also excellent. In fact, I haven't had anything bad there yet.
In fact, finally one
evening, when I knew I was stuffed and had to leave I happened to see that Red Velvet Cake was on the dessert menu. I gave in and it was absolutely perfect. The texture of the cake was fresh and firm, but not dry. The cream cheese icing was delicate, not overwhelming , just sweet enough. Mara,I'm coming back just for that.

MARA'S TOO, recently opened at 3261 Merrick Rd., Wantagh, 516-785-5300

Apr. 30, 2014

Mara's in partnership with Dennis Kaplan,

According to Newsday, Mara's Syosset’s Cajun-Southern-BBQ restaurant, has opened a second location in Wantagh. Too is said to be a bright little spot that took over the Merrick Road location that used to be Long Island Cheeseburgers. The menu is a bit shorter than Syosset’s, and there aren't quite so many Southern and Cajun entrees, but the principle bases are covered: gumbos ($11), po-boys (about $13), fried chicken ($13 for a half bird), burgers ($9 to $12), homemade desserts and barbecued meats smoked on the premises. Catering is available; a liquor license is in the works. Thanks to Newsday for the above information.

Sep. 15, 2012

Addendum to Mara's Homemade Review!

Our friend Mara has send a call out to her faithful customers to say it was a slow summer season and seems to be slow coming up to the Fall. She has revamped her menu to inclued exciting lighter salads and an array of her famous brisket burgers and turkey burgers (no fillers). You will also find her regular menu as good as ever, as is the service. We stopped by last night and tried to sample as much as we could. Of course, my favorites always get in the way. Don't miss the crawfish stuffed french bread or the chargrilled clams or oysters. The seafood is always fresh. Take a look at our additional photos. Red Velvet cupcakes are back. Oh, and as long as you're not driving, have a hurricane or two. You wont be sorry. Stop in NOW if you want to see them there this Winter.

  • Chargrilled Oysters, Mara's specialty. Never had them made so delicately where the delicious topping does not get sticky and overwhelm the oyster, and grilled so perfectly so they come to you hot and bubbling, but still tender and juicy.

  • Mara's Po-Boy: Half Oyster Half Catfish, perfect on its own, but even better with their Crawfish Etouffee which I unceremoniously dumped on top. That Etoufee was fantastic, as was the side of Okra.

  • Mara's Fisherman's platter, lite and delicious, fried in a crispy cornmeal coating, but so light that the tase of the seafood (shrimp, catfish, oysters) shines through. W/ mashed potatoes & hush puppies.

Smokin' Al's, Merrick Rd, Massapequa Park NY (Best BBQ on LI!)

Al's has the absolute best BBQ on the Island that I've ever tried. The meats and ribs are authentically smoked for hours, and I know this because I still smell like BBQ smoke when I get home. Personally, I find the St. Louis ribs to be the best, but you must try the Ribs, Ribs & Ribs platter, where you get St. Louis, Baby Back and Beef ribs. You can also make up your own platters of 2 or 3 meats, including brisket, smoked sausage, smoked chicken and, of course, pulled pork. If that doesn't satisfy you, you can always order a hamburger. If you're not in a meat loving mood, their stuffed baked potato is delicious (and you can get it topped with any of their meats). There are also salads, just in case. The side dishes are delicious and plentiful, including the cole slaw, mac n cheese, collard greens and garlic mashed potatos. Oh, dont forget the fries, and cheese fries, plain or sweet potato. Then, just in case you havent had enough of one of their enormous platters and want dessert, you must try the fried cheesecake. Heavenly!

Photo credit: Newsday.

PICO TEQUILA GRILL

Apr. 30, 2014

BAYSHORE SMOKIN AL'S replaced by PICO

As I read recently in Newsday, "Pico Tequila Grill, Bay Shore: Now turning out tacos, burritos, salads and quesadillas in the space that last housed Smokin’ Al’s Famous BBQ Joint, expect this Mexican spot to utilize about 20 different peppers in its cooking. Also on the menu: more than 50 tequilas." (Credit: Ian Stark, Newsday)
**Smokin Al's in Massapequa Park is Alive and Doing Well!!

LL Dent, Old Country Rd., Garden City NY

Pan seared salmon at LL Dent, over collards

Southern hospitality is the essence of LL Dent. Named for mother and daughter Lillian and Leisa Dent, this wonderful little restaurant on Old Country Road, just acrosss from the mall, packs a powerful punch of flavor. You are greeted like family by Lillian, while Leisa is in the kitchen.
The menu epitomizes authentic southern soul food. You will find fried green tomatoes, crispy chicken livers and Toby's Georgia hash among the appetizers.
Of course, as an entree, you will find Southern Fried Chicken served with macaroni & cheese - which is perfectly cheesy. My favorite, the cornmeal crusted fried catfish, served with hushpuppies and collard greens was delicious - crispy on the outside, moist and sweet on the inside. If you are eating light, the BBQ Salmon Salad enjoys an excellent reputation. In fact, other diners will come right out an tell you to order it! But you can also get a mixed grill of Cajun sausages, BBQ chicken & ribs with two sides. If you are very lucky, you will get there on a day when the special is the smothered pork chops. I cannot even describe how amazingly good this was. And order a side of the grits.
Every Sunday, LL Dent serves an all you can eat Brunch. You will be sorry that you can't eat more. They serve the brunch from behind glass, so you don't have to worry about everyone else's hands in your food. You will find an omelet station and homemade fresh waffles, fried catfish and fried chicken, you might even find a whole deep fried turkey. Of course, there is always mac & cheese, Okra & tomatoes, riblets, black-eyed peas, candied yams, collards, rice, grits & their wonderful cornbread; all in addition to some surprise specials. Pray its the smothered pork chops. Don't forget the selection of desserts, not that you will have any room left to eat them.
Stop in, say hello to Lillian, and have a bite to eat. Or have more than a bite at brunch. Either way, go. The food is expertly prepared, with a home-styled flair.

R. S. Jones, Merrick NY Southwestern, Cajun-Creole, American, Tex-Mex, Southern, Kids

C'mon down and try the gator. You can't miss!!

       R.S. Jones [formerly Rattlesnake Jones) has been a local favorite since it opened in 1993.  We have been going there ever since.  The co-owners Carole Olkoski and Margaret Mueller are the driving forces behind this funky, restaurant where the cuisine ranges from Southwestern to Southern to Cajun and where Country-western music (live sometimes) fills the room. Most everybody orders from the blackboard menu, which changes daily., but the main menu is not to be missed.  Just remember:  Closed Monday, cash only, no credit cards except amex, and no reservations unless your 6 or more, so go early!!

     Begin with a rousing bowl of pork chili or a plate of addictive sweet potato pancakes, served with red apple butter.  Personally, I prefer the alligator & chicken chilly (it is Rattlesnake, after all!!),  DO NOT skip the biscuits & gravy. They're delicious.  The entrees from the blackboard are definitely the best, but the chicken fried steak, the roasted chicken and the Rocky Mountain rainbow trout are not to be missed. 

     And, yes, for those of you who care, any or almost all of their meats, fish & chicken can be prepared "lite" over salad or fresh steamed veggies.  But for that, don't bother, you might as well go to Panera!

       Check out their website at www.rsjones.com for 'Special Events" like psychic medium nights, ribs n beer Wednesdays, Tuesday $20.00 prix fixe all night; and Thurs & Sunday are fajitas night! 

Churrascaria Barraida, Williston Park, NY (Portugese Riodizio)

Barbeque Riodizio at Bairada

Churrasquiera Bairrada is the best restaurant I know of on Long Island for portugese barbque (Rodizio). It's reasonably priced and almost always packed, so go early. Their specialty is Rodizio, which is service of a huge assortment of meats (steak, prime rib, pork ribs, turkey wrapped in bacon, chicken, pork sausage, and so much more) all brought to your table by waiters carrying very long skewers. You can pick and choose whatever you like, and they will continue to bring you food until you say stop. On the table, a salad will be served family style, along with portugese bread, rice and beans, and vinegar based dip for your meat, and some cracklin stuff which is incredible. Just in case you dont want to be bombarded with meat all evening, they do have a regular menu. My very favorit is the Oven Roasted Kid. Yes, its goat. It is so succulent and tender you may never want anything else. But, second on the list of favorits is the half chicken. Seasoned perfectly and cooked to perfection, its one of the most popular dishes there. The servers are accomodating and friendly and have been there for years, so they know their stuff. The portugese wines are wonderful to try, but so is the sangria. They have beautiful desserts - but I've never had enough room to try any!! If you haven't been here yet, GO.

Churrascaria Carvalhos Rodizio, Sunrise Hwy, Bellmore, NY

Clockwise: Shortrib, Spicy Sausage, Pork Rib, Bacon wrapped Turkey, and Rice & Beans. Fries & Collards at the top.

     I admit to being a hughe fan of Portugese Rodizio, and you know from my reviews above that Bairrada in Mineola is one of my favorites (even above Plataforma in NYC).  So, when I heard that a brand new Churrascaria opened almost next door in Bellmore just this past June, I knew I had to get there immediately.  The reviews on line were mixed, normal for a brand new restaurant, but you know my motto: get there early and never ever wait.  So, we get there at 4:45 (they're open from 11:30am to 10:30pm and we were pleasantly greeted by a lovely hostess and shown to a lovely table for 2 (actually big enough for 2) but, would you believe it - there was already another family seated and being served! Ha, I thought I would be first for the evening, but the restaurant continued to fill consistently the entire time we were there. 

     So, my husband and I both ordered the Rodizio & 1/2 pitcher of Sangria.  Immediately the Sangria arrived, along with a basket of fresh bread, including that special dense country bread you cannot get anywhere else, and a salad served family style.  What a lovely way to start.  After we were given enough time to graze on our salad and have a drink, the meats began arriving.  The first to arrive was "beef cubes" and against my better judgment I said ok. You can pick and choose what you want. Generally I don't eat anything beef unless its ground into hamburger.  But, once I cut into this succulent piece of meat I knew I was in for a treat.  Perfectly cooked medium rare, nicely spiced on the outside, and served piping hot. Then a short rib too, melty tender.  While this was going on, the table was discreetly being cleared and family style dishes of rice, black beans, fried bananas and collards were being brought, along with a vinaigrette dip for the meats & an offer of hot (very hot) sauce.  I could have eaten beef cubes all night, but it was not to be.

     There was spicy pork sausage, perfectly cooked; pork ribs nicly spiced if not just a bit well-done; prime rib sliced at your table, rare and piping hot, tender, succulent pork loin, and my favorites, turkey wrapped in bacon and chicken legs.  Ok, I could have eaten chicken legs all night also, but by then I couldn't even open my mouth to ask for the check.  Everything that came out was served by our waiter directly off a steaming skewer (more like a sword) and if you wanted something particular, he went back to get it.  I don't know how he carried those things all night to all the tables ordering this dish, but he did it and he did it with pleasure.  The table captain was attentive and my glass of sangria was never empty (well, at least not until the pitcher was!)

     I cannot tell you about the rest of the food on the menu yet, but we plan on going back.  I hear that the chicken is the specialty of the house, and if my little skewer piece was any indication, I'm going to have that next.  They do in fact have a full menu of fish, chicken, pork & beef, and dessert too.  But I saw a lot of those chickens being ordered.  By the time we left (It was only about 6:30 or so, the restaurant had just about every table full.  That tells me something.   Right now Carvalhos is new and novel, but word is getting around and if the service and quality of the food stays on track I'm betting they're going to be around for a while.

Carvalhos: Sorry for the messy plate, but I just had to show you the perfectly spiced and grilled beef cubes, short ribs & fried banana - to die for.