Monday, February 18, 2008
If you enjoy eating, and by eating I mean crawfish and alligator, Mara's Homemade is just for you. One of the lone NYC spots that do Nawlins' cooking justice, Mara's will leave you full, exhausted in a semi-catatonic state, and smiling from ear to ear. The Abita makes the smiles come a little easier.
To start, we ordered a dozen oysters on the half shell. The menu says Louisiana oysters so I'm guessing that's where they're from. I'm not yet the oyster expert I strive to be. All I know is that they were fresh and tasty, not too briny, and they sparked the meal off correctly.
Up next were the crawfish, mudbugs, crawdads, whatever. This is the main attraction at Mara's to me, not to take anything away from everything else they have to offer. I don't know where it derived from, or what it is about these little critters, but I have a constant jones for them (full disclosure- the photo on my phone is of Mara's crawfish). My name is Howfresh and I have a crustacean fetish. Not available up north, they are flown in 2-3 times a week from the Louisiana Gulf. Cooked in a cajun boil with corn, potatoes, and mushrooms, the only complaint is that there isn't enough meat. Depending on the size of the crawfish, most of them were on the smaller side, you need to eat a lot to satiate the appetite. We started with 3 pounds and took it from there. There are weekly specials of 3 lbs. for $20.
Eating crawfish is a sport. Crack it in half, separate the tail from the body, suck the juice out of the head, and then remove the meat from the tail. Here are some visuals on how to eat crawfish. A 3 pound bucket takes a lot of time and energy. But knowing that tail meat is waiting for you keeps you going.
Up next were gator bites dusted in cornmeal, served with a Remoulade sauce on the side. When prepared correctly, and correct it was, it's delicious. Small, tender pieces. I'm not really sure how to describe the taste of gator, not gamy, not fishy, just good.
Still hungry, we ordered another pound of crawfish, a side of shrimp etouffee, large mac & cheese, fried okra, and cole slaw. Etouffee is a rice dish in a thick sauce with fresh gulf shrimp. This rendition was different from others I've tried as it was light (colored) and only had onions and celery. Enjoyable nonetheless. Mac & cheese was cheesy and flavorful, made with sharp cheddar and parmesan. Fried okra was on point, prepared in the same cornmeal batter as the alligator. If you're a cole slaw fan you'll be happy.
We had 2 pitchers of Abita Bock to accompany this lavish spread. Bock is a seasonal Mardi Gras beer and that shit is delicious. Smooth, light, with a slight sweetness, I can see myself drinking this again. $50 for 2 pitchers is a bit steep.Also had the requisite sweet tea- they add some fruit flavors to make it sweeter.
As a little bonus, Mara, the owner, brought over a shot of tequila so that we could "suck the head." This is how it went down:
Crack the crawfish in half.
Pour tequila into the head.
Reading it sounds disgusting, but it was pretty good. I was probably drunk.
Still having room in the belly, we got some bananas foster to end the meal in style. Bananas simmered in brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, banana liqueur, and rum, served over vanilla ice cream. Yeah- it did it's thing. I rarely get dessert, but might need to switch that up.
Eating is enjoyable and the entire experience should reflect that. Being there the night of the NBA all-star game in New Orleans might have added to the festivities, but the funk is always playing, the drinks are always flowing and the mood is always right. It pulls off the NO spirit without feeling contrived. Even if you're not into some of the mentioned food, you're guaranteed to dig the other creole dishes, or their highly touted Arkansas BBQ.
342 East 6th St
Between 1st & 2nd Ave
Hours(call to double check): Mon, Wed-Thu 5pm-10:30pm, Fri 5pm-11:30pm, Sat 4pm-11:30pm, Sun 4pm-10:30pm