By Joe Johnson
Bayou Smokehouse and Grill Restaurant in Banner Elk, NC will be holding “Party Gras” festivities tonight and all week to celebrate Mardi Gras with live music, food specials, freebies, and giveaways.
“This year we’re planning to have a week long celebration,” said Winston Ammann, co-owner of the Bayou, “So, instead of just partying on Mardi Gras, or maybe the weekend after; which they wouldn’t do in Louisiana, but we’ll do it up here; we’ll have live music kicking things off on Mardi Gras evening which is the 5th of March. Then Smokin’ Joe Randolph Band and Hope Harvey will be back again on Friday to play, so we will have music on Tuesday and Friday. My brother still lives in New Orleans so he’s shipping me all sorts of goodies from his years of standing on the side of the road and saying ‘throw me something, mister!’ So we’re going to have all sorts of giveaways, beads, goodies, and a couple of special prizes we’ll be giving away Mardi Gras night too. Our goal is to make sure that everybody walks out of here with something in their hands, even if it’s just some beads!”
Bayou Smokehouse and Grill offers Texas-Louisiana recipes in a casual, comfortable atmosphere in Banner Elk. “Well, you cook what you know,” said Ammann, “My husband David grew up outside of New Orleans, on the other side of the river, in a little town called Luling, Louisiana. So, when we started in the restaurant business way back in 1988, ‘you cook what you know’! All of our Louisiana-based recipes are actually all of the recipes that David learned from his mom and dad growing up, because his parents lived in Luling until they passed away. These are the things that he grew up cooking. Half of his family is from Texas and half of them are from Louisiana, so that’s why you have the Texas-Louisiana thing going on here at the Bayou. We’ve been around for a long, long time and all of our food is home-cooked to David’s recipes. So, I hope people will check us out and discover authentic Cajun food as opposed to the food that people call ‘Cajun’ by putting Tabasco on it.”
The Ammanns did not always plan on residing in the High Country, but since the opening of the Bayou Smokehouse and Grill in 2003, they have grown accustomed to the mountain lifestyle, “We really enjoy our guests,” said Ammann, “We have lots of people that we see over and over again. They help us do a good job by telling us what’s working and what’s not and we’ve enjoyed being in the mountains of North Carolina! We always have people ask ‘what is a Cajun restaurant doing in the mountains of North Carolina?’ and I just tell them ‘we escaped,” Ammann joked, “No! They do actually let us leave the state occasionally. My husband, having grown up in Texas and Louisiana, decided that he did not want to deal with fire ants, giant cockroaches, and mosquitos anymore so we ended up here in the mountains. He says, ‘if you had told me when I was 64 years old I would be living in a house with no air conditioning, I would have told you that you were out of your mind!’”
The Bayou has been revamping and remodeling their business lately to improve diners’ experiences at the restaurant, “Our son Lee has started taking over the general management of the restaurant,” said Ammann, “He’s dragging his parents kicking and screaming into the modern age! He’s come up with some really good ideas; he’s been working on the menu, he’s opened the place up, he’s done some remodeling. So, we’re really pleased and the guests have been really pleased with his changes. He’s full of energy, which is great; and he’s full of ideas, which is even better! And he’s got a good team here that’s helping him along with these things.”
“We have an extensive patio and we share the courtyard with Sorrento’s and the other restaurants here in the Village Shops,” said Ammann, “We are dog friendly as long as they are friendly dogs; and we do ask that they be leashed. But we are big dog fans, so dogs are welcome; not only on our deck but they are also welcome in the Bayou general store. Just give them a credit card and let them do their own shopping, we’d be happy with that!”
The “Party Gras” festivities will include performances by Smokin’ Joe Randolph Band with Hope Harvey on Tuesday, March 5th and Friday, March 8th. “Joe is a great entertainer, and one of the things we like about Joe is that he’s not trying to blow the doors off with his volume; his music appeals to everyone,” said Ammann, “He’s just a great performer and we really enjoy having him here. We are really, really fond of Smokin’ Joe Randolph Band and Hope Harvey, so we look forward to having them play here more often. Even as the slow time approaches, Joe is on board with that, so we’ll have more live music than we generally do in the early spring. Then, of course, as summer rolls around we’ll be doing our Tuesday night concerts in the courtyard again.”
“All of our guys and girls in the kitchen are putting their heads together for some really good, fun, festive food specials for ‘Party Gras’. We’ll be running specials on Abita beer from Louisiana, of course. We just plan on having a good time and trying to introduce as many people as we can to Louisiana Mardi Gras,” said Ammann, “you don’t have to be here at midnight to score some Mardi Gras swag. We’ll make sure that you walk out of here with something!”
Bayou Smokehouse and Grill will be holding “Party Gras” Mardi Gras food specials, freebies, and giveaways all throughout next week. Smokin’ Joe Randolph Band with Hope Harvey will be performing live music on Tuesday, March 5th and Friday, March 8th from 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Check out their menu here on their website: The Bayou