By Nathan Ham
You’ll never confuse Banner Elk with New Orleans, but that still doesn’t mean that there won’t be a fun Mardi Gras celebration in the High Country.
The Bayou Smokehouse located in downtown Banner Elk will be celebrating in style with some Cajun cuisine, tasty beer specials, live music and fun Mardi Gras giveaways.
Winston Ammann, co-owner of the Bayou Smokehouse, said her love for Mardi Gras and the New Orleans area started a long time ago.
“My husband grew up on the other side of the river from New Orleans and we lived down there until we opened our first restaurant in Charlotte in 1988. He grew up in the culture,” says Winston. “I learned the culture because I was fascinated with the whole thing and fascinated with the carnival season. It’s something everybody should experience at least once.”
Ammann also had a brother that still lives in New Orleans right along the parade route and he always makes sure to box up some goodies every year to send to the High Country. Those goodies are the ones that are given away during the annual Mardi Gras celebration at the smokehouse.
This Saturday you can bet there will be plenty of party favors, beads, balloons, and plenty more for you to enjoy. Live music will begin at 7 p.m. with Banner Elk’s original party band, DC Collective with Dave Calvert.
“You can Mardi Gras the night before and still make it out on the slopes when the lifts start running,” Winston laughed.
The celebration will include some craft brews that highlight the Mardi Gras experience including Muses Belgian Pale Ale, Lemon-Basil Wheat and Revivalist Pale Ale all from NOLA Brewing located in New Orleans. AndyGator, a beer from Abita Brewing Company located just outside the city in Covington will be available and even a local North Carolina beer, Death by King Cake, brewed by Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard.
A King Cake is another classic tradition of Mardis Gras and the Carnival season. The cakes are typically filled with many different sweet flavors, such as chocolate, cinnamon and cream cheese. On top, there is a wide array of colors from sprinkles and icing. The tradition also includes putting a plastic baby figurine in the batter as a symbol of good luck for whoever gets a piece of the cake with the plastic baby inside. The Bayou Smokehouse is taking orders of King Cakes from Bayou Chef and Lafayette native Kevin Clark. Cakes come complete with baby. Cakes are $45 each and please allow a two-day lead from time of order to time of pick-up because the cakes take a long time to create. The last day for a pick-up is Tuesday, February 25. For cakes served inside the restaurant this weekend, whoever gets the hidden good luck charm inside the King Cake will get their meal for free.
“It’s always fun to introduce the guests to another part of the country that they’re not familiar with. It’s a fascinating history and a fascinating tradition,” said Winston. “Good music, good time, good food, cold beverages. What’s not to love about Mardi Gras in the mountains?”
The Bayou Smokehouse is located at 130 Main Street in Banner Elk. The menu features numerous dishes from Louisiana and Texas. The Cajun Sampler offers Shrimp Creole, a cup of mild red beans and rice with smoked sausage and crawfish etouffee. The Texas Smokehouse Combo has smoked beef brisket BBQ, smoked sausage and smoked pork ribs. Gumbo, steaks, jambalaya and seafood are offered as well.
“We split the menu pretty much down the middle between Texas and Louisiana with some all-American goodies thrown in for good measure like burgers and mountain trout,” Winston said.
Pictures from the Bayou Restaurant