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Mardi Gras 2021 – takeout gumbo, King cakes and crawfish boil

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As Ben Marcus notes, Mardi Gras 2020 was one of the last fun things we were able to celebrate in a group setting last year. And then coronavirus happened.

With pandemic restrictions still in place, Mardi Gras 2021 will be celebrated quite differently, but celebrate we will.

Marcus, who longtime locals will know as one of the members of the famous Marcus family behind the old From the Bayou restaurant in Parkland, debuted his Cajun menu this week.

Angel Hernandez, owner of the Mexican/European/Vegan bakery Pastels Finos del Angel, is once again selling his King cakes, complete with the baby trinket accompanying the cake, per Mardi Gras tradition (the person who gets the cake slice with the baby plans the next year’s event). 

Mike de Alwis, owner of Bourbon Street Creole Kitchen in downtown Puyallup, is planning a socially distant/outdoor Mardi Gras celebration of some kind, but is working out the details. I’ll update this story when he firms up his plans.

I’ve also got a list of four – FOUR! – Pierce County seafood boil restaurants from Puyallup to Lakewood to Tacoma. Diners can pick up crawfish boil, or the seafood boil combination that sounds most appealing. 

Just in case you didn’t know, Mardi Gras this year is a little early this year – February 16, 2021. 


DOYLE’S PUBLIC HOUSE CAJUN MENU THROUGH MARCH 16

You can celebrate the food traditions of Mardi Gras now through March 16 at Doyle’s Public House, which seems a weird place to celebrate Mardi Gras because who would go to an Irish pub for etouffee, anyway?

A quick look at the kitchen staff will explain why there’s Cajun all over the menu right now: Ben Marcus is the restaurant’s chef. In these parts, he’s Bayou royalty as a member of the Marcus family, who helped operate the regionally famous From the Bayou in Parkland from 1998 until 2007 when it was sold. 

Marcus does a menu take-over at Doyle’s every Mardi Gras season to feature the recipes of his native Opelousas in St. Landry Parish. 

Get the gumbo.

The chicken and sausage gumbo from Opelousas is distinctive because of the type of labor-intensive roux it uses.
How Marcus makes his roux is a bit of a kitchen trick one of his friends from home taught him.

He bakes the roux in the oven. “You have to baby it, but not nearly as much as you do when doing it on the stovetop,” said Marcus. “ It takes a good six hours, but it turns out really well. You have to do it really low and slow. You pull it out under the color you want it to be because it still continues to cook after you take it out of the oven.” 

He added, “It adds that nutty quality to the gumbo.” That gumbo is available in a cup ($6.95) or bowl ($11.95). For etouffee fans, Marcus will have his crawfish etouffee on the menu ($16).

There’s also crawfish dip ($14.49), which is a creamy dip flavored with crawfish and served with bread for dipping. His Mardi Gras menu also lists red beans and rice ($12.95), smoked salmon cheesecake ($12), a boiled shrimp po’ boy ($14.95), a bayou salad ($7.95/$11.95) and New Orleans cheesecake ($8.95). The pub’s famous bread pudding is getting a Mardi Gras twist ($8). There’s also a lineup of Mardi Gras cocktails: a Hurricane, Sazerac, Creole Creeper and a Mardi Gras themed Sidecar, among others.

The entire menu is available for take-out, but Doyle’s also has an outdoor covered tent for on-site dining (and a few picnic benches out front), but capacity is severely restricted. 

“It gives everybody a real sense of normalcy to look forward to celebrating Mardi Gras, even with take-out,” said Marcus. 

Want cocktails to go? They’ve got those, too. The Creole Creeper and Daiquiri are batched cocktails that are ready for takeout, and available in various sizes. Find Doyle’s in the St. Helens neighborhood in Tacoma.

Doyle’s Public House: 208 St Helens Ave., Tacoma

Contact: 253-272-7468 or https://doylespublichouse.com/

Online ordering: https://doyles.hrpos.heartland.us/menu


ORDER A KING CAKE AT PASTELES FINOS DEL ANGEL 

Miguel “Angel” Hernandez is the only Tacoma pastry chef I know of who makes and sells King Cakes, the traditional dessert served for a Mardi Gras event. (Read more here about the King Cake tradition). Find those cakes at his South Tacoma bakery, Pasteles Finos del Angel, which is known for its Mexican and European pastries as well as its selection of vegan pastries. 

Hernandez dusts his cakes with sugar dyed the typical Mardi Gras color trifecta – purple, gold and green. His cakes come filled with a swirl of brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped pecans. That’s the only style of King Cake made at his bakery, but he also makes King Cake doughnuts. 

Cakes are $37.50 and serve 12. Get in touch with Hernandez to discuss where he places the King, the baby trinket, inside his cakes. 

Pasteles Finos Del Angel: 5102 S. Washington St., Tacoma

Contact: 253-448-2649 or https://www.pastelesfinosdelangel.com/

Online ordering: https://www.pastelesfinosdelangel.com/order-online


PIERCE COUNTY’S ONLY FULLY BAYOU RESTAURANT: BOURBON STREET CREOLE KITCHEN & BAR 

Pierce County’s only Louisiana-themed restaurant with a broad menu of bayou eats always has a Mardi Gras celebration involving live music, a big tent and loads of food. This year’s event is scaled way, way back due to pandemic restrictions, but owner Mike de Alwis said the band GoodyBag will perform and there will be a special menu with Cajun favorites. He said there will be crawfish etouffee, fried catfish, seafood jambalya, shrimp and sausage gumbo, a Louisiana seafood platter, slow-cooked pork and grits, three kinds of po’ boy sandwiches and the restaurant’s famous beignets.

“Of course there will be plenty of beads to catch,” said de Alwis, who typically takes a trip to New Orleans just before Mardi Gras to stock up on supplies.

Seatings are at 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on February 12, 13 and 16. You can find out more details on the restaurant’s Facebook page here. I highly recommend you make reservations because with limited seating, they’ll surely reach capacity quickly.

Bourbon Street Creole Kitchen & Bar: 401 S. Meridian, Puyallup

Contact: 253-604-4404 or https://www.bourbonstreetpuyallup.com/home-1


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A big bowl of seafood from Captain Crab in Lakewood.

GET YOUR SEAFOOD BOIL FOR TAKEOUT AT ONE OF THESE FOUR SPOTS 

A few  years ago, we had zero spots for seafood boil, but would you believe now we have four? From Tacoma to Lakewood to Puyallup, these restaurants serve up crawfish, crab, shrimp, and other selections of seafood boiled in a broth as tame or spicy as you order it. These seafood boil spots serve their boil the traditional Louisiana way with hunks of corn on the cob, boiled potatoes and sliced sausage. For eating at home, be sure to have your kitchen shears clean and ready to make quick work of the shells; and don’t forget the crab pickers. Here are the four seafood boil places to get a take-out crawfish feast for Mardi Gras. 

DRAGON’S CRAWFISH

This low-tech/no frills seafood boil restaurant is a tiny hole-in-the-wall nestled into into the Vietnamese dining district in Tacoma’s Lincoln neighborhood. Order seafood by the pound here with a broth of your choice. Chef-owner Minh Phan’s dynamite, but lethally spiced, garlic sauce tweaked to “Dragon’s Breath” level is a must try for heat seekers. There’s also a regular house sauce that can be spicy or not. Spice avoiders: order carefully. Don’t forget the extra bread to sop up Phan’s delicious garlic broth tweaked with heat. Also on the menu is fried fish, fried chicken, garlic fries and noodle dishes. 

GET IT: Dragon’s Crawfish, 750 S. 38th St., Tacoma; 253-301-0020 


BOILING CRAWFISH 

South Hill’s Boiling Crawfish has a bigger seafood menu than any other in the area, and it also has more choices of seafood combinations. This South Hill restaurant is a hidden gem smack in the middle of a strip mall. The restaurant’s sauces skew much lighter on the spice, but the garlic is plentiful. Five sauce and seasoning choices include a house special sauce, Cajun, butter-garlic, lemon pepper and traditional boil style. Also on the menu are fried fish, fried rice, chicken wings, po’ boy sandwiches and a handful of Vietnamese dishes. 

GET IT: Boiling Crawfish, 4301 S. Meridian, Puyallup; 253-256-7423; boilingcrawfishwa.com


CRAVIN’ CRAWFISH

This one-year-old boil restaurant operates near Tacoma Mall in a small storefront that’s perfectly located for quick take-out. The mix-and-match menu makes ordering easy and be sure to keep an eye on the restaurant’s social media for specials. Four sauce choices include a house sauce, garlic butter, lemon pepper and a “I want it all” seasoning made from the three sauce choices listed here. Also offering fried fish and Vietnamese chicken wings. 

GET IT: Cravin’ Crawfish, 5015 Tacoma Mall Boulevard, Tacoma; 253-300-8130; https://www.instagram.com/cravincrawfishtacoma/


CAPTAIN CRAB

This newcomer opened in September in Lakewood next door to the AAA Buffet, which shares ownership with Captain Crab. The focus here is on economical seafood and this is the only seafood boil restaurant that allows for smaller combination orders, making it easier to sample a broader selection of the menu for not a lot of money. Read this story here for more dining advice. Sauce choices include Cajun butter, garlic butter sauce with Cajun seasoning, lemon pepper or a mix of those three called the “Cajun Kitchen Special.” Also serving steamed rice, chicken wings, pot stickers and more. 

GET IT: Captain Crab, 10310 South Tacoma Way, ​Lakewood; 253-267-5584; https://www.captaincrabeats.com/

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