By Jordan Damond
May 25, 2017 (Spring Valley) -- Mardi Gras, a small cafe and market located in Spring Valley, is named for the famed carnival held in New Orleans. Following this theme, the cafe sells ample New Orleans specialties for lunch, dinner or to outfit an entire party. As someone ofNew Orleans heritage who has grown up with these foods, I was pleased to discover that the Mardi Gras Cafe lives up to the quality of Cajun and Creole cooking served up in New Orleans.
Skip Antonelli runs the cafe along with with his daughter, Nancy Delar. They’re from the outskirts of New Orleans in Louisiana. Antonelli was actually from New Jersey, but due to his extensive stay in the Air Force he got to experience all kinds of foods in the South.
“Back home that was always a staple,” Delar (photo, right) says of the Cajun-Creole foods they serve up. “That was comfort food. You could go to anybody’s house and there was always enough for everyone.”
Cajuns were French Canadians expelled from Novia Scotia for their Catholic beliefs. Many settled in swamps and bayous of Louisiana. Isolated and living off the land, they developed their own culture, language, and hearty cuisine.
Creole cuisine is derived from wealthier Europeans, mostly French and Spanish, who settled in New Orleans and adapted classic cooking techniques to include local ingredients and Gulf region culture from Africans to Chocktaw Indians.
The Mardi Gras Cafe started up in Point Loma and had a great business there for 24 year, Delar said.. Eventually they moved out due to the landlord raising the rent and found a new home in Spring Valley around five years ago. “This is three times the size of our old place.” Delar added..
The decor of the cafe is very simple, yet it supplies a wonderful atmosphere complete with Mardi Gras masks and a “wall of fire” stocked with over 300 hot sauces. The market sells Cajun/Creole products, setting the tone for the type of foods you will find there, from the hot seasoning of jambalaya to the richly seasoned gumbo, plus unique meats and seafoods, notably alligator sausage and crawfish.
Some of the items on the cafe’s menu include Po’ Boys, sub sandwiches, Jambalaya, gumbo, red beans and crawfish. All of these fall under the category of Cajun-Creole, which is the staple comfort food in Louisiana.
When at the cafe, I had red beans with rice and one pound of crawfish. The red beans and rice were simple yet nicely cooked and seasoned so that it complemented the spice of the crawfish.
Speaking of the crawfish, they were delectable, with nicely balanced seasoning and excellent plating.
Essentially, they serve the crawfish to you in a bowl so that the ones on top are lighter in spice while the ones on the bottom are twice to three times as hot. It gives a sense of progression to the meal and motivates you to continue eating to the last bite.
For a primer on how to eat crawfish, view our video:
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I ended up stating, “This is the second hottest crawfish I’ve ever had.” Apparently it can get even hotter from there. According to Delar, she can heat up the dishes anyway the customers want. She told me she’s had customers come up to her and say, “I want to cry walking out of here.”
Not only that, but every table has a different brand of seasoning and hot sauce that you can use to spice up your dish. This means that where you sit can directly influence how you customize your meal, which I believe to be a brilliant idea. They let you have different brands of seasoning or different choices of hot sauce. You can even purchase a brand of hot sauce at Mardi Gras just to use it on your dish.
They make sure to purchase the crawfish routinely, since it’s in high demand. “We get frozen crawfish year-round—and we get a lot of them. A guy just bought 80 pounds.” Delar stated. That isn’t the only food that is in high demand though, “We go through a lot of alligator sausage, one of our top sellers,” Delar informed us.
Mardi Gras Cafe also does catering. Last Thanksgiving, they provided 100 to 150 turkeys, deep-fried Cajun-style, marinated and injected with special seasonings.
The cafe has a loyal following, many of them in the military like the family that started up the cafe. A lot of them are from the south, happy to find a New Orleans style restaurant away from home.
In conclusion, the Mardi Gras Cafe has created an inviting atmosphere with well done dishes and plenty of creativity. The Cajun-Creole style of food they have is well worth your time, as is their hot sauce selection.
Visit the Mardi Gras Cafe at 2533 Folex Way, Spring Valley, CA 91978. You can view a menu and learn more at their website: http://mardigrascafe.net/.