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Bellmore and Merrick haven’t seen the last of Cajun cuisine

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It’s been a rough year for Bellmore-Merrick’s Cajun restaurants. Last November, The Bayou in North Bellmore closed its doors after 32 years, followed by R.S. Jones closing in April. Within five months, the community felt a large hole in their local restaurant scene.

But when one chapter closes, another one opens.

As R.S. Jones owners’ Margaret Mueller and Carol Olkoski decided to retire, the opportunity arose to hand down the restaurant space — and Lisa Livermore, 55, the owner of The Bayou, was the one they called.

Livermore entered the restaurant business after meeting the original owner of The Bayou, Kathleen Leskody. “We became friendly and business partners over a few years,” she said.

Today, Livermore and her partner, Staci Tucci, have been busy getting the space ready for the grand opening of Bayou Jones, which will open in the previous R.S. Jones spot. In the midst of putting together a restaurant that encompasses both The Bayou and R.S. Jones, Livermore is excited about starting fresh in a new location.

“Merrick is a great space. People walk by, it’s very exciting,” Livermore said. She explained that she came across “this unique opportunity with The Bayou closing and Margaret retiring — The opportunity to combine the two and improve the two.”

Femy Aziz, a prominent member of the Merrick Chamber of Commerce, is excited about the opening as well. “We are excited to have a new member on our Merrick main street,” she said. “It’s always exciting to get someone new.”

Livermore was approached by Mueller and Olkoski in December and immediately came up with

Bayou Jones. “The name was the first thing that came to my mind,” she said. “That’s the kind of food I like to cook. We’re keeping many of The Bayou and R.S. Jones favorites.”

Like both The Bayou and R.S. Jones, Bayou Jones will feature New Orleans inspired food and Tex Mex inspired dishes. “There’s going to be many familiar dishes,” Livermore said. “All of the beloved dishes are there.” But Livermore is excited to expand the menu beyond both the former restaurants with an eclectic blend of specials.

“We’re going to be doing more salads and lighter options. We want to appeal to everyone. We [will] have gluten free options, vegetarian options, and vegan options.” One of the meat-free options that will appear on the menu is the Impossible Burger, a plant-based alternative to red meat.

As for the famous Bayou drinks like the Hurricane and Cyclone, they’ll live on at Bayou Jones. But Livermore is also electrified about expanding on craft beer. “We have three taps for now,” Livermore said, for “light, medium, and dark IPAs.” In addition to craft beer, Livermore will offer canned beers with unique designs.

Most of all, Livermore is eager to evolve from the stereotypical Cajun restaurant. “We want to try new things. We were locked in Cajun, but [Bayou Jones] is Southern. There’s so much room to grow. We’re trying to touch everyone and make it a meeting place to hang out at the bar and have a snack.”

The opening of Bayou Jones will fill the massive hole that The Bayou and R.S. Jones left in Bellmore and Merrick, Livermore said, and she is ready to bring the cuisine back into the communities’ world. “This food is authentic,” she said. “It reaches people on a visceral level. It’s just good and warms your soul and you can’t get it anywhere else.”

“I’m a kid in a candy shop and have so many routes to go!,” Livermore added. “The most exciting thing is people stopping by and being excited. Everyone has been super supportive and nice. We want to be as welcoming to our neighbors as they have been to us.”