Brian Mattie and Leslie Christian at the Mardi Gras Grill in Saskatoon on Feb. 12, 2013. Karin Yeske/News Talk Radio
As millions take the streets of New Orleans for the start of Mardi Gras, some are celebrating Fat Tuesday with a taste of the Big Easy right here on the Prairies.
Wearing layers of beads around their necks, Leslie Christian and her husband Brian Mattie ate lunch at the Mardi Gras Grill in Saskatoon. Christian, who was born in New Orleans but now lives in Saskatoon, said the Mardi Gras Grill opening last May was an exciting surprise.
"I contacted them to see what they were all about. The first time that we ate here I found that it was all very authentic to New Orleans which is really hard to do," she said.
The Creole and Cajun restaurant is owned by husband-and-wife duo Robert and Suzanne Tingey. The idea came after Robert was told by a life-long food editor that his jambalaya was the best she'd ever eaten.
Robert is the head chef and despite never setting foot in New Orleans, somehow finds a way to hit the mark. He said he sources a lot of recipes from popular restaurants in Louisiana and southern celebrity chefs like Emeril Lagasse and John Besh.
Robert Tingey stands his kitchen at the Mardi Gras Grill in Saskatoon on Feb. 12, 2013. Karin Yeske/News Talk Radio
"The shrimp po-boy was amazing. We had the gumbo. The gumbo was right on target. We've tried a couple of dishes and the boudin balls were really good," said Christian.
"Anybody can have a Cajun chicken dish at any restaurant but to capture the real essence of New Orleans? They've really done it here."
Robert said a lot of his dishes are doing quite well but the taste of New Orleans is popular among palates.
"It's kind of a trinity of gumbo, jambalaya and seafood etouffee. Appetizers like our gator bites do phenomenally well," he said.
Christian and Mattie will be spending Mardi Gras in Saskatchewan before going to New Orleans in a few weeks for a vacation.
"I've been talking to my dad and watching stuff on TV and the Internet. I get a lot of pictures from my friends on Facebook who are there at the parades," said Christian.
"It's unlike anything. It is crowds. It's people in costumes and lots of drinking. They are literally dancing in the streets."
The grill has attracted several people from Louisiana, said Robert. One couple in particular put together the restaurant's playlist to include brass and jazz bands to reflect the southern culture of the area.
The Mardi Gras Grill is open Tuesday to Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. It's located at 239 Idylwyld Drive South.