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The Ex-Villagers | Out in Long Island, the Living Is Easy

The Ex-Villagers: they loved the East Village and left it. Mara Levi closed her East Sixth Street restaurant last year. With the Long Island outpost of Mara’s Homemade now a year old, we checked in to see how she’s doing.

IMG_1666Lauren Carol Smith Mara Levi at the new Mara’s Homemade in
Syosset, N.Y.

When the building that occupied our Union Square coffeehouse, Java N Jazz, was sold and all the tenants were asked to leave we started looking for a new space in the neighborhood, for a new type of restaurant. We found one, but lost out when a celebrity chef also started negotiations for it. The search started again and we found a place in the East Village. We opened there a month after Java N Jazz closed.

The space was not ideal. We were forced out in three months, but were lucky to find another location three doors down. The rent was $5,000 a month for 750 square feet. With the failing of the first location we had changed our focus to the foods of New Orleans. We started out with the basics: jambalaya, shrimp Creole, etouffee, and of course the live crawfish boil.

The customers started coming and requested dishes they had eaten at Jazz Fest. My husband was waiting tables and I was in the kitchen. He would describe dishes and I would prepare them and the customers would tell me if I was on the mark. Then we’d add them to the menu.

My husband has a love for barbecue; he found a smoker that would fit in the kitchen and we started serving Arkansas barbecue. The neighborhood took a liking to what we were doing. Read more…