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Don’t mind the ghosts
Mardi Gras on Bay offers the full New Orleans mystiqueMardi Gras on Bay offers the full New Orleans mystique
Orb or moisture on the lens? Look in the upper left quadrant of this photo of Mardi Gras on Bay to see two so-called “orbs,” or ghostlike supernatural apparitions

There was a group in the restaurant; seven adults, five kids. I’ve been enjoying the lunch specials at Mardi Gras on Bay since I’ve known they had lunch specials.

Construction, parking restrictions and sidewalk closings on Bay Street had have made access to the block with Moon River Brewing, Churchill’s and Mardi Gras on Bay very difficult. Now there’s an open sidewalk and an underpass along the construction site on the other side of Whitaker. Business is picking up.

I watched the food come out for the group. Everyone looked happy, friendly. Elizabeth my waitress, who also cooks for the restaurant, brought me my 50/50 unsweetened ice tea and cranberry juice and as we talked, the group finished their meal. In mere moments their plates were empty.

One of the sun-burned women was complimenting. She told the waitresses they were terrific. She raved on the food. I stated why I was there and one of the young girls came over all excited about the alligator bites. They listed fried chicken, BBQ chicken, flounder, wings, oysters and a po’ boy. They were tourists from Louisiana and they were thrilled with their lunch.

“Savannah’s home,” owner Louis Ross answered when I asked why he owns a Mardi Gras-themed restaurant in Savannah. His 82-year-old mother still lives here in the house he grew up in.

As for the Mardi Gras theme? “I have this thing about New Orleans. I love New Orleans. I go to Mardi Gras all the time. Every chance I get.”

Louis has a friend who owns a Cajun restaurant in New Orleans who taught him about Cajun cooking. He also learned from his mom who he says, “Can cook just about any dish,” and from a French chef while working a part time restaurant job during a three year stay in France on a meteorology scholarship.

On ESPN I had heard about China planning to shoot missiles into clouds during the 2008 Summer Olympics with the objective being to disperse the clouds. I want to believe; scientific achievement is exciting. I asked Louis, a former U.S. government meteorologist what he thought.

My recalling it to him was the first he’d heard of it but his trained instinctual reaction was “They want to blast the clouds away? I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s possible. They’ll create more clouds.”

Hmmm. It’s nice to have gotten an educated opinion, but things are still quite a bit cloudy for me on that subject.

I’ve only been New Orleans once, and that was on a training trip with New Orleans-based Ruth’s Chris Steak House, for whom I worked as a chef-in-development just before I moved here to Savannah.

The city was hot and sticky; I enjoyed girls flashing their breasts for multi-colored necklaces of plastic beads, playing blackjack in the casino and I enjoyed lots of music.

There’s lots of music at Mardi Gras on Bay. It’s part of the attitude: “It’s bluesy, it’s Zydeco. It makes you want to move, it makes your head bob. It’s music that anyone can like,” was Louis’ description. During the daytime it’s background music. But on Friday and Saturday nights it’s live.

Like lots of Savannah, Mardi Gras on Bay does have its ghosts. Elizabeth told me of putting a glass down on the bar, turning her back and having the glass, untouched by human hands dashed to the floor.

Louis said that just the night before he and the bartender Harold had heard heavy foot steps clomping up a staircase and there was no one clomping up the stairs.

During our conversation, Tim Snyder, a customer who was here touristing, overheard us. He showed us digital pictures he had taken in the restaurant the previous day. Pictures with orbs.

Louis suggested we take pictures in his basement bar. So Tim did. And in all of about five minutes he got several digital pictures with clear orbs.

I don’t know what orbs are. Are they just technical digital photography glitches? Are they ghosts? I do know that what showed up in the pictures was not visible to my naked eye.

The next time I go to Mardi Gras on Bay I’m going to ask any ghosts present to join me for lunch. I’m ordering a crab cake and my iced tea drink. And I’m bringing my digital camera and I’m going to set my digital recorder to record and see if I can pick up some EVPs.

And with just a little luck I’ll make some ghost friends and I’ll have yet another fun Savannah restaurant ghost story to tell.

Mardi Gras on Bay is at 11 West Bay St., 232-0006. Open Mon.-Thu. 7-10 p.m., weekends 7 p.m.-until.