Monday, June 17, 2024

Mardi Gras with The Social List on Retro Row: From po’ boys and hush puppies to boozy drinks and catfish

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I was politely but frankly asked by a reader as to why I “cover the Social List so much” when compared to other places—and in a sense, they are totally right. I do cover them a lot and I do so because owners Luis Navarro and Brenda Rivera have been persistent stewards of our city.

Say what you will about their spaces—Lola’s and The Social List, which recently saw its entire interior updated along with a few core components of its menu—but the one thing you cannot criticize is the fact that they take care of their team, are constantly altering their menus and specials, and attempting to consistently push toward new events, from their stellar Havana Nights to simple celebrations across formal and informal holidays alike.

Shrimp platter with hush puppies and fries from The Social List. Photo by Brian Addison.

Hence: Mardi Gras.

It’s seemingly appropriate as Long Beach celebrates its first restaurant since Louisiana Charlie’s and Sal’s Gumbo Shack to take on the almighty food of New Orleans, the brand new Zaferia gem that is Bar Envie, and to honor the holiday that Shoreline Village takes on annually with a parade.

It’s, in other words, a good thing to expand the Mardi Gras presence in Long Beach because, if there were any holiday reflective of Long Beach, it could very well be best reflected in Long Beach.

The catfish with crawfish and shrimp in a Cajun cream sauce from The Social List.

And one of the things I love most about The Social List—whether it was owned by the lovelies it is or owned by asshats that would make it far more easier to despise—is that the space refuses to take itself seriously.

Like its original concept when it first opened in 2014, the whole point of The Social List is not be a beginning, middle, and end, but one part of that equation; a space that can act as a hub to move around. Enjoy an appetizer and cocktail before hopping over to El Barrio or have a cocktail and snack at Baby Gee before hopping over to The Social List for dinner.

A shark gummy cocktail—a play on the Blue Hurricane classic from NOLA—is one of the special Mardi Gras drinks from The Social List. Photo by Brian Addison.

It is there as a conduit for Retro Row and, for the upcoming holiday, one for Mardi Gras as well.

Let’s start off with the thing that Catholics and non-Catholics alike love about Mardi Gras (and that certainly isn’t jumping into the staving from meat and sex due to Lent): the booze.

The ode to the Blue Hurricane—a nightmare of a sugar-bomb that a drunken self will mistakenly over-consume on the streets of the French Quarter because they taste like a Slushee at 2AM—is a bit more tamed down sweet wise (though remains a thoroughly sweet drink) and is playful with a shark gummy.

Po’ boys galore at The Social List. Photo by Brian Addison.

Then there’s a passion fruit cocktail whose tartness is a much preferred switch from the shark lagoon concoction and, as always with The Social List, dangerously and sneakily boozy.

But when it comes down to it, it is about the food, where—on top of all things boozy—all things deep-fried, all things swamp (in the good way, crawfish lovers), and all things cajun.

A passion fruit-based cocktail drink for Mardi Gras at The Social List. Photo by Brian Addison.

There’s already an existing, solid po’ boy sandwich that premiered on the menu earlier this year and is, frankly put, precisely what you want from a NOLA-style po’ boy: buttery, soft bread mimics the ones from Louisiana while having a remoulade is outright awesome…

You have a fried platter that is fit for the Mardi Gods. Their solid fries—an underrated gem of The Social List, if you ask me—are piled with fried shrimp and hush puppies, honey butter and remoulade used dipping sauces…

And then you have a seared catfish plate that is, simply put, comforting: The fat of the fish rendered to a crisp before being topped with chunks of shrimp and crawfish in a peppery, Cajun-inspired cream sauce. Served with some broccoli and mashed potatoes, the dish reminds me of my father’s southern family offerings, our many take-ins of catfish, and how I miss fresh catfish—a thing not too common here in Long Beach.

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The food is unfussy, uncomplicated food—so lift up that massive po’ boy, happily take a bite that can’t possibly fit comfortably into your mouth, wash it down with liquor, and relish that we are able to even have a restaurant celebrate Mardi Gras without its dishes packed in to-go bags.

The Social List is located at 2015 E. 4th St.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

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