Meet the Northerly Community - Blue Bayou Inn
One of the best parts about living in quaint communities across the Northwoods is getting to know your neighbor. In an effort to learn more about our community members, we’re sharing a series called “Meet the Northerly Community” where we interview a friend, professional, or just all around awesome person that has a uniquely northern story. We hope you'll be inspired to get involved, learn more about those that share your zip code, or simply, find a similar passion.
If you have a uniquely northern story, we would love to interview you for an upcoming post - send us a message!
Meet Matt Mazur
A guy that cooks really good food.
Blue Bayou Inn in Manitowish Waters, WI
Share your “Northwoods story”?
I was born and raised in my family owned business, Blue Bayou Inn, in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin. Being part of the family, I developed a work ethic from a very young age; officially starting on the prep line in 8th grade. I prepped on the line each season until senior year in high school when our head chef did not return for the season. That year I stepped into the main role and took over kitchen duties. I worked in the kitchen each season through my college years. I attended the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point for Business Management, with a minor in Economics. During college, I had an amazing opportunity to do a business internship in China. After graduating, I decided the family business was important to me and returned to the Northwoods full time.
I grew up in the restaurant business alongside my family members and actually have no formal training in culinary arts. My dad, Walter Mazur’s cookbook, Lagniappe: Something a Little Extra Special: Louisiana Cooking From the Kitchen of Chef Walter's Blue Bayou Inn, was my guide to his cooking. I would follow the recipe in the cookbook to find the flavors + spices or steps that the cooks had lost over time prior to me taking over the kitchen. Time, recipes, and a lot of hard work are what I contribute to becoming a chef at Blue Bayou Inn. And when I say chef, I really think I’m just a guy that cooks really good food.
What do you love to do when you’re not in the kitchen?
Fishing, hunting, being outdoors, traveling, and spending time with my family + friends.
Most essential item for Northwoods living
A pontoon boat. We have Sundays off so I like to relax + float on the lake.
History + The "Blue Bayou" Experience
Tell us about Blue Bayou Inn
It all began with my dad, Walter Mazur. In the years prior to opening Blue Bayou Inn, my father worked in various New Orleans restaurants establishing his foundation in authentic Cajun and Creole cooking. In the early 1970's, he moved to his native Chicago and in 1974, he opened The Cajun House. In 1980, my mom, Rita, and my dad headed “as far north as the South could ever get” and opened Blue Bayou Inn on the shores of Manitowish Lake. The Inn’s building itself has a long history; originally the main lodge for Koerner’s Spider Lake Resort, before becoming The Barn Stormer, owned by Chicago’s Berghoff family. My parents, Rita + Walter, carefully chose the name Blue Bayou Inn to share what we have to offer – “Blue” for the sky, “Bayou” for the water, and “Inn” for the welcoming, relaxing atmosphere.
When my parents first arrived, no one else in the Northwoods served anything like Cajun food. With an atmosphere of relaxation + enjoyment, which we are still known for today, the business picked up momentum as customers learned to crave their Cajun and Creole delights. While my dad passed away in 1994, we have continued the family tradition of serving New Orleans Cajun and Creole food, celebrating our 39th season this year. Our season begins the Friday of Memorial Weekend through the end of October. After dining with our family, you will quickly learn how the words “customer” and “friend” are used interchangeably, and our hope is you will return again soon.
Recently, my sister, Penny, and I traveled to New Orleans, where the roots of Blue Bayou Inn began years ago. We learned that a lot of our Louisiana cooking roots are specifically New Orleans style. In New Orleans, the cooking is more tomato based like our recipes at Blue Bayou Inn. In smaller towns, out of the city, food is more smokey and has different flavors.
Northerly Collective Note: For more notes on their history, pick up a copy of Walter Mazur’s cookbook Lagniappe: Something a Little Extra Special: Louisiana Cooking From the Kitchen of Chef Walter's Blue Bayou Inn is available for purchase in Blue Bayou Inn. It is a fantastic read + cookbook!
Describe the “Blue Bayou” Experience.
A dining room donned in Louisiana memorabilia, white tablecloth + napkins, and a large etched glass panel of a paddle-wheel steamboat, Blue Bayou Inn is underwritten by a spirit of “lagniappe” – meaning a little something extra. An evening at Blue Bayou Inn is an experience. We want you to come to relax and enjoy time with the people you came with. We pride ourselves on our welcoming, relaxing atmosphere, view of Manitowish Lake, and the opportunity for a phenomenal sunset. Join us on Saturdays, as Glen Walker Johnson takes to the harp playing light music to complement your dinner service. Dinner takes 1.5 to 2 hours to enjoy. Our experience includes a 4-course meal: appetizer, soup, salad from our famous salad cart with homemade dressings, and main entrée. If you are still hungry, there is always dessert, like our bread pudding with whiskey butter sauce or locally made truffles.
For a more casual evening, come by boat, car, or plane for an appetizer and cocktails at the bar or on our patio overlooking Manitowish Lake. My mom, Rita, makes excellent craft cocktails like a hurricane, Sazerac, or a mint julip using freshly picked mint from our garden.
What changes have you noticed over the years?
Our menu has been redesigned, I think it was originally a tri-fold menu, along with prices to keep up with the times. In recent years we have definitely gotten a lot busier.
Our recipes are all pretty much the same, except with my twist. My dad developed all of our recipes and when he passed away, we had a few cooks work for us. Some of the steps in recipes were lost in between, some due to sourcing or making the recipe more efficient to prepare. When I began cooking, I knew that some flavors were lost and my dad wouldn’t have liked it that way, so I returned to the recipes in his cookbook and used it as a guide to rediscovering the flavors + the greatness of that dish.
What are some of Blue Bayou Inn’s traditions?
- We’re always closed on Sundays, except Memorial + Labor Day, so we are able to spend time relaxing with friends + family.
- Our family + Blue Bayou Inn is passionate about supporting Relay for Life, a cause near and dear to my family, since my dad, Walt, passed away from cancer. Every year since 1994, Blue Bayou Inn organizes a Relay of Life team, walking through the night to raise money for cancer research and programs supporting cancer patients.
- We attend Chequamegon Chefs Exhibition every June on Madeline Island and the Taste of Manitowish Waters in July.
- For the 4th of July, we serve blackened chicken, corn on the cob, and Cajun sausage sandwiches, at the Manitowish Waters Community Center.
- Every year we celebrate the end of another season by throwing a Mardi Gras Party. Make sure to call early for reservations – we fill up quickly.
What are the popular items on the menu?
Now our most popular item is the Cajun roasted duck, we sell an unbelievable amount each year (dining tip: make sure to call ahead to reserve your duck!). The Cajun sampler is another popular entree because it has all the different flavors of New Orleans - blackened catfish, etouffee: creamy (Cajun style) or spicy (Creole style), and a serving of jambalaya. Blackened scallops are also extremely popular, folks will call ahead of time for the scallops and sometimes won’t come if we don’t have them. Fresh fish is always very popular. We serve corvina – my favorite fish – and people have not always heard about it before, but customers always enjoy it.
Northerly Collective Note: The Blue Bayou Inn knows how to make your special celebrations even more special. We recommend ordering bananas foster for dessert - prepared tableside if time + staffing permits.
What is your favorite item on the menu?
Fresh fish – I love all of our seafood, scallops, and especially, our blackened grilled shrimp.
Northerly Collective Note: B+E's favorite items on the menu - jambalaya, seafood gumbo, blackened filet mignon, shrimp + grits, and of course, bananas foster.
Describe an average day during the season.
It depends on the day of the week, the time of year, and how many reservations we’re preparing for. Most days consist of a lot of prep work - chopping vegetables, making etouffee, salad dressings, and desserts.
On busier days, I’ll prepare fresh seafood pate and seafood gumbo. I start with our seafood pate, served during the appetizer course. I begin by cooking a whole salmon in pate stock. When the salmon is cooked, we remove the whole fish – head, skin, and all – and clean it.
Next up, I start my roux (equal parts flour and oil) in a huge cast iron pan. It takes about 20-30 min to make good, dark, rich roux. When the roux smells like burnt popcorn, it’s ready. In the meantime, I cook vegetables until tender and add a variety of spices and tomatoes to the gumbo stock, then bring the stock to a simmer to marry the flavors all together. When the roux is complete, I add it to the stockpot and mix it really well until the flavors combine. I finish it off by adding broken up salmon and shrimp to make it seafood gumbo.
A Family Business
The best part of being in a family business?
The best part about working a family business is simple. You’ll never regret spending time with your family, and I’m lucky enough to work with mine. While Blue Bayou Inn is on our family’s 2nd generation, it is more important that we get to work together now, each wearing a multitude of hats, and time will tell where our multi-generational business will go.
Tell us about the roles of your family members?
Everyone has their job and their part, making it a true family affair. My mother, Rita, is the friendly face behind our bar, the Steamboat Lounge, that greets each customer with a warm “Hello”. She also takes care of selecting our team for the season. My sister, Penny, runs the front of the house, places orders for food + wine, and creates our wine menu. My brother, Joe, takes cares of the building's maintenance and all of the outside work from the deck to the docks.
Where Can You Enjoy Blue Bayou Inn?
The Inn's Hours: Monday through Saturday, Bar opens at 4pm. Dinner at 5pm. Reservations Appreciated - (715) 543-2537
- Celebrate with friends + family with a dinner overlooking the lake. Reservations are appreciated - request a window seat!
- Enjoy appetizers + drinks in The Steamboat Lounge, located inside Blue Bayou Inn.
- Purchase their cookbook - Lagniappe: Something a Little Extra Special: Louisiana Cooking From the Kitchen of Chef Walter's Blue Bayou Inn by Walter Mazur
- Visit them at the Annual Chequamegon Chefs Exhibition on Madeline Island
- Taste a sample of their specialties during lunch at The Taste of Manitowish Waters
- Visit the Bayou Stand on the 4th of July at the Manitowish Waters Community Center
- Read Blue Bayou Inn’s local happenings ad in The Lakeland Times
Address: 5547 U.S. Highway 51 South, Manitowish Waters, WI 54545