For 26 years, R.S. — formerly “Rattlesnake” — Jones has served unique food with Cajun and Southwestern influences and, perhaps more importantly, served as a center of the Merrick community.
On April 13, owners Margaret Mueller and Carol Olkoski served up R.S. Jones’s final meals, as a raucous throng of longtime regulars and barstool luminaries crowded among the license plates, steer horns and saddles that have over two decades overtaken the walls inside the Merrick landmark.
On Tuesday morning, Mueller said they were still cleaning out the restaurant to prepare for the new tenants.
“Let me tell you something,” Mueller said. “It’s been 25 years, and I had the time of my life.”
Mueller and Olkoski have seen couples have their first dates in R.S. Jones, then later host their grandchildren’s christenings, Olkoski said.
“We’ve been through celebrations and rough times with so many people,” she said. “And just the outpouring of love in the last month has been touching and overwhelming.”
One of the regulars Olkoski may have been referring to was Letitia Wolftree, of Oceanside, who wrote on R.S. Jones’s Facebook page that she had her first date there.
“And of course, I saw zillions of gigs,” she said. “Best wishes for a happy retirement.”
The end of R.S. Jones will not, however, spell the end of Cajun and Southwest-style cooking in Merrick. Instead, it heralds the resurrection of Bellmore’s beloved Cajun restaurant The Bayou, which owner Lisa Livermore closed with a heavy heart last November after 32 years of service.
According to Mueller, Livermore took possession of the R.S. Jones building on April 15, and is set to open in four weeks as Bayou Jones, showcasing favorites from both of the Merrick and Bellmore landmarks.
“We sold the restaurant in its entirety, including the staff,” Mueller said. “They’re keeping the same bones, the same structure. We had our own magic, and they’re going to bring their own magic too.”
Mueller and Olkoski said that, in addition to fishing, gardening, golfing and boating in retirement, they both expect to return to the kitchen and behind the bar on occasion once Bayou Jones is up and running.
Judging from the response on social media to the news of R.S. Jones’s closing, and the impending new restaurant, the community will once more swarm the Merrick Road location.
“You know, when you’re going into business, you’re thinking that this is gonna happen, then this is gonna happen,” Olkoski said. “Some things you expect, and some things you never imagine. We never imagined we’d become such a big part of the community.”