Uncle Darrow’s celebrates a day early with crawfish and The Country Legends

By Michael Aushenker

Greg Cruz and Kathy Leonardo lead a performance of The Country Legends, featured players at this year’s Father’s Day Crawfish Boil

Greg Cruz and Kathy Leonardo lead a performance of The Country Legends, featured players at this year’s Father’s Day Crawfish Boil

Father’s Day is officially on Sunday, but Uncle Darrow’s Cajun and Creole Eatery is kicking the festivities off early this Saturday with the return of its annual Father’s Day Crawfish Boil.

Held on what operator Norwood J. Clark Jr. calls the restaurant’s “back porch,” Father’s Day Crawfish Boil XII is a rear-patio party featuring live music by Westside band The Country Legends and, of course, spicy boiled crawfish galore. Sides of corn and red potatoes simmer in the same vat as the crawfish so as to soak up all of the Cajun spices.

The New Orleans-themed restaurant intentionally holds its celebration of dads on the day before the holiday to avoid impeding on any Sunday plans.

“We’re always thinking about the family situation,” said Clark, who co-runs the family-owned restaurant on Lincoln Boulevard near the border of Marina del Rey and Venice. “It’s all for the neighborhood.”

The crawfish boil is Uncle Darrow’s second signature annual event — the biggest being, naturally, its yearly “Fat Saturday” Mardi Gras party. For health reasons, Uncle Darrow’s menu ditches the beef, pork and lard in favor of chicken and farm-raised and grain-fed seafood, Clark said.

Country Legends’ vocalist Kathy Leonardo said the band formed five years ago after incorporating two members of the Venice Street Legends and expects to perform numbers by country icons such as Johnny Cash, June Carter, Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, with a little Janice Joplin thrown in.

“We kind of mix flavors,” Leonardo said. “I know a lot of people here. They love the country stuff. You wouldn’t think it, but they do.”

Being a local business, Uncle Darrow’s aims to support local talent during its special events, Clark said, noting that Unkle Monkey went on to a residency at The Warehouse in Marina del Rey after gigging at the restaurant.

Uncle Darrow’s originally opened across town on Venice Boulevard near La Brea Avenue in 1994 and re-launched at its current location in 1999. Over the years, the restaurant has cultivated a loyal clientele of celebrities and notables, including New Orleans-native John Larroquette and fellow entertainers Ed O’Neill, Ed Harris, George Lopez and athletes Deion Sanders, Lamar Odom and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Clark said.

The restaurant’s old-school word-of-mouth buzz is also appealing to a new generation.

“We have to do everything possible to be relevant. We have a new resurgence of people coming in, millennials, based on social media,” Clark said.

The events also help.

“They’re really fun,” said Leonardo, whose Country Legends play Danny’s Venice on June 18. “It’s very low key, and they don’t charge an arm and a leg.”

Father’s Day Crawfish Boil XII is from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at Uncle Darrow’s Cajun and Creole Eatery, 2560 Lincoln Blvd., Marina del Rey. Admission is free; meal prices are based on market value at the time of the festival. Call (310)306-4866 or visit uncledarrows.com.