NOLAGuide

Where To Eat & Drink During Mardi Gras

Sit-down restaurants, takeout spots, and more places to eat just a few blocks off the parade routes.
Baked oysters at The Elysian Bar

photo credit: Randy Schmidt

Anybody who lives in New Orleans (or has come for a visit at the top of the year) knows Mardi Gras isn’t just one day of parades and parties. Festivities kick off in January, with many parades happening during the weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday—which is all to say the city is buzzing for basically a month straight.

For the sake of our sanity, we usually eat before leaving the house, or pack our own food when we’re hitting a parade during Mardi Gras. It’s chaotic enough to get around the city, nevertheless having to deal with a blacked-out midwesterner ordering a po’boy for the first time. Plus, a lot of restaurants close on Fat Tuesday, because they’re either partying with you or want to stay the hell away from you.

But when we actually do decide to venture out to a restaurant or bar, these are the places we turn to. All of them are within walking distance of most greater New Orleans parade routes, along with a couple spots actually open on Fat Tuesday.


THE SPOTS

photo credit: Denny Culbert

American

Mid-City

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You can actually make a reservation at Toups' in Mid-City for Fat Tuesday, so all you’ll have to worry about on Mardi Gras is how many plates of togarashi-covered crispy pig ears you’re going to eat. They do excellent preparations of parts of the animal that you might’ve never had before, like sow ears, hog’s head cheese, and lamb neck. Start with the Meatery Board—it’s basically a charcuterie spread but with lots of Cajun items, so it’s a fun way to try a lot of the menu.

American Townhouse is on the very edge of the French Quarter, which means you probably won’t have to deal with tourists from Florida shouting to people on balconies for beads when you’re trying to get in. It’s also one of the better places that’s open on Fat Tuesday, where you can relax and get into some elote dip, boudin and cream cheese egg rolls, and a crispy fried chicken and bacon sandwich that’s stuffed between two waffles and drizzled with hot honey and cane syrup. Order the frozen pomegranate mayhaw cocktail or one of their particularly tasty $6 mocktails.

So much of the French Quarter is shiny and polished—not Napoleon House, with its ceiling fans, peeling paint, and general Haunted Mansion aesthetic. It’s a classic that’s not a tourist trap, and a lovely place to pop in during Mardi Gras season after being on your feet all day. You can’t come here without getting a hot muffuletta and a refreshing Pimm’s Cup, and the bread pudding, hot roast beef po’boy, and boudin are also good.

photo credit: Cory Fontenot

Much like gumbo and red beans and rice, po’boys in New Orleans are sacred, especially when you’re looking for the best one during Mardi Gras. Thankfully, this spot in the French Quarter gets them right. There are a ton of options, but the best sandwiches are hot sausage, fried shrimp, fried catfish, and fried soft shell crab. And always go with the regular spicy heat level—it won’t get you sweating, but it’ll be seasoned perfectly as any good po’boy should be. The location is on a quieter stretch of Bourbon Street, so it’s a nice place to sit and admire the countless New Orleans concert posters while you tear through the crusty loaf. Don’t forget to order a Barq’s root beer in a glass bottle.

You’ll probably have to walk past Carnival food trucks, rows of people screaming for beads, and in front of (but please never through) a middle school marching band to get to Birdy’s. But being in the Lower Garden District, they’re just far enough off the Uptown parade route that it feels like a Mardi Gras party without being too chaotic. The brunch board is your order here—a spread that combines sweet and savory things like pancakes and donuts that can fit in the palm of your hand, soft-baked chocolate chip cookies, ube waffles, soft-boiled eggs, bacon, and prosciutto. There’s a common New Orleans saying, “you can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning.” So kick off the marathon with a king cake martini, complete with a purple, green, and gold sugar sprinkle rim, and the iconic plastic king cake baby.

photo credit: Martin's Wine Cellar

The smartest food to eat during a parade is something you can eat with one hand and no utensils while standing up. You’ll find a lot of that at Martin’s, a grocery and liquor store near the Uptown parade route that sells really good, reasonably priced to-go sandwich combo meals. Go with the $14 bagged lunches, which get you cold-cut sandwiches smeared with Creole mustard, along with some chips and pasta salad. The charcuterie boards and salmon plates are lovely, yes, but are you really going to be forking a huge hunk of fish during the parade? While you’re there, consider buying a bottle of booze and some throwaway shot cups, so you can barter with the riders for those prized throws.

The NOMTOC (New Orleans Most Talked Of Club) parade is a family affair in a mostly residential, suburban area. So if you didn’t bring food with you, most of the spots nearby are either too far away, directly on the route, or super busy. Enter: Opelousas Point Supermarket, a longtime neighborhood Chinese takeout favorite we like to hit before the parade. They’re just three blocks off the route, and have been making simple and delicious fried chicken, egg rolls, and shrimp fried rice for decades. Also try the fried fish, fried shrimp, and kebabs, and make sure to get a Pineapple Blue Bayou Big Shot drink, too.

photo credit: Cory Fontenot

$$$$Perfect For:Quick EatsCheap Eats

Most of the places to eat near the Westbank parade route are fast food restaurants and chains. The exception is Wag's, a spot where you’ll find a menu of New Orleans soul food classics like red beans, stuffed peppers, and gumbo that change daily. Sure, your friend’s mom might be cooking up huge batches of these traditional dishes during Carnival season, but maybe you’re temporarily banned from her house because last year, you reached in front of her to catch a Zulu Fire Truck Krewe Hot Nut T-shirt. While that sucks for you (and we can’t relate), you can get similar dishes here, all served in overstuffed styrofoam containers. They have plenty of seating, and you can always smell the simmering trinity of bell peppers, onion, and celery when you walk in.

Everything is perfect at The Elysian Bar in the Hotel Peter and Paul: the ambiance, the service, the food and cocktails, and even the bathroom—we’ve had to talk ourselves out of stealing the rosemary-scented lotion and hand soap on more than one occasion. The parades that pass here are small and only for walking or riding krewes, so there’s little to no chaos, but the same amount of fun. And Elysian Bar is the ideal swanky, post-parade move, where you can eat some ham and ricotta gnocchi, throw back some Murder Point oysters, and hang out in a very yellow room.

The sole parade in New Orleans East is Nefertiti—a krewe of mostly Black women from the neighborhood. We think dining at a Black woman-owned business is essential to the experience, so head to Two Sistas ’N Da East for some of the best soul food in the city. If you’ve ever seen Waiting To Exhale (and if not, please fix that), everything Gloria was cooking—“collard greens and cornbread, some candied yams, a little potato salad, fried chicken, peach cobbler, and a few slices of ham”—is available here, and it’s all delicious. The options change daily, and we love the smothered turkey wings, ham hocks, collard greens, rabbit, and oxtail when they’re on the menu.

photo credit: Cory Fontenot

Brewster’s is a fun, wholesome place where you might see large groups of kids’ sports teams, families, or just someone disassociating with a beer after work. We like it for times when we’ve spent the day at the Chalmette parade with five of our nephews, and they’re hounding their auntie for food immediately. The burgers always come out quickly with a nice char, and basically anything that could be improved with some smoky grill marks is worth ordering here. They also do a nice apple martini and have a pretty extensive beer list.

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