The city of New Orleans all but shuts down on Fat Tuesday, as its biggest party culminates in a string of parades and heaps of beads along the streets. Rest assured that fine dining establishments will shutter at least for Tuesday, if not straight through from Sunday to Wednesday. So the hole-in-the-wall joints and bars are best bets for finding the best eats during this raucous holiday — and that’s not a bad thing because delicious bites can be found at some of New Orleans’ cheapest eateries. Some are open late to accommodate beaded, weary partiers; some invite an afternoon of refueling; and still some are party destinations in and of themselves.
Regardless of blocks of shut restaurant doors, food is everywhere during Mardi Gras, from king cake and gumbo to bloody marys and beer. Herewith, a guide to not only the parades of Mardi Gras, but the best places to refuel before, during, and after.
Some of the best local food advice for Mardi Gras-goers is to stop into nearly any deli in the French Quarter, pick up a po’boy, and find a spot on the street to sit and enjoy it with a great view of the parade. At the deli, look for a Hubig’s pie to wash that po’boy down. For those hankering for late-night eats post-parade, Angeli on Decatur is a local favorite serving comfort food classics until 2 a.m. Mimi’s in the Marigny is not only open late to quell post-party hunger pangs, but it’s a Mardi Gras party spot all its own. Pool tables, a cool local scene, and a mouthwatering Spanish tapas menu show why this is a great destination for those weary of parade routes. Cooter Brown’s Tavern & Oyster Bar is a New Orleans institution that’s been open since 1977. They specialize in seafood and particularly oysters, which are shucked to order.
Monday and Wednesday can also be a crapshoot when it comes to finding restaurants with their lights on. Spend Monday eating incredibly well at Capdeville, with dishes like poutine fries, crab chile rellenos, and the B.L.F.T (bacon, bibb lettuce, fried green tomatoes, and chevre) on offer. Then, hit up Slim Goodies on Wednesday — open from 9 a.m. — for plates like sweet potato pancakes, the St. Louis Slammer, and the Italian Stallion Burger. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/PMacFetters)
Now… what about those parades?
Mardi Gras is not just one parade. It’s not even just a handful of parades, nor is it just one night of purple, green, and gold-hued debauchery in the French Quarter. In fact, there are any number of "krewes" (or groups) that put on parades and events with their own themes. And they’re not just on Fat Tuesday, either —these festivities can start as early as two weeks prior. One of the best known parades is the Bacchus parade, with huge floats and a lively cast of characters. Then, there’s the historic and raucous Rex parade, and the early-to-start Babylon parade. Fat Tuesday actually begins with the country’s oldest (more than a century old) African-American parade — Zulu — and continues all day with parades, parties, floats, drinking, and ubiquitous bead throwing.