Mardi Gras Must-Eats in New Orleans and Beyond

Great Cajun restaurants in the French Quarter, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and beyond.

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This Mardi Gras, whether you’re in the Crescent City or celebrating from miles away, you should track down a taste of Creole cuisine. We’ve rounded up the best places to celebrate, whether you’re kicking up your heels with signature cocktails in Washington, D.C., spooning out gumbo in Los Angeles or enjoying a locals-approved French Quarter feast. As they say in New Orleans, laissez les bons temps rouler: Let the good times roll!

Enjoy a taste of Creole cuisine — even if you’re miles from the Crescent City. Check out the full guide for our picks across the country.

Mardi Gras is a two-week party that happens all over the streets of New Orleans and, thanks to Chef David Guas, at Bayou Bakery in the Nation’s capital. Hosted in a tent outside the historic carriage house, the Annual Bayou Gras Block Party lets guests devour traditional muffulettas (sandwiches of mortadella, ham, salami, cheese and marinated olives) of epic proportions, andouille shrimp gumbo and a little lagniappe offering of sweet pralines.

For your own celebration, get one of Bayou’s modern king cakes: handcrafted brioche filled with Creole cream cheese and, following tradition, a hidden baby. Whoever finds it will be required to host next year’s king cake party.

Step right up to The Beignet Truck, which is parked in front of Royal, Hollywood’s NOLA-inspired bar, where plenty of sugary fried dough will go well with those French 75s and hurricane cocktails. On the savory side, there’s a crawfish boil with all the fixins — roasted potatoes and corn — for just $15 per pound.

Or you can get serious with the bottomless crawfish for double the price! Over at sister restaurant Preux & Proper, they’re pumping out frozen daiquiris — pina coladas, mint juleps and more — as well as a twist on classic Cajun gumbo, crawfish mac ‘n’ cheese, and upscale pate a choux (think profiteroles) beignets.

In addition to down-home cuisine, Roux aims to bring Southern hospitality to the folks of Seattle. Fat Tuesday revelers will feel the warm welcome with an authentic boiled crawfish feast with “all the fixins,” classic shrimp and grits, hurricane cocktails, and the iconic symbol of the holiday: green, yellow and purple iced king cake.

Chef-owner Matt Lewis explains: “This is a time when families get together and break bread with each other, so Mardi Gras food is made to be shared. You find a lot of gumbos, jambalaya and crawfish boils, all of which you will find at Roux!” No New Orleans celebration would be complete without music. “Tuba Luba, a local brass band, will roll through for that authentic, shake your booty Mardi Gras feeling,” Lewis says.

The Locals’ Guide to New Orleans

If you’re in New Orleans, avoid the tourist traps at these local favorites in perpetually packed French Quarter neighborhood. For more French Quarter favorites, check out the full list.

You can’t have Southern brunch without grits, and Chef Alex Harrell won’t disappoint there, but he takes it one step further with crispy boudin sausage, a pan-fried egg and red-eye gravy atop creamy, bar-raising grits. Originally from Alabama, Harrell is rooted in Southern cooking traditions, but he might throw in an Italian-ish twist from time to time, such as the Mississippi rabbit leg inspired by veal milanese (breaded, fried and smothered in tomato gravy) with spoonbread. Or the housemade linguine studded with sweet lumps of Louisiana blue crabs, bottarga, fresh mint, serrano peppers and crab butter.

If you’re craving soul food or some good ol’ Creole cooking, it doesn’t get more authentic than Li’l Dizzy’s, just a short walk from the Quarter in the Tremé neighborhood. Owner Wayne Baquet comes from a long family tradition of hospitality: His great-aunt Ada opened one of the first African American-owned restaurants in Tremé, and his father’s restaurant was a staple in the 7th Ward neighborhood.

Baquet opened Li’l Dizzy’s in 2005 before Katrina, and was able to rebuild it after the storm. Li’l Dizzy’s has become the go-to standard for Sunday brunch, gumbo and fried chicken. Their daily all-you-can-eat buffet is the way to go if you don’t want to miss a bit, and they also do daily specials and po’ boys a la carte.

Photo by: Alex Harrell, Rush Jagoe, Kevin O'Mara, and Andrew Strenio

Alex Harrell, Rush Jagoe, Kevin O'Mara, and Andrew Strenio

Named after the first opera ever performed in New Orleans, Sylvain retains its reverence to local tradition but also doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has a low-key, friendly vibe, with one of the most-enchanting back courtyards in the Quarter. The high-low menu pairs unpretentious Southern cooking with skilled execution in dishes like beef cheeks with potato puree, sweet onions and local peas.

The best bar bite is the “Chick-Syl-vain” Sandwich: a fried chicken breast modeled after that of a certain fast-food chain. The Sazerac is also particularly good.

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