Mardi Gras is always the hardest time for a New Orleans expat to be away from home. As Fat Tuesday approaches, I can close my eyes and smell Popeye’s chicken mingling with the sound of police sirens and the scent of exhaust fumes as the parade inches closer. Yet, like every year since I moved to the Big Apple nearly eight years ago, I’ll be streaming the WWOZ Mardi Gras broadcast (www.wwoz.org) from my office in midtown. Sigh. Luckily, there are plenty of celebrations around the city this Tuesday to lift my spirits. Here’s a short list of those looking for an excuse to don their purple, green, and gold.
Below 14th Street:
Mara’s Homemade (342 East 6th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues)
Mara Levi and her husband David know Southern food. The authentic New Orleans cuisine and Arkansas barbeque at Mara’s Homemade never disappoint. On Mardi Gras day, Mara offers a special menu (see http://www.marashomemade.com/Mardi%20Gras%202009.htm) featuring some of her best dishes. Seating begins at 4 PM and continues until the last customer leaves.
Philip Marie (569 Hudson Street at West 11th).
If you’re looking for a low-key Mardi Gras celebration in the form of a good meal, Philip Marie is offering a dinner for $29.95 (menu at http://www.philipmarie.com/documents/53.html). There are two seatings available (at 6 and 9 PM), and live zydeco by The Gotham Playboys.
The Delta Grill (700 9th Avenue at 48th Street)
A $20 admission price at The Delta Grill will get you a Hurricane and all-you-can-eat Cajun buffet. Dance to the live music of Citigrass, and get there early—doors are at 5 PM, food begins at 6, and the music starts at 7.
Acme Bar & Grill (9 Great Jones St. between Broadway and Lafayette)
Mardi Gras revelers get two parties in one at Acme Bar & Grill. On Fat Tuesday, a DJ will spin upstairs, while a zydeco band performs downstairs. Best of all, 16 ounce hurricanes go for $8.
Back Forty (190 Avenue B at 12th Street)
This Mardi Gras, Back Forty is throwing a birthday celebration for Sixpoint Brewery (a Brooklyn-based microbrewery) in honor of their 5th anniversary. $50 per person buys you heaping platters of their “Cajun favorites” paired with Sixpoint Brews. Communal dining will encourage the party; reservations are recommended.
Jimmy’s No. 43 (43 East 7th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)
Benefiting Food Services NYC, Jimmy’s No. 43’s Mardi Gras Party features $5 pints and bottles of Abita, as well as gumbo and jambalaya specials.
The Town Tavern (134 West 3rd Street near MacDougal Street)
The Town Tavern will host their fifth annual “Kegs and Eggs Fat Tuesday Throwdown.” In true New Orleans style, the party on Fat Tuesday starts at 8 AM, with a $12 unlimited Louisiana breakfast buffet offering with Budweiser draught until 10:30 AM. If you’d prefer to start a bit later, not to worry—2-for-1 Hurricanes are available all day, as well as $2 pitchers from 7-9 PM, and $4 pitchers from 9-11 PM. At the stroke of midnight, the patron wearing the most beads will receive $500 cash plus a $500 Town Tavern gift certificate, although there is a high-heel prerequisite (men, start practicing the stuffing of your feet into those red pumps right away.) A $5 cover charge will benefit The American Red Cross.
Above 14th Street:
The Bourbon Street Bar & Grille (346 West 46th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues)
The relatively new and opulent New Orleans restaurant (complete with wrought iron balconies) will feature music by the Sugartones New Orleans brass band, an “earn your beads” contest (hmm), and a sampling menu including a live crawfish boil, king cake, jambalaya, and seafood gumbo.
Bourbon Street (407 Amsterdam Avenue, between 79th and 80th Streets)
This Upper West Side hangout (not to be confused with the Bar & Grill above) frequented by former Big Easy residents (especially during Saints NFL games) throws a party starting at noon on Tuesday, featuring a live DJ, beads, and drink specials throughout the afternoon and evening.
Southern Hospitality (1460 2nd Avenue between 76th and 77th Streets)
When it comes to Mardi Gras, Justin Timberlake’s BBQ joint does not disappoint. Aside from $6 Frozen Hurricanes and Frozen Cazadores Margaritas all week long, on Fat Tuesday, choose from Magic Hat Beer Specials, or upgrade to a $45 VIP Premium Open Bar from 8 PM-midnight. Mike Preen & The Hot Six will provide live music, and cash prizes will be awarded for “Best Mardi Gras Spirit.”
The Underscore below Bar East (1733 1st Avenue at 90th Street)
For the second year, The Underscore will host a fundraiser thrown by New Orleans natives to raise money for the New Orleans Habitat for Humanity. A $30 cover charge gets you some grub and unlimited well drinks from 7-10 PM. The party includes live music and raffles.
Social (795 8th Avenue, between 48th and 49th Streets)
Upscale Midtown West pub Social is offering Happy Hour all day until 8 PM on Fat Tuesday, including $3.50 Bud, Bud Light, and Coors Light bottles, $4.50 well drinks, and $4.50 glasses of Merlot and Pinot Grigio.
TG Whitney’s (244 East 53rd St. between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)
Starting at 8 PM, this post-frat boy hangout features $4 Hurricanes, $3 “Voodoo” shots and $3 New Orleans beers, plus free beads and giveaways throughout the night.
Latitude (783 8th Avenue, between 47th and 48th Streets)
This Hell’s Kitchen hotspot will feature drink specials all day long, including $6 Hurricanes, $4 Shark Bite Shots, and $3.75 Bud and Coors Light.
The Mean Fiddler (266 West 47th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue)
Not only are there drink specials at the Mean Fiddler on Fat Tuesday ($3 Coors Light, $4 Corona, $4 shots of Southern Comfort, and $5 Hurricanes), but should you become the master of the dance floor after taking advantage of those specials, you may be fortunate enough to win one of the prizes offered for the best dancers. Free beads and giveaways throughout the night complete the party.
Rogue Bar (757 6th Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets)
All day long, Rogue Bar is offering $3 Abitas and New Orleans food specials. At 7 PM, the bar will hold giveaways with prizes.
MJ Armstrong’s (329 First Avenue between 19th and 20th Streets)
It may not be exactly like watching Bacchus roll down the streets of New Orleans, but MJ Armstrong’s will hold “Fat Tuesday Rock ‘N’ Roll Trivia” as part of their Mardi Gras festivities. The winning team will receive a $50 bar tab, which would go far with their drink specials for the evening ($3 Hurricanes, $3 SoCo and Lime, $2 PBR and Bacardi specials).