Mardi Gras in the Big Apple may not match the vim and vigor of the Big Easy, but there’s still plenty of Cajun-spiced pluck on display in the performances of musical legends and flavor of classic bayou dishes—with beads a-plenty to go around. Lead your personal Mardi Gras parade through these eight New Orleans-inspired venues and events.
BB King Blues Club and Grill
237 West 42 St., 212-997-4144
This Times Square club and performance venue named for the great blues legend brings back its annual Funky Fat Tuesday celebration on Feb. 9th, with the illustrious George Clinton of Parliament/Funkadelic fame, who will lead his always colorful and expressive band through classics old and new.
Bourbon Street Grill
346 W 46th St., 212-245-2030
Stuff yourself silly at this New Orleans-themed bar and grill in Hell’s Kitchen, especially on arguably the best po’boys in the city, not to mention plenty of fried catfish, chicken gumbo, and even smoked alligator. The main event is actually the Saturday before, when Bourbon Street hosts a masquerade ball, with prizes for the best costume, including a free trip to New Orleans. All proceeds will go to rebuilding homes for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Drink and meal specials continue on Tuesday as well.
The Bell House
149 7th St., 718-643-6510
This former printing press in Gowanus is now home to one of Brooklyn’s most dynamic live music venues, especially for young bands just starting out. On February 9th, the stage is handed over to two live brass and banjo jazz bands. Drink specials will be flowing, and the two bars—in the front and rear—means you don’t have to wait long.
95 Delancey St., 212-228-0909
The edgier side of Mardi Gras gets the spotlight at this Lower East Side bar that is playing host to “retro nouveau” events producer, THE SALON, on February 9th. This year’s festivities feature a lineup of nearly 30 performers—burlesque dancers, chorus girls, DJs, and musicians—across three floors. The dinner packages include a three-course Cajun prix-fixe dinner and one drink.
This decedent Bowery bar throws an extravagant Mardi Gras soirée each year with an impressive culinary complement—a three-course Southern menu (think chicken-andouille gumbo) by Executive Chef Richard Overholt. Ripley’s Believe It or Not’s own master magician Albert Cadabra also puts in an appearance, as do acrobats and other funky folk. Burlesque dancers keep it extra spicy, and tuned-up Hurricanes made by bar mistress Miss Sarah well-oiled.
The Hall Brooklyn
470 Driggs Ave., 718-387-4001
If only one Tuesday is not fat enough, almost two weeks of Cajun-inspired shows begin February 5th at this Williamsburg concert hall, including two shows by Mr. New Orleans himself, Dr. John. Fat Tuesday itself adds a crawfish boil and other Southern classics like creole fried rice jambalaya and fried oyster po’ boys, all washed down and 2-for-1 Nola craft cocktails and beers. You can work it off shaking it to three brass bands.
180 2nd Ave., 212-979-9273
Drink as much New Orleans-brewed Abita and hurricanes as you can handle, and for only $5 a pop, at this East Village bar, named for the New Orleans neighborhood heavily damaged in Hurricane Katrina. A handsome wood bar, fireplace (complete with nautical painting above), and Venetian blinds add a classy bayou atmosphere. Just be sure to raise at least one glass to the bar itself, which is calling it quits the following week.
Angel Orensanz Foundation
172 Norfolk St., 212-253-0452
The annual “Fat Friday” celebration takes place at this glorious ballroom Feb 26, with proceeds going to arts forum FIGMENT (NYC), the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the Roots of Music (NOLA), and The Innocence Project. With Charles Neville of Neville Brothers fame providing the music, it should be difficult to pursue money from the wallet. The stunning venue itself, a Gothic Revival synagogue built in 1849, is worth the price admission alone.