Ah, the flinging of beads, the spectacular debauchery, the untamed madness of it all on a chilly February day. We may be a staggering 1,500 miles or so away from New Orleans, but that doesn't mean we can't feel the buzz of Mardi Gras in the streets. And the thing first and foremost on our minds? Putting the (glorious, juicy) Fat in Fat Tuesday. (How else are we supposed to endure this endless winter?) We’ve rounded up the best NOLA-style eats this side of Bourbon Street.
Crawfish at The Boil – This Lower East Side joint says it all in the name. Fresh seafood arrives daily to be bubbled up to perfection in the hot waters at The Boil. Part of the fun? The fashion in which they serve up their eats – suit up in the rubber gloves and bib your server hands you then open up the plastic bag filled with fresh seafood doused in your choice of sauce. Too messy for a first date, but too fun to leave the camera at home.
Jambalaya at Sugarfreak — The name of this Astoria eatery would imply that only sweet tooths need apply within, but that would be a mistake. The savory menu here covers Mardi Gras in spades. Their jambalaya is a zesty rendition of the Louisiana-Creole style rice studded with chicken and andouille sausage. Oh, and when the waiter asks you if you'd like additional shrimp for a mere $3? Say yes.
Gumbo at Great Jones Cafe — This hearty stew may call Louisiana home, but it sure does hit the spot on a chilly New York day. This cozy café on the eponymous Great Jones Street does it up right with the same holy trinity as jambalaya: a steaming mix of chicken, andouille sausage and shrimp. Plus we give them bonus NOLA points for the cornbread coated fried oysters (and seasonal King Cake for dessert).
Po’boys at Bourbon Street Bar & Grille— When you don’t have time for a big bowl of gumbo, it’s time to hit another N’awlins staple: the po’boy. The sandwich is ubiquitous in the Big Easy and Bourbon Street Bar & Grille is giving Hell’s Kitchen a proper taste. Choose from catfish, fried oyster, pulled pork, cajun shrimp or fried turkey then eat a mighty lunch. The taste of the Big Easy doesn't stop there, either. (There's alligator on the menu, folks.) Their signature Alligator in a Blanket dish couples the chewy reptile with cheddar, bacon and apples, then wraps it all up in a pastry dough and served up alongside a tangy mustard aioli.
Beignets at The Bar Room at the Modern — Some have labeled these pillowy confections a French doughnut. Pro-tip: Do not be one of these people. Beignets are delicious in their own right, apart from their rotund cousins. The Bar Room at the MoMA offers them with maple ice cream, caramel and mango marmalade for the perfect NOLA treat to end a day at the museum. We thoroughly advise doubling up on an order of these piping hot delicacies to discourage any property disputes amongst friends.
Bananas Foster at Delta Grill — There are many things to recommend at the Delta Grill, but one of the most important? Their take on Bananas Foster. King Cake gets the spotlight as a celebratory treat during Mardi Gras, but we’re pretty partial to the perfectly caramelized fruit that adorns this classic dessert. Stop in on Fat Tuesday, and you’ll be treated to this Hell Kitchen restaurant’s full spread for the big day. Think: endless buffet of boiled crawfish, jambalaya, red beans and rice, Creole-style chicken and a free hurricane to sip on.
Sazeracs at Dram — On a quiet block of Williamsburg’s South 4th Street, this dimly lit bar has the feel of a Prohibition-era spot, paneled in wood from floor to ceiling. It’s the ideal setting for a sip of the Sazerac, one of the country’s oldest cocktails, invented, yep, right in the heart of the Big Easy. (Of course, one of the best parts is arguably that Dram is stumbling distance from Pies’n’Thighs if you make it to Sazerac #3 and need a good fried chicken fix.)
Hurricanes at Maison Premiere — Of all the cocktails in the world that have a fitting name for their contents, we’d say the hurricane is the most aptly monikered. This deceivingly sweet drink indeed packs a gale-force punch in the alcohol department. Maison Premiere mixes an elegant but potent number with Appleton Rum, Rhum JM, lemon and passionfruit. If we had to be good for 40 days, this would be the perfect way to go out with a bang. Here’s lookin’ at you, Mardi Gras.