Mardi Gras has officially returned to New Orleans after a two-year hiatus, one year after parades and events were canceled in 2021 (for the first time in 42 years) and two years since the 2020 festivities that are widely believed to have been Louisiana’s first super spreader event — two years of loss for the city, its culture, and its integral hospitality industry.
The return of Carnival has already brought big business to many downtown bars and restaurants, though shortened parade routes have dulled the excitement for some spots now cut out of the action. Over the next week and a half, hundreds of thousands of visitors will infiltrate the city, and bars and restaurants are looking to capture that business.
Of course, the not-so-secret truth of Mardi Gras is that most eating and drinking does not revolve around bars or restaurants at all, but at homes and along parade routes, consumed on the go and while socializing — plucked off of party tables or purchased from the indispensable vendors that line Claiborne Avenue. But beyond essential king cake bakeries and pop-ups, there are many bars, restaurants, and events that offer the opportunity to get extra festive with food and drink while celebrating Mardi Gras.
Below we’ve rounded up the best Carnival-related food and drink events, as well as where to grab grub and booze while out and about on parade days. Remember, bars and restaurants are subject to New Orleans’s indoor mask mandate through Mardi Gras, as they are to the city’s policy requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to dine or drink indoors, so come prepared.
Did we miss a food or drink-related Mardi Gras special? Let us know.
Food and Drinks for the Parade Route
Stop by Nina Compton’s centrally-located Compere Lapin for some of the best to-go cocktails in town, where they’re just as pretty to-go as they are on site.
The St. Charles location of local mini-bakery chain Gracious is perfectly located to fuel up for a number of Uptown parades. It’s serving a special sidewalk parade menu of muffulettas, jerk chicken handpies, grilled cheese, boudin kolaches, bloody Marys, rum punches, and other mixed drinks.
Gris-Gris is a standby for excellent seasonal daiquiris, and during the pandemic began filling up half-gallon bottles to-go, an ideal Mardi Gras setup. Call to preorder half-gallons of frozen king cake daiquiris to bring to the parade or house party.
Junior’s on Harrison
Junior’s is selling parade-friendly food and drinks, making it a one-shop stop for 2022. Half gallon satsuma margaritas are on sale for pickup all of Mardi Gras weekend (for $30), and it’s packing up chicken and biscuits for pickup on Lundi Gras — eight piece boxes, tender and sandwich combos, and sides, all available to reserve now for Monday or Tuesday parades.
For the kind of parade meal most New Orleanians are used to without the work, turn to the ever-reliable Cochon Butcher, which is this year offering Mardi Gras parade packages to feed ten. 20 pieces of fried chicken, one half-pan of jambalaya, ten sandwiches of either turkey, ham, or pimento cheese, and ten bags of Zapp’s potato chips is provided cold but can be reheated. The ready-to-go meal can be preordered online for $220. 48 hours in advance of pickup.
King Cake Connection
For the last few weeks of Mardi Gras, there’s a new king cake hub in town — King Cake Connection, bringing together king cakes and other Mardi Gras-themed treats from ten Black-owned New Orleans bakeries, like Adrian’s, Talented Toya’s, and Viola’s Heritage Breads. It’s popping up out of Seven Three Distilling Co. at 301 N. Claiborne Avenue through Mardi Gras, Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 6 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from noon until 7 p.m.
Mardi Gras bounce brunch at Saint John
All Mardi Gras weekend, French Quarter newcomer Saint John is putting on a special brunch devoted to New Orleans’s beloved bounce music — Friday, February 25, Saturday, February 26, and Sunday, February 28. Reservations are required, call the restaurant at (504) 581-8120 to book a table.
Grandstand access at Le Chat Noir
Le Chat Noir, the new dinner restaurant from the folks behind Bearcat Cafe, sits right on the parade route at 715 St. Charles Avenue, so naturally, it’s capitalizing on the location by offering daily grandstand and brunch or dinner options from Friday, February 25 through Sunday, February 26. Book your spot for a buffet and grandstand access via Resy — tickets on Friday and Saturday are $125, and on Sunday go for $150.
Whiskey parade route party at SoFab
New Orleans’s Southern Food & Beverage Museum, located in Central City, is celebrating Carnival with a whiskey parade route party on Saturday, February 19 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to whiskey tastings and education from Redemption Whiskey., there’s also a luncheon featuring red beans and rice, fried catfish, chicken and sausage gumbo, and vegan gumbo z’herbes; wine curated by Patron Saint, and king cake by the slice. Tickets are $20 per person. Bonus: all ticket purchasers are entered into a raffle for a Bayou St. Cake King Cake by chef Bronwen Wyatt.
Mister Mao guest chef series kick-off with Good Trouble Network
There are still reservations available for the kick-off to Mister Mao’s guest chef series with the Good Trouble Network, a coalition of hospitality workers that raises money for human rights nonprofits like the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition, which the series will benefit. On Sunday, February 20, guests will enjoy four courses prepared by local Chefs Nick Martin Dr. Smoke’s Kitchen); Octavio Ycaza (Crescent Culinary); and Christina Quackenbush (Milkfish). Priced at $65 per person, cocktails included.
Gnarley Gras at Gnarley Barley
On Sunday, February 20, Gnarley Barley Brewing brings back Gnarley Gras, the annual party with live music, new beer releases, king cakes, burgers, and bbq.
Barkus brunch at Palm & Pine
On February 20, aka Barkus Sunday, Palm & Pine is hosting a dog-friendly brunch to celebrate the iconic French Quarter parade, serving special dog treats, bright brunch specialties, and to-go drinks. This fun spot on the outskirts of the French Quarter is likely to grow into an annual Mardi Gras hub due to its location — close, but not stuck in the middle, of the action.
Culinary Queens of New Orleans Parade debut
This exciting new Mardi Gras Krewe, which goes by TCQNO for short, was started by Akasia Lee-Nicholas during the pandemic to bring together a network of women in the food and beverage industry, some laid off or otherwise impacted by COVID. The Krewe has a stated goal of supporting women-owned businesses; and for their very first parade, on Tuesday, February 22 at 6 p.m., signature throws include plastic wine glasses, glittered spatulas, and chef’s hats.
Gianna Carnevale 2022
The Warehouse District’s trendy Italian restaurant, Gianna, is serving what is one of the most interestingly-themed meals this year — four courses of family-style specialties traditionally served during Carnival in Italy. The special Mardi Gras lunch on Friday, February 25, begins with the Venice street food of fried stuffed olives; next is a traditional Carnival dish from Ivrea, Fagioli Grassi, which translates to fat bean; that’s followed by Naples-style lasagna; and the last course is an Italian Carnival favorite, zeppole, or Italian doughnut. See here to make reservations from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for $65 per person.
Krewe of Iris parade
Sustainable, useful throws have become increasingly common, likely to become even more so as the years go on and further alternatives become available. Krewe of Iris is ahead of the curve, having moved away from plastic items and beads a few years ago. This year, the krewe worked with a local company, Grounds Krewe, for a throw package available to riders that includes jambalaya mix, red beans, and coffee. Catch Iris’s food-themed throws Uptown on Saturday, February 26.
Bounce brunch with Otto in Commons Club
Lundi Gras celebrations kick off with brunch at Commons Club, the restaurant lead by Alex Harrell in the new Virgin Hotels New Orleans. The DJ Otto-lead bounce brunch goes from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, February 28. The whole hotel should be in party mode for the weekend before Mardi Gras, from the frozen Irish coffee at the lobby bar; on the rooftop at the Pool Club; and a special Friday happy hour at the bar. Reserve a spot at the restaurant, bar, or pool here.