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Big Easy Comes to the Big Apple for Mardi Gras

By Meredith Hoffman | February 21, 2012 7:36am
Jazz music, King Cakes, flavored hurricanes and fancy buffets are on tap for Mardi Gras.
Jazz music, King Cakes, flavored hurricanes and fancy buffets are on tap for Mardi Gras.
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Bourbon Street Bar and Grill

MANHATTAN — Mardi Gras is filling New Orleans with food, drinks and music on the most decadent day of the year — but you can partake in the bacchanalia without leaving New York.

For a taste of the Big Easy this Fat Tuesday  — the annual day of decadence before the start of Lent — check out the Bourbon Street Bar and Grill in Hell's Kitchen, which drew a line down the block to enter last year by 3 p.m., according to staff.

On top of their weekly $5 hurricanes and 2-for-1 Abita beers, the two-story establishment on 346 West 46th St. will feature a Mardi Gras DJ, free shiny beads and doubloons patrons can throw to the street from the second-floor balcony.

A $25 buffet will include fresh Lousiana crawfish (flown up live overnight Monday and tossed into the restaurant's boiler) and King Cakes from the New Orleans bakery Gambino's.

Director of Operations Keith Santangelo recommends people arrive by 5 p.m. to avoid the wait — but if they find themselves in line they can also grab $5 hurricanes across the street at the House of Brews.

If food is your focus, head to the East Village's Back Forty for a three-course feast, with shrimp and bacon beignets as a prelude and warm pain perdu as a sweet afterthought.

The $50 meal includes a different Sixpoint beer to accompany each dish, including the spicy chicken and andouille sausage gumbo made by Chef Michael Laarhoven. The evening begins at 7 p.m.

The East Village Great Jones Cafe, which already offers creole classics like Ya-Ya gumbo on a daily basis, will add crawfish, King Cakes, and other festive dishes to its Mardi Gras menu. The cozy neighborhood eatery is first-come first-serve, and opens at 6 p.m.

If you're out to taste exotic cocktails and munch on free food, head to East Harlem's Creole Restaurant, with a complimentary buffet from 6-7 p.m.  featuring jambalaya and catfish, and live jazz starting at 7 pm.

The bartenders will conduct drinking games with bells and whistles to speed up your gulps of mint and cayenne pepper-flavored hurricanes. And as the managing director Kevin Walters says, "Beads will be everywhere."

For live music, costumes, and charitable fundraising, you can go to Le Poisson Rouge, which hosts dance tunes from New Orleans Latin soul group Los Po-Boy-Citos, and where a celebrity king and queen will be crowned. The festivities start at  7 p.m.

The entry fee, $20 in advance and $25 at the door, will benefit the Lower Eastside Girls Club. Rosario Dawson was set to host the event, but can no longer attend, according to the website.

Across the river in Gowanus, Brooklyn, the Bell House is throwing down with the street brass Hungry Man Marching Band and the "Afro Funk Bhangra New Orleans grooves" of the Underground Horns. Doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets are $8. DJ Peter Dunn tops off the high-energy night.

If you're looking for a tamer, daytime activity, you can hear the Gotham Jazzmen perform Dixieland Jazz at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in the Upper West Side. The free music runs from noon until 1:30 p.m. If you miss this week's show, the group will be playing again next Tuesday at the same place and time.

The IFC Center in the West Village is screening the documentary "Tootie's Last Suit" about Allison "Tootie" Montana, one of the traditional Mardi Gras Indians who created and paraded in elaborate feathered costumes for more than 50 years.

The movie begins at 8 p.m. Tuesday, and ends with a Q&A with director Lisa Katzman. Tickets are $16 and can be purchased online.