Chicago may be about 1,000 miles from New Orleans, but the city still knows how to get down for Mardi Gras. This year, the event falls on February 25, and restaurants and bars in Chicago are going all out with themed parties, paczki, burlesque, frozen daiquiris, and much more.
Jimmy’s Po’boy Shop at Heaven on Seven
Everyone knows that Jimmy Bannos is the culinary ambassador of New Orleans–style food in Chicago. The chef-owner of the Loop’s venerable Cajun restaurant, Heaven on Seven, is taking that role to the next level this year with a po’boy-centric pop-up running on both February 11 and February 18. Look for a focused menu of Nola-influenced sandwiches, gumbo, corn muffins, and slaw. The goods are available for takeout only. Additionally, Heaven on Seven always offers a slew of special touches surrounding Mardi Gras, like brass bands and lavish decorations.
Details: February 18; cash only
Inspired by New Orleans’s famed king cakes, this interactive spy-themed bar-restaurant is serving up a special dessert called the Fat Baby Sundae, an homage to the king cake tradition of hiding a tiny baby trinket inside the pastry for good fortune. For this sundae, a teeny plastic baby is hidden in just one lucky sundae, and the guest who gets it will receive a $100 gift card. Plus: The bar is offering buy-one-get-one drink specials all night long.
Details: February 25
Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods
This hip New Orleans–inspired spot in Wicker Park pays homage to chef Brian Jupiter’s hometown, so you know they’re going all in for Mardi Gras. In fact, the restaurant has transformed into its Krewe Du Ina Mardi Gras Pop-Up for all of February, with Bourbon Street–like decor; masks; a frozen daiquiri shop; hurricanes; and an absinthe lounge with special cocktails like Sazeracs and One Hundred Years of Solitude, made with cucumber-infused absinthe verte, lime, and agave. In addition to all this, Ina Mae will have five days of extra festivities leading up to Fat Tuesday, including a special happy hour on February 21 (5–7 p.m.); live blues during brunch on Saturday and Sunday; po’boy dinner specials on February 24; and on Fat Tuesday, lunch with dishes like crawfish platters, jambalaya, and shrimp plates, as well as live music at 5 p.m. and a burlesque show at 10 p.m.
Shaw’s Crab House
One of my favorite places to celebrate Mardi Gras is Shaw’s Crab House, a bustling seafood haunt that feels like a delicious party any night of the year. For Fat Tuesday, the River North icon is serving a New Orleans–inspired menu, February 22–26, along with a special crawfish boil and live music on February 25. The main dishes includes oyster po’boys, blackened redfish with crawfish sauce, jambalaya, and seafood gumbo.
Details: Special menu available February 22–26, with crawfish boil and live music on February 25
This subterranean Streeterville staple is getting decked to the nines for Fat Tuesday, outfitting the space with beads, beer specials, po’boys, and party favors aplenty. From 11 a.m. until 3 a.m., the all-day, all-night affair includes New Belgium Voodoo Ranger American Haze, Bacardi hurricanes, shrimp étouffée dumplings, shrimp po’boys with jalapeño aioli, gumbo, and giveaways throughout the evening.
Details: February 25, 11 a.m.–3 a.m.
Untitled Supper Club
There’s something so apropos about celebrating a raucous, boozy event like Fat Tuesday in the chic and sultry speakeasy Untitled. The River North haunt is providing live music from Brother John Kattke, a burlesque show, and Cajun-inspired eats and drinks.
Details: February 25; admission is free
One popular way to celebrate Fat Tuesday is with paczki, the traditional Polish doughnuts that precede Lent as a kind of last hurrah of indulgence. West Town’s always funky Funkenhausen is tapping into its European influences and serving up some of these doughy treats this month, courtesy of pastry chef Rachel Slivicki. They include filled varieties with strawberry jam and vanilla bean custard.
Stan’s Donuts & Coffee
Another spot rolling out paczki for the occasion is Chicago’s homegrown doughnut icon, Stan’s. The local mini chain is featuring specials stuffed with the likes of chocolate pastry cream, cannoli cream, and cherry.
Details: Available February 21–25 at all locations
Time Out Market Chicago
Fulton Market’s hulking new food hall is bringing in the big guns—Marz Community Brewing—for a decadent Fat Tuesday party on February 23. Held at Tony’s Rooftop Bar, the fete will feature the brewery’s popular Paczki Stout, plus four other rotating pours. There will be a Louisiana jazz band roving around the market, king cake from Sugar Cube, and doughnut-inspired ice cream pops from Pretty Cool Ice Cream.
Details: February 23
Quality Crab & Oyster Bah
Grab some friends and head to this nautical Lincoln Park fave for a one-pound shrimp boil or lobster boil, on special for Fat Tuesday only. Each version comes with sausage and corn on the cob, and additional lobsters can be added to either boil. To drink, there’s Sazeracs and hurricanes.
Details: February 25, 5–9 p.m.; shrimp boil is $29.95 and lobster is $36.95