Chicago may be a far cry from New Orleans, but the city still knows how to get down for Mardi Gras. This year, the holiday falls on March 5, and restaurants in Chicago are going all out with themed parties, donuts, frozen hurricanes and much more.
Heaven on Seven
One of the most iconic restaurants in Chicago, Heaven on Seven is easily the most quintessential New Orleans-style restaurant in town. One could argue the decades-old Loop institution is among the most influential restaurants of its kind outside of New Orleans in the entire nation. Suffice to say, this is the spot to celebrate Mardi Gras. Rather than confine the frivolity to one evening, the restaurant features festive food and drink specials on March 1 and 2 as well, including live music and a veritable parade of decorations. Each night features a different band, starting with Arcana on March 1, High Hat Second Line on March 2 and Big Shoulders Brass Band on March 5. Limited reservations are available—and recommended.
Details: March 1, 2 and 5
Head to this slick new Mag Mile bar for a Mardi Gras party on March 2, which technically makes this… Fat Saturday? At any rate, there’s a DJ, frozen hurricanes made with overproof rum, crab beignets and mini muffelettas. Also: beads, beads, beads! That hurricane can also be ordered in a group-friendly large format, served in a whole pineapple. And the food and drink specials are also available March 1 through Mardi Gras proper.
ROOF on theWit
King cake is a Mardi Gras essential every year in New Orleans, but it’s not too often you get to drink the confection. At ROOF on theWit, the King Cake Martini is a special cocktail for the occasion, sporting that signature purple, green and yellow color pattern. It’s made with Absolut Vanilla vodka, Grand Marnier, Baileys, cinnamon and a dusting of Mardi Gras sprinkles. So basically, it’s as sweet as one would expect from a cake-inspired cocktail. The drink is on special right after Mardi Gras, from March 6 through March 9.
Stan’s Donuts & Coffee
In case you still prefer your king cake in pastry form, Stan’s Donuts & Coffee has you covered. All locations in Chicagoland have two donuts on deck for Mardi Gras, king cake donuts and paczki, both available March 1-5. The former is a cake donut dolled up like an iced pastry, draped in vanilla glaze and flecked with green, purple and yellow sugar sprinkles. Instead of the tiny baby toy inside, as per tradition with king cakes, the donut has a baby gummy candy on top. Then there’s the paczki, that beloved Polish donut binged on before Lent. Stan’s has its own version, made with rich, eggy dough and filled with the likes of pastry cream, chocolate pastry cream, cannoli cream and cherry.
Details: March 1-5
Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods
One of the hottest openings last year, Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods pays homage to chef Brian Jupiter’s New Orleans roots. So you know they’re going all in for Mardi Gras. In fact, the restaurant and bar is hosting a full lineup of events over the course of several days leading up to March 5, starting with NOLA Happy Hour from 4-7 p.m. on March 1 (think $5 hurricanes, $4 Abita beers and $2 char-grilled oysters). Over the weekend, there’s a jazz brunch on Saturday and a blues brunch on Sunday, both with Ramos Gin Fizzes on special. Come Sunday evening, Jupiter invites New Orleans chef Julius Russell to join him for a six-course bayou-inspired dinner, with seatings at both 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. On Monday, otherwise known as Lundi Gras, Ina Mae has 1/2 priced po’boys. Then for the grand event, the restaurant opens early at 4 p.m. with happy hour specials until 6 p.m., an all-you-can-eat crawfish boil, live music and a late-night burlesque show.
Paczki Day at Delightful Pastries is a big deal. The classic European-style bakery in Jefferson Park routinely draws lines annually for its Polish donuts for Mardi Gras, famously churning through thousands of donuts to meet demand. This year’s menu runs the gamut from plum butter and apricot jelly to passion fruit jelly, guava and fresh strawberry. Most fitting for Mardi Gras, the bakery has also added some “drunken paczki” to its lineup, like a vodka and vanilla custard version and one made with Jameson whiskey and chocolate custard.