Celebrate N'awlins style during the season of Mardi Gras at bars, restaurants and live music venues all across Philadelphia. (Photos clockwise from top courtesy Catahoula, The Piazza at Schmidt's, The Twisted Tail, by G. Miller for Visit Philadelphia)
Known around the world as one of the most raucous party seasons of the year, Mardi Gras traditionally celebrates a bit of debauchery before the fasting days of Lent, the six weeks leading up to the Easter Sunday holiday.
The Carnival season, beginning on or after the Epiphany or Kings day and wrapping up on the day before Ash Wednesday, brings parades, jazz, parties, beads and rowdy celebrations.
Of course, New Orleans is the epicenter of Mardi Gras celebrations in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean Philadelphia doesn’t party down for Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday with the best of ’em!
So break out that stash of beads and tap into your inner reveler! Our picks for Mardi Gras celebrations, below.
• Brauhaus Schmitz Karneval: Every year, Germany celebrates Karneval — a German version of Mardi Gras — with parties and events and this year, Brauhaus Schmitz, Philadelphia’s own German beer hall and restaurant, is getting in on the action. Beginning this Thursday, February 27 and continuing through March 4, celebrate Karneval at Brauhaus Schmitz and its sister restaurant at Reading Terminal Market, Wursthaus Schmitz, with tons of drinks, German food and festivities.
• Rex 1516: Head to Southern-style South Street spot Rex 1516 to celebrate Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday, March 4 with discounted classic New Orleans cocktails like the Sazerac and The Hurricane. Plus, the kitchen will cook up some savory chicken and Andouille gumbo and traditional house-made King’s Cakes, a traditional Mardi Gras treat, a braided yeast cake decorated with purple, green and gold icing (the traditional Mardi Gras colors), filled with cinnamon and nuts. Each cake contains a small plastic baby, bean or other trinket.
• Pub & Kitchen: Spend Fat Tuesday, March 4 at the ever-appealing Pub & Kitchen. The Rittenhouse Square-area “restaubar” excels at providing a laid-back yet sophisticated experience, and its Mardi Gras special falls right in line. For $45, sup on a three-course meal of New Orleans-style fare like lobster and shrimp etouffee, gumbo and beignets, which includes the requisite hurricane cocktail. Reservations are available, but not required.
• Headhouse Crab & Oyster House: Get down Big Easy style at Headhouse Crab & Oyster House this Carnival season with a special menu from Friday, February 28 through Tuesday, March 4. Dig in to chef Mike Stollenwerk’s shrimp gumbo or po’ boy sampler paired with mixologist Katie Loeb’s Hurricane cocktail. In addition to the menu, Philadelphia band The Nines are set to jam on Fat Tuesday from 8 p.m. to midnight.
• The Twisted Tail: For bourbon and blues on Fat Tuesday, March 4, report to The Twisted Tail on South Street. Look for Louisiana craft beer Abita to be served by the bucket alongside po’ boy sandwiches, crawfish etouffee and more. Dine to the sounds of Reverend Chris, who will be playing traditional Zydeco jazz piano from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Fat Tuesday.
• Catahoula: Cajun fare — crawfish bisque, barbecue shrimp, jambalaya and that mighty red gumbo — in a barroom atmosphere make this Queen Village spot feel like a neighborhood joint in N’awlins. So in Mardi Gras season, Catahoula celebrates in a big way with food and drink specials all week long, March 3 to 6 from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
• Chris’ Jazz Cafe: Groove your way through Fat Tuesday at Chris’ Jazz Cafe on March 4. From 7 to 10 p.m., local New Orleans-style band Hoppin John Orchestra will belt out brass band tributes to Mardi Gras. Of course, there will be drink specials, too, with Hurricanes, Sazeracs and Abita beer, as well as steamed crawfish, crawdad cheesesteaks, jambalaya and King Cakes. Tickets, $12, are available for seatings at 7 and 9 p.m.
• Pennsylvania 6: A Midtown Village spot know for its deft touch with seafood, Pennsylvania 6 takes on a Southern accent on Tuesday, March 4 with special menu items like oysters Rockefeller and a muffaletta sandwich with duck fat fries, as well as classic cocktails like the Sazerac and Hurricane, and original cocktails named for New Orleans characters. Tunes from Josh Fialkoff and the Philadelphia Stride begin at 6 p.m. and will play through the night.
• City Tap House: In University City, City Tap House raises a pint to N’awlins with The Great Abita Donut Tasting. A handful of varieties from the Louisiana craft brewery will be paired with four kinds of doughnuts — from The Elvis (peanut butter with Neuski bacon and banana cream) to the Cake (a cayenne powdered sugar doughnut with and beer caramel). Plus, Johnny Goodtimes leads Fat Tuesday-themed quizzo at 10 p.m. and Uber will be on location with swag and prizes (read: a ride home).
• The Sidecar Bar & Grille and Kraftwork Bar: Both of Chef Brian Lofink’s kitchens get in on the Fat Tuesday action with special offerings at The Sidecar Bar & Grille in Graduate Hospital and Kraftwork Bar in Fishtown. At either restaurant on Tuesday, March 4, order up Southern-style fare like chicken gumbo, hushpuppies and a one-pound crawfish boil complete with Andouille sausage, potatoes and crispy boudin.
• World Cafe Live: This is the 30th annual Mardi Gras celebration for local band, The Wild Bohemians, at World Cafe Live on Tuesday, March 4. The band’s repertoire consists of any and all music from Louisiana, including Cajun, Zydeco, Dixieland, Mardi Gras Street Music, Jazz, R&B, and a specialty the Bohemians called Swamp Stomp. Sure to be a good time, tickets are $12 and available online at Wold Cafe Live. Doors open at 8 p.m.
• Beck’s Cajun Cafe: In honor of the festive holiday, Beck’s Cajun Café in Reading Terminal Market is serving delicious King Cakes. In case you haven’t gotten the memo, Beck’s is the spot for authentic N’Awlins cuisine, and Chef Bill Beck’s King Cakes are the real deal. You can order small individual cakes throughout this week; the more traditional ring cakes which serve 15-20 can be ordered on a day’s notice.
• Mummers Mardi Gras: In the spirit of the iconic Mummers Parade every New Year’s Day, The Piazza at Schmidt’s hosts a blowout bash, complete with tons of Mummers, to get folks in the celebrating spirit for Mardi Gras. On Saturday, March 1, head to the Piazza for Mummers Mardi Gras. Look forward to performances by the Mummers Fancy Brigades, string bands, magicians, jugglers, stilt walkers, DJs and much more.Tickets are $15 for general admission and $75 for VIP. VIP tickets include a heated tent, open bar, access to the area closest to the stage and photo opportunities with the Mummers. Tickets are available online.
• Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen: Raise a glass to Mardi Gras and say “Happy Birthday” to Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen as the Fishtown pub celebrates its first birthday and Mardi Gras on Saturday, March 1 with a Mardi Gras Block Party. Look forward to a menu of Southern-inspired eats including alligator on a stick, okra hush puppies, catfish po’ boys, mac and cheese, gumbo and beignets.