Experience Soulard Mardi Gras Like a Local
Attending a Soulard Mardi Gras is a rite of passage as a resident of the region. Sure, you could show up and wing it—throw on some purple and green, grab some beads and fit right in—but to get the most out of one of the city’s most iconic weekends, you have to know where to eat, where to drink, and where the best events and parties are around town.
- If you are going to do it, do it right. Head downtown to Soulard (if reading this from out of town, it’s pronounced Soo-lard).
- Ideally, you know someone who has an apartment in the area, or a friend of a friend’s shindig you can call home base. The only currency that matters is bathroom access, so have a plan, or plan to make friends.
- Porta-potty lines will be long.
- Don’t drive. Take an Uber/Lyft/taxi, the Metrolink, or, even better, have a very generous friend drop you off.
- There is no better way to experience Mardi Gras than by being in the Bud Light Party Tent. Admission gets you an open bar, heat lamps, BATHROOMS, a cajun lunch buffet, optimal parade viewing, and free beads.
- Don’t count on your cell phone for communication. Cell reception has been historically bad during the Saturday festivities. Pre-arrange a meeting place or find WiFi for iMessaging at a restaurant or bar.
- Wear comfy shoes, preferably the waterproof kind. February weather can be all over the map and precipitation (and spillage) is a possibility.
- Eat a good breakfast/brunch (see below).
- Have fun! Don’t be ‘that guy’ or ‘that girl.’ Drink responsibly.
Where to Eat
To make the most out of Mardi Gras, you’re going to want to eat like you’re in New Orleans. While we don’t have Cafe Du Monde or Commander’s Palace, we do have plenty of other good options. The parade starts at 11 am, so you’ll want to grab something great before AND on your way back home.
Snacks to Go
If you’re driving into Soulard, you’ll want to stop along the way to get yourself a pre-Mardi Gras treat. Both Companion and La Patisserie Chouquette’s will both be selling traditional King cakes, while the Strange Donuts will be offering Hurricane-flavored donuts and king cake cinnamon rolls.
The Central West End (CWE) is a good central location for doing some eating. There’s no such thing as a light brunch, and especially not in New Orleans during Mardi Gras season.
No one has ever left Brasserie’s brunch hungry before, and that will be especially true with their special king cake eclair on the menu (not to mention their beignets!). Can’t make it in for brunch? Pop in after the day’s festivities for a gigantic, warming pot of cassoulet.
If you’re looking for less French and more Creole/cajun, a visit to Evangeline’s in the Central West End is in order. That means classics like jambalaya, andouille red beans and rice, boudin balls, and live music.
Down the street is the stunning new restaurant, 1764 Public House, serving up NOLA-style food all day, from brunch to dinner.
Closer to Soulard, Sister Cities Cajun serves up both classic and modern takes on Cajun cuisine, including dishes like shrimp & grits, seafood gumbo, and Bayou nachos. Broadway Oyster Bar, a St. Louis icon, adds a number of oyster options (the NOLA style with spinach and bacon cream sauce seems right for the occasion) on top of their Cajun-filled menu.
If you’re in Lafayette Square, the recently opened L’Acadiane offers a slightly more refined take on all your cajun favorites. Byrd and Barrel, famous for their delicious fried chicken, will be going all out with their fried chicken and king cake platter.
In Soulard proper, you’ll want to pop into Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co., a casual seafood-focused restaurant owned by award winning chef Kevin Nashan. Load up on fried clams, get a po’boy and a boozy slushie, then head down to the parade. However, the king of Mardi Gras is Molly’s in Soulard: seven bars, six DJs, a heated patio, and food.
Mix and match any of these, whether you’re going for brunch, lunch, or dinner, and you’re guaranteed to have a very fulfilling—and just plain filling—truly local Mardi Gras experience.