The Skinny on Fat Tuesday in the Square

You don't have to miss New Orleans to be part of the Fat Tuesday fun at NOLA, which just happens to be celebrating its first Mardi Gras in Market Square. Even though the Creole-accented dining spot opened for business just about a year ago, NOLA's created such a strong buzz among its loyal and growing following that it seems to have been in the Square much longer. So as it prepares to celebrate its first anniversary, NOLA's also introducing a new tradition in the Square with its inaugural Mardi Gras party.

The fun starts early in the A.M. That's when members of the NOLA krewe will be passing out fresh-roasted Chicory coffee from its next door neighbor, Nicholas Coffee, and the Crescent City's favorite pastry — beignets — to passersby on their way to work or a even a Downtown Carnival party. Hey, we're open for invitations on that one. You can pick up a cuppa java and a sweet treat from eight in the morning until two that afternoon. Speaking of sweets, our good friends at Prantl's will get you in an office party mood with an assortment of Mardi Gras cupcakes, cookies and even that grand old New Orleans tradition, the King Cake. Now if you're not up to speed on your Mardi Gras customs and traditions, the King Cake is a tasty concoction that contains a tiny figure of a baby inside. Whoever is lucky enough to get a piece of the cake with the tiny toddler in it is said to receive special privileges for the rest of the year. Keep that in mind if you just happen to dine at NOLA.

Now, we don't know what you might "give up" during Lent this year, but until Fat Tuesday's over, why not stop by NOLA for one last night of feasting before the fasting starts. Before the Cajun classics come to the table, you might want to whet your whistle with one of the evening's specialty cocktails. Maybe you're in a frosty Blue Hawaiian mood or want to get artistic with a Toulouse Martini. And we're sure you'll be blown away by a Classic Hurricane. Or perhaps a Sangria Bloody Mary will put you in the mood for a Crescent City Stomp to the jazzy blues sounds of John Gresh's Gris Gris Band. And if you happen to stop by NOLA this coming weekend, your receipt will get a complimentary Mardi Gras sangria on Fat Tuesday.

While everyone's getting into the Mardi Gras spirit, chef Len Pisano will be busy in the kitchen creating some N'Awlins style dishes such as a spicy wild shrimp boil, duck and oyster gumbo, Louisiana crawfish étouffée and fried chicken with biscuits. And that sounds like a "croc" of good eats, there's no better way to start off than with a platter of crispy, spicy fried alligator that's got plenty of bite. And don't forget that King Cake on the dessert menu. If you happen to be the lucky one to get the baby, you'll enjoy some tasty discounts on future visits to NOLA.

Of course, there are plenty of places around the Square to dig in for one last culinary blast before the party's over. Whether it's a monster pastrami sandwich at Primanti's or a sampling of Italy at Bella Sera, there's a place for every taste in the Square. You might even get some beads tossed your way.

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