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Can’t make it to New Orleans?
Celebrate Mardi Gras in Chicagoland
Here’s where to find the beads, blues and gumbo
By Mike O’Cull
Mardi Gras, literally “Fat Tuesday,” falls on February 24th this year and is the last day of feasting, drinking and dancing before Lent kicks in on Ash Wednesday, when we are supposed to give up our physically lustful ways and be good until Easter. Now, we all know that blues fans aren’t known for their self-control or their denial of earthly desires, so we here at Chicago Blues Guide want help our loyal readers with some recommendations on where to celebrate Fat Tuesday in Chicagoland, if they cannot make it to the official festivities in the Big Easy.
Mardi Gras has become much more than a New Orleans tradition, however, and is celebrated anywhere that people carry the spirit of the Crescent City in their hearts. So whip up some hurricanes, eat something smothered in hot sauce, turn up the blues, zydeco, R&B or whatever you like, and join the party.
In the Suburbs
6615 Roosevelt Road, Berwyn, IL -- Tel: 708-788-2118
FitzGerald’s cranks up the party machine for two nights on the 23rd and 24th. Fat Monday is their annual Jambalaya Cook-Off which features live music from C.J. Chenier and The Red Hot Louisiana Band. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Patrons will line up to taste the contestants’ entries, which will be judged by a celebrity panel. Fat Tuesday will be even bigger, with music from Paul Cebar & The Milwaukeeans, Chicago Cajun Aces and Roy Rubinstein’s Hot Six Jazz Band. Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets for both nights are $10. Southern comfort cuisine will be available at next-door neighbor Wishbone.
Chuck’s Southern Comfort Café www.chuckscafe.com
5557 W. 79th St., Burbank, IL -- 708-229-8700
Chef Chuck Pine, formerly of Frontera Grill, is planning a two-night party, but it will be held off-site at the Burbank Manor Hall, which is at 6345 W. 79th Street. Chuck’s party is a little early, being held on Friday the 20th and Saturday the 21st and will deliver live music by the Joe Moss Band and Hurricane Gumbo on Friday and the Daryl Couts Band and Dikki Du and his Zydeco Krew on Saturday. The all-you-can-eat buffet will offer a vast spread of New Orleans delicacies -- appetizers, soups, salads, entrees and desserts. The parties start at 7 p.m. both nights and go to until 1:30 a.m. Tickets are $50, which includes all food and entertainment. The cash bar offers hurricanes, margaritas, mojitos and more.
115 Bourbon Street www.115bourbonstreet.com
3359 W. 115th Street. Merroinette Park, IL -- Tel: 708-388-8881
This South Suburban venue’s motto is “Where the Windy City meets The Big Easy.” So you can expect them to let the good times roll with The Kings And Queens Of Mardi Gras show, which is billed as “A Male and Female Impersonator Show For The Ages” on the 20th. On Fat Tuesday at 6 p.m., musician/chef Marty Larkin brings his Rock & Roll Kitchen to the stage with Mardi Gras cookin’ and live music at the same time! Live music from Planet Groove at 8:30 p.m.; Dot Dot Dot at 10 p.m.
3080 Warrenville Road, Lisle, IL – 630-505-0240
It doesn’t have to be St. Patrick’s Day for the Irish to throw a party. This west suburban bar and grill will host a Mardi Gras Happy Hour party, 4 to 7 p.m. on February 24th with live Zydeco and Cajun music by Steamin’ Barracudas. The bar offers a huge specialty drink menu with hurricanes and tsunamis. There are two pool tables, 14 plasma screens, Guitar Hero, foos ball and darts. Laissez les bon temp roulez!
Buddy Guy’s Legends www.buddyguys.com
754 S. Wabash, Chicago, IL – Tel: 312-427-0333
If beads and debauchery aren’t your thing, but you still have a taste for blues and Cajun-style eats, Legends offers the best of both. Louisiana native Buddy insists on serving authentic cuisine and Legends’ kitchen cooks up tasty dishes like fried okra, crawfish etouffee, shrimp creole and several gumbos. They are open for lunch, dinner and late night. Blues harp master Matthew Skoller and band take the stage at 9:30 p.m. $10 cover charge.
Blue Bayou www.bluebayouchicago.com
3734 N. Southport – Tel: 773-871-3300
This restaurant/blues bar brings a bit of the bayou to Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Its daily menu offers a host of New Orleans classics such as po’ boys, Johnny cakes, fried green tomatoes, muffallettas, jambalaya and gumbo. The bar features Abita beer, hurricanes and absinthe. Each weekend, you can hear Chicago blues bands for no cover! The party starts on the 20th with Morry Sochat & the Special 20s, the 21st with Joe Moss Blues Band, and on Fat Tuesday it’s Daryl Couts Blues Band.
Copyright: February 2009, Chicago Blues Guide
Copyright: February 2009, Chicago Blues Guide