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Posted at 4:30 PM ET, 02/23/2009

Mardi Gras: Beads, Cocktails and All That Jazz

By Fritz Hahn

If you've ever been to New Orleans, you know there's no one way to celebrate Mardi Gras. Leave Bourbon Street's raunchiness and you can find cool jazz clubs, family-friendly parades and bars whipping up great cocktails. With that diversity in mind, we present our guide to D.C. Mardi Gras parties, whether you want to get the party started at 8 a.m., enjoy some hot jazz or take the kids to hear zydeco tunes in an alcohol-free environment. The choice is yours.

The Best Mardi Gras Party for . . .

Early Risers and People With the Day Off: Town Tavern
While you're fighting Metro crowds on the way to the office, the Town Tavern is opening early for beer and breakfast. From 8 to 10:30 a.m., the Adams Morgan bar is charging $12 for a "Louisiana Breakfast Buffet" and unlimited Budweiser drafts. (If the formula sounds familiar, it's a tribute to the old Lulu's Club Mardi Gras, which hosted similar pre-work bashes before it closed in 2006.) From there, the party switches to Hurricanes, with the rum drinks two-for-one all day.

After happy hour, Bud and Bud Light pitchers are $1 from 7 to 9 and $2 from 9 to 11. You might think you'd be tired of hanging out at the bar for 12 hours, but get this: the person who has collected the most beads by midnight wins $500 cash and a $500 Town Tavern gift certificate. There's a $5 cover all day, which will be donated to the Red Cross.

Beads and Booze: Rumors
The Bourbon Street Bash has hopped venues over the years, but it has never lost sight of its original premise: People like getting drunk, dancing and collecting beads. The evening starts at 4 p.m. with $1 Miller Lites, which shoot up to $2 between 5 and 10. Need something stronger? Try $3 Hurricanes all night long. Rumors will have masks and piles of plastic beads -- veterans bring their own -- plus gumbo and red beans and rice when you need to fill up. Local funk band Higher Hands provides live music and DJs spin dance tunes. Throw in a Cajun wing-eating contest and a $100 prize for the woman who collects the most beads, and you've got everything you need for an imaginary trip down to Bourbon Street.

Live Music and Dancing: Andre Thierry and Zydeco Magic
For real Cajun dance music, it doesn't get much better than accordionist Andre Thierry, whose band blasts out bluesy boogies with an irresistible party groove. They appear at Glen Echo tonight as part of Dancing by the Bayou's all-ages Mardi Gras party. The $15 cover includes an introductory zydeco dance lesson, king cake and beads. Doors open at 7:30 for the dance lesson, and the live music runs from 8 to 11.

Food, Cocktails and Hot Jazz: Michel Richard Central
Award-winning chef Michel Richard is French by birth, but he throws a mean Louisiana-style party. His second-annual Mardi Gras soiree at Central includes a menu stuffed with jambalaya, turtle soup, shrimp and crayfish etouffee, po' boys and bread pudding. Wash that down with special New Orleans drinks, like the Hurricane, Corpse Reviver #2 and the delicious Cocktail a la Louisiane, or an Abita beer.

Local quartet Laissez-Foure, which specializes in hot jazz, performs from 6 to 10. Everyone in the crowd gets beads, but we're not expecting an episode of "Gourmets Gone Wild."

Traditional Creole Food: Louisiana Kitchen and Bayou Bar
Bethesda's beloved Louisiana Express has returned, and the new, sunny space on Cordell Avenue feels a touch more upscale than the old digs. (Don't get your hopes up about the change of name -- the "Bayou Bar" consists of a half-dozen stools and a short counter near the hostess stand.) Veterans will find all their favorites on the menu: etouffee in a Cajun roux sauce, huge plates of andouille sausage and dirty rice filled with spices, livers and giblets, oyster po' boys dressed and stuffed into French bread, and deep fried alligator beignets. Wash it all down with some Abita beers from New Orleans, and you have yourself a great (and affordable) meal.

For Mardi Gras, the restaurant will be serving king cake and $5 Hurricanes all day, plus handing out beads and gold coins.

Happy Hour: Acadiana
While there are plenty of debaucherous parties around, others seem to be designed for adults. Acadiana, for example, is hosting a special Mardi Gras happy hour on Monday and Tuesday that focuses on New Orleans drinks -- the Hurricane, the Pimms Cup, Dark and Stormy and Bourbon Lemonade -- for $5 each. (Of them all, we'd suggest the Category Five, which mixes several rums into a sippin' drink that will blow you away.) A special menu of "New Orleans Street Fare," including sliders and crawfish bread, is available for $2 to $5. These deals are available in the bar between 5:30 and 10:30.

A Late-Night Party: The Park at 14th
The Park's getting started at 4 p.m. with $4 Hurricanes and other drink specials until 7. DJs will be spinning until 2 a.m.

Something Lower Key: The Red Derby
The coolest little bar in Columbia Heights throws a party with beads, feathered masks, Hurricane drink specials and king cake. Don't worry -- you'll still be able to get $2 Schiltz, Natty Boh and Woo Woo shots.

Bringing the Kids: Clarendon Mardi Gras Parade
A bit of Bourbon Street comes to Wilson Boulevard for this annual parade, which features floats constructed by local businesses driving from the Court House Metro Station to Clarendon. Besides the chance to catch beads tossed from the participants, the parade features live music, including the Ballou High School marching band. After the last float finishes, adults keep the party going at nearby bars -- Whitlow's on Wilson is hosting a special concert, for example.

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | February 23, 2009; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events  
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Adams Morgan [Madam's Organ] is likely to be replete with numerous drag queens, some hard to 'miss' [ms.] and some you may wish you missed. LOL

Posted by: | February 24, 2009 4:15 AM | Report abuse

Best cajun food is in Manassas. LA Kitchen and bayou Bar sucks.

Posted by: sheepherder | February 24, 2009 6:25 AM | Report abuse

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