Though Mardi Gras isn’t what Los Angeles is known for, the city has conjured up Hollywood-worthy celebrations in past years. The celebratory, diverse spirit of Los Angeles comes to life for this traditionally French-Creole-Catholic celebration.
Observed differently in cities across the country and internationally, Mardi Gras is most popularly celebrated during the three days before Ash Wednesday. Also referred to as “Fat Tuesday” or “Shrove Tuesday,” the festival is a time to indulge in “sinful” soul foods before Lent. Because of the city’s deeply rooted French history, New Orleans is the center of Mardi Gras celebrations in the United States, attracting about 1.4 million people annually.
Los Angeles has borrowed New Orleans’ Southern charm to create some enviable Mardi Gras traditions of its own. Here are the best places in to don your purple and yellow beads.
1. Original Farmers Market
6333 W. 3rd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
For the last 28 years, the Original Farmers Market found in Mid-City has hosted an annual Mardi Gras parade. Stroll down the paths of the market with the tantalizing smells of gumbo, trumpets sounding jovially and beads being tossed around. Eddie Baytos & The Nervis Bros will be the star attraction on Fat Tuesday, playing from 6 to 9 p.m., and will be sure to bring the Southern spirit to the celebrations.
2. Amoeba Music
6400 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
This iconic Hollywood music store shifts from hipster to Cajun and Zydeco tunes for one night. A celebration complete with shimmery masks, decadent floats and of course, more purple and gold beads transform Sunset Boulevard into NOLA’s Bourbon Street. Bring your own noisemakers and horns to join in the festivities.
3. The Little Jewel of New Orleans
207 Ord St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
This holiday of decadence and gluttony wouldn’t be complete without the best Southern food in Los Angeles. Widely regarded as home of the best shrimp po’boy in the city, this Chinatown gem will not disappoint those looking for an authentic taste of New Orleans. The perfectly cooked, crispy shrimp is stuffed into a soft, sturdy bread roll and doused in mayonnaise. Crawfish macaroni and cheese, beignets and hush puppies round out the decadent menu.
4. Mardi Gras Masquerade Party
Downtown Santa Monica
For those looking for an elevated experience, Stage + Table, L.A.’s elite culinary club, is hosting a Masquerade Party on Mar. 11. Chef Kate H, a NOLA native, will concoct a classic Mardi Gras table with king cake, meat pies and gumbo included. The experience will include the essence of a New Orleans speakeasy, complete with several mixologists and mandatory masquerade masks for admission.
5. Harold and Belle’s
2920 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90018
For a truly traditionally Southern dining experience, head over to Harold and Belle’s, the 40-year-old, family-owned Creole restaurant. Bursting with flavor of the seafood and sausage, its gumbo has been hailed as one of the best in Los Angeles by critics. The jambalaya, transporting diners to the bayou with the heat of the meat mixed with the tender shrimp, is another favorite. This comfort food joint has proven its worth in a city where NOLA natives complain that authentic dishes and Southern hospitality is rare.
Whether it be eating Southern grub till, tossing sparkly beads or dancing to the tunes of the Cajun accordion, Los Angeles has borrowed the spirit of New Orleans to make Mardi Gras a festival to remember. Revel in the greasy, vibrant and colorful holiday — the more sparkles, noise and gold, the better.