Festivities have already begun in the lead-up to Mardi Gras Day (February 28, 2017)! As I’ve witnessed first hand, celebrations in a city like New Orleans can be raucous fun, with plenty of good eating and drinking.
For those wanting to enjoy the lively spirit and food of Mardi Gras here in Vancouver, there are a number of establishments that specialize in Cajun and Creole cuisine. The food is high octane in flavour and meant to be shared, so grab a loved one or a group of friends and family and prepare to eat Mardi Gras-style!
Mamie Taylor’s (251 East Georgia Street)
The conviviality never ends at Mamie Taylor’s, a bustling Chinatown spot that boasts long tables conducive for socializing, unapologetically flavourful Southern comfort fare, and top notch cocktails. This year, from February 17 to March 3, from 5pm daily, the restaurant will be offering a Mardi Gras Fresh Sheet with classic New Orleans dishes. Start with turtle soup featuring dark roux, tomato, and sherry finish before digging into jumbalaya with Andouille sausage, gulf shrimp, spiced chicken, and okra. Gumbo with octopus, Andouille sausage, popcorn chicken, oyster crackers, and rice is also a great option.
King cake, a Carnival traditional treat, is for dessert. If you have a jade rooster (a Vancouver twist on the usual baby Jesus) in your slice, your cake is on the house!
Thierry (1059 Alberni Street)
I have fond memories of scarfing down beignets (square shaped doughnuts with icing sugar) from Café du Monde in New Orleans. Here, in Vancouver, the always delicious Thierry has launched its Fêtes des Beignets, which will run until March 15. Chef Thierry Busset is using his mother’s recipe for the beignets, which she used to make for him when he was a child in France.
Visit the Café and the beignets will be made to order (11am onwards) and served with either chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, or house-made raspberry jam (mmmm). Order 6 for $ 10.75 and then share them with someone you love.
Chewies Steam & Oyster Bar (2201 West 1st Avenue; 110-1055 West Hastings Street)
Two locations strong, Chewies serves up fabulous New Orleans inspired soul food. Co-owner Richard Chew adored the vibe and tastes of New Orleans and made it his mission to bring them to Vancouver – and with great success. The menus vary by location, but contain items like pork belly cracklin’, pan fried oysters, blacked chicken po’boy, Southern fried chicken (I think it’s the best in the city), and jambalaya.
The Coal Harbour location also has chicken fried crocodile with corn hush puppies, boudin sausage, and shrimp ‘n’ grits. And, of course, there are fresh oysters to be shucked and slurped. Desserts include beignets, as well as pecan pie. Basically, you won’t leave hungry when you go to Chewies.
On Mardi Gras Day (February 28, from 6pm to 1am), Chewies Coal Harbor will be celebrating their third anniversary as well as Fat Tuesday. Expect food, drinks, and live music by the Tim Sars Band.
Ouisi Bistro (3014 Granville Street)
Vancouver’s original Ouisi Bistro is just a few blocks from where I live, making it a great neighbourhood choice of me. This long time restaurant has been around since 1994, serving Creole and Cajun cooking to its loyal fans in a warm and inviting environment. Starters include Cajun style crab cakes with corn relish and a roasted red pepper vinaigrette, as well as gator bites with Cajun tartar sauce. Make sure to order mains like seafood gumbo, jambalaya, or seafood creole and finish it all off with pecan pie or Big Daddy Fry’s bread pudding.
Live music happens at Ouisi every Saturday night from 9pm to midnight. There’ll also be special Mardi Gras celebrations on February 28th with special guests, Cannery Row.