Americans are great at boozifying celebratory days that historically have nothing to do with living it up: the death of St. Patrick, the Battle of Puebla, the night before Thanksgiving. And while that can lead to some cringeworthy moments (white people: Stop with the sombreros, serapes and Pancho Villa ’staches already!), Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday" in English) is a day everyone can get behind, because it has always been a celebration of excess in advance of Lent's ritual fast. To start your celebrations early, one of our favorite Southern joints in town, Julep, 3258 Larimer Street, is closed Mondays and Tuesdays but is offering specials on Hurricanes, beignets, New Orleans-style barbecued shrimp and (in a true regional mashup) Rocky Mountain Oysters Rockefeller on Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2. So start your partying early — if you ever stopped — and plan for one of these ten celebrations before giving up all the good stuff until Easter.
1800 Wazee Street
The Dairy Block might know how to throw a party, but it's not as up to speed on religious holidays. Celebrating Fat Tuesday on Saturday, March 2, and Sunday, March 3, might help you avoid a Wednesday morning hangover, but it also stretches the deprivation of Lent from 40 days to 42. Still, the weekend festivities are worth attending: From 8 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, a Masquerade Bacchanal will take over the alley, with Big Easy-themed food and drinks, live entertainment and giveaways to guests decked out in their finest Carnaval gear (masks are required; bring your own or purchase one at the entrance); Sunday boasts a family-friendly Petite Parade with miniature floats circling the block and an Alley Party where circus performers, kids' crafts, brass bands and bites will bring the fun from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Get details, purchase tickets for the Masquerade ($80) and register your parade float on the Dairy Block website. And if you want to keep partying through Tuesday, we won't tell a soul.
3435 South Broadway, Englewood
Revelers looking for a relaxed vibe should hit up this friendly neighborhood joint, where the staff is welcoming whether you're bellying up to the bar for the first time or the 500th. And on Mardi Gras, there are fifty more reasons to spend the evening here: Free king cake will be served, and if you find the baby, you win a $50 bar tab. Wash down your cake with $6 Sazeracs starting at 4 p.m.; indulge in Cajun food and hear live jazz from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Details are on the bar's Facebook page.
Jax Fish House
Unsurprisingly, Jax Fish House is closing out Carnaval with an extravagant Fat Tuesday menu. Starting at 4 p.m., the Glendale, LoDo and Boulder locations will be rolling out specials including gumbo, king cake beignets and crawfish in spicy broth with the traditional accoutrements of potatoes, corn and andouille sausage. Also of note is the all-night happy-hour pricing on freshly shucked oysters ($1.50 apiece) and $3 oyster shooters. Reservations aren't required, but you don't want to miss out on the limited amount of crawfish (which is being flown in live from the Pelican State), so they are recommended. Find the whole menu on the Jax Fish House website.
1201 South Pearl Street
This rowdy blues venue is a great stop for Cajun food all year long; its everyday menu includes nearly every preparation of crawfish a Coloradan can imagine, from Cajun popcorn (deep-fried crawfish tails served with remoulade) to po' boys to étoufée. And on Mardi Gras, the bar is adding the traditional boil to its already expansive Deep South offerings. Since the joint opens at 11 a.m. and stays open until 2 a.m., there's plenty of time for you to get your fill of mudbugs before taking in the show at the no-cover bar. Visit Lincoln's Facebook page for event details and its website for upcoming shows.
My Make Studio
6460 East Yale Avenue
There are a few reasons we can think of for making cookies to celebrate Mardi Gras. Perhaps you're giving up hard drugs and liquor, and sugar being a relatively benign indulgence, you'll be using your stash of sweets to ease yourself into Lent. Perhaps you plan on eating your entire batch of cookies the same night (no judgment here). Maybe you're babysitting your godchild while their parents are out collecting beads. Or perhaps you just don't want to get blitzed on a Tuesday night. All are legitimate reasons to register for the cookie-decorating class at My Make Studio, where you'll learn the ins and outs of making royal icing as well as the details of decorating Mardi Gras-themed sugar cookies. Class ($44.40 with code 15OFF) runs from 6 to 8 p.m, with beer and wine available for purchase if you want to bid farewell to Carnaval with a tipple or two. Reserve your spot on the My Make Studio website.
Oak at Fourteenth
1400 Pearl Street, Boulder
For particularly refined extravagance, opt for Oak at Fourteenth's four-course, Dixie-inspired pre fixe dinner on Fat Tuesday. With classic Southern dishes like fried green tomatoes and okra, freshly baked biscuits, shrimp Creole and grits, paired with the famed Sazerac, the Vieux Carré, and lesser-known New Orleans cocktails like the Brandy Crusta and Bywater Cocktail, you're sure to enter Lent feeling satisfied, body and soul. Find the full menu and make reservations on the restaurant's website.
5535 West 56th Avenue, Arvada
Festivities and flambeaux on Fat Tuesday: That's what this Arvada brewery has in store starting at 6:30 p.m. The party includes tunes from the Mile High Brass Band and a Cajun menu with gumbo, the ubiquitous crawfish étoufée, muffalettas and king cake. Tickets, $35, are required for this bash and include your first drink of the evening; get yours on the brewery's Facebook page no later than Friday, March 1.
1330 27th Street
What better way to honor New Orleans traditions than with great jazz paired with great food? The elegant RiNo supper club Nocturne is doing both on Mardi Gras, when the Tom Amend Trio takes the stage to accompany a four-course Cajun tasting menu as festive as the music. Expect a welcome cocktail, grilled oysters with barbecue butter, crawfish Monica made with gnocchi and spicy mornay sauce, jambalaya, and beignets for just $59. Make your reservation on Nocturne's website and get ready for the tastes (and sounds!) of the Big Easy.
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North Side Tavern
12708 Lowell Boulevard, Broomfield
Craving frog legs before your fast? Counter-intuitively, you'll need to head north — to Broomfield, where North Side Tavern is including fried frog legs on its Mardi Gras menu. The food at this joint skews higher-end, with bison carpaccio and duck confit pot pie on its regular board, but this Mardi Gras, gumbo and a massive crawfish platter ($30 serves two hungry partiers) will join the amphibious appetizers on the table. The good times roll starting at 5 p.m.; find out more on the Tavern's Facebook page.
2775 Valmont Road, Boulder
Food truck for Fat Tuesday: That's the mantra at Boulder's Rayback Collective this year. La Rue Bayou and Crescent City Connection will both be serving their Big Easy fare from 5 to 9 p.m. (regular menu items include boudin balls, muffaletta, red beans and rice, po' boys and hush puppies), and Louisiana brew Abita Purple Haze will be on draft. While the event is open to the public and advance tickets aren't required, do yourself a favor and save a few bucks by snagging the dinner-and-drink package for just $30; it includes two drinks, dinner from one of the food trucks and a piece of Crescent City's king cake. Tickets and event details are up now on Eventbrite.