Mardi Gras – Fat Tuesday – comes early this year, signaling the end of carnival season and a final indulgent celebration before the beginning of the Lenten days of abstinence. Austin Mardi Gras observances have grown over the years, and even though it doesn't look like there will be a local parade, there are plenty of places to enjoy traditional Cajun/Creole dishes, along with king cakes, Community Coffee, Sazeracs, hurricanes, Abita beer, and bright-colored beads, all to the infectious beat of zydeco music. As they say in Louisiana, laissez les bons temps rouler!
Our search turned up two prominent varieties of this traditional carnival-season sweet: the French style, la galette des rois, a flaky crown filled with almond paste and cream, often decorated with sliced almonds or dusted with powdered sugar; and the Louisiana style, a buttery coffee cake filled with cinnamon sugar and frosted with a powdered-sugar glaze and sugar crystals in Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold. King cakes are served at parties that begin with the Feast of the Epiphany and continue through Mardi Gras. Tradition dictates there be a porcelain baby or king placed in each cake, and the person who gets the slice containing the baby has to provide the cake for the next party.
Sweetish Hill Bakery & Cafe, 1120 W. Sixth, 472-1347. Austin's oldest French bakery serves up la galette des rois and also has decorated shortbread crowns for your party.
Bakerman's Patisserie and Chocolatier, 120 E. Seventh, 476-0060. Co-owner Hope Arabie is from New Orleans and insists on the Louisiana-style cake made from brioche dough. Look for some beads and a note about cake history in the box.
Fiesta, 3909 N. I-35, 406-3900; 5510 S. I-35, 373-7800. The in-store bakeries offer two sizes of brightly decorated Louisiana-style cakes.
La Madeleine, multiple locations. This French-themed bakery-cafe chain offers la galette des rois. Preordering is a good idea.
Quack's 43rd Street Bakery, 411 E. 43rd, 453-3399. Large Louisiana-style cakes will be available this weekend through Tuesday.
Central Market, 4001 N. Lamar, 206-1000; 4477 S. Lamar, 899-4300. The in-store bakeries prepare the Louisiana-style cakes.
Whole Foods Market, 525 N. Lamar, 476-1206; 9607 Research #300, 345-5003. The in-store bakeries are making Louisiana-style cakes with three different fillings: cinnamon, raspberry cream cheese, and praline. A bonus: They'll donate $1 from the sale of each king cake to the White Boot Brigade, a group of commercial-fishing families working to rebuild the Louisiana shrimping community devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Sambet's Cajun & Fiery Deli, 8650 Spicewood Springs Rd., 258-6410. These folks will kick off crawfish season with their first of many Tuesday crawfish boils. King cakes, beads, and possibly live zydeco music.
Shoal Creek Saloon, 909 N. Lamar, 474-0805. The kitchen will be roasting whole pigs, frying turkeys, and serving up platters of cochon du lait, jambalaya, and Cajun fried turkey all day long.
Evangeline Cafe, 8106 Brodie, 282-2586. Owner Curtis Clarke says they'll have expanded seating and an extra beer bar under tents in the parking lot so his customers can enjoy the Cajun/Creole specialties on his regular menu plus plenty of beads and king cake. Cajun zydeco from Charles Thibodeaux & the Austin Cajun Aces with Cindy Cashdollar (6-8pm) and Ponty Bone & the Squeezetones (8:30pm-12mid).
Gene's New Orleans Style Poboys & Deli, 1209 E. 11th, 477-6600. Proprietor Gene Tumbs was doing his best to put together a neighborhood parade, but failing that, he'll preside over a big crawfish boil and offer beads and live zydeco on the deck at his place.
Cypress Grill, 4400 W. William Cannon Ste. L, 358-7474. The good times start rolling in the afternoon here, with a big crawfish boil followed by live music from Jean-Pierre & the Zydeco Angels, plus drink specials on hurricanes and Abita.
Hoover's Cooking, 2002 Manor Rd., 479-5006; 13376 Research #400, 335-0300. A special Mardi Gras platter with multiple choices including boudin, Cajun roast pork, gumbo, and bread pudding all day.
Fish City Grill, 4200 S. Lamar #300, 442-3478 (FISH); 1019 W. University Ave. #1025 in Georgetown, 512/864-7400. This family-friendly chain outfit will offer Cajun-inspired food and drink specials all day and evening, with live music from 7 to 10pm.
Ms. B's Authentic Creole Restaurant, 1050 E. 11th #100, 542-9143; 8105 Mesa Ste. A, 372-9529. Brenda McGowan will serve such New Orleans-inspired specialties as beignets, muffulettas, and sautéed soft-shell crabs at both locations. Indulge in famous New Orleans libations like Sazeracs and absinthe in her Eastside bar.
Roux, 214 E. Sixth, 479-0474. This relative newcomer to the entertainment district will sport holiday decorations, beads, live Cajun music, a limited Cajun/Creole menu, king cakes, and Louisiana-style drink specials from afternoon through late night.
Gumbo's, 710 Colorado #100, 480-8053, and the Brown Bar, 201 W. Eighth, 480-8330. Gumbo's regular menu of delicious Creole dishes will be augmented with beads and zydeco on the sound system. Next door at the Brown Bar, they'll be serving authentic Pat O'Brien Hurricanes and their signature Mardi Gras drink – the Big Easy Martini made with Absolut New Orleans vodka.
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