Find a little Nola in Madtown.
Mardi Gras is a beacon of light during these salt gray days of late winter, allowing us all a day (or two) to let our hair down and live it up. With celebrations spattered around Madison and the surrounding region, there is something for all ages, including kids and pooches, from Saturday through Fat Tuesday itself.
If you want to hear Dixieland jazz, head to Liliana's on Tuesday. In the mood for red beans and rice or $1.50 oyster shots? Try Essen Haus' all-you-can-eat Cajun buffet. Or if you prefer to party incognito, and even more German, er, Swiss flavor for your party, the Fasnacht Masquerade Dance is worth the drive to Monroe.
The Daily Page has plucked out a few of the best parties, bands and eats, to help you fully embrace the holiday's debauchery.
If you want to get Mardi Gras started early, head to the Gateway Mall at 600 Willy Street on Saturday, February 21 for their party. Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for the legal adults aged 18-25, and free for those even younger. Sponsored by LGBTOutReach and running from 5 to 9 p.m., music, soul food, mask and face painting workshops, a costume contest, and more make this a party for all.
Yes, this is a seminar. But, it's two days before Mardi Gras, and it only runs from 1 to 4 p.m., which gives you plenty of time to practice ripping your shirt off in exchange for beads. For a $5 donation to the Mad City Mardi Gras at Liliana's
The Fitchburg restaurant that serves New Orleans cuisine year-round is getting into the Fat Tuesday mix with the first annual Mad City Mardi Gras. This day-long benefit for the Fasnacht Masquerade Dance in Monroe
Costumes are encouraged at this Swiss-style Mardi Gras celebration. Billed as "great fun for Boomers and others," this hardwood floor dance will feature The Legends Band playing tunes from the '50s, '60s, and '70s from 2 to 6 p.m. Admission is $8 at the door, but you can get in free with an advance purchase of a $7 Fasnacht button from Turner Hall.
It wouldn't be Mardi Gras without Dixieland music, and that's just what you'll find at Liliana's on Tuesday itself. Starting at 5:30 p.m., a trio featuring June Dalton on sax and clarinet, Gary Beal on drums and banjo, and Harris Lemberg on piano will play the classic Nola sound.
Fat Tuesday at the Essen Haus and Come Back With drink specials and a $35 all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffet, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Fasching, or whatever you want to call it lives up to its reputation at Essen Haus and the Come Back Inn. After submerging yourself in jambalaya, seafood gumbo, shimp and $10 boots of Schlitz, you can groove to live Louisiana tunes by the Mardi Gras Party! at the Great Dane
Always a great place for a cold beer and hot food, the downtown Great Dan boasts a crawfish boil, a king cake to celebrate the following season of fasting. Starting at 8 p.m., Mama Digdown's Brass Band will lead a Blessing of the Bock downstairs before heading up to the billiards hall to perform at 10 p.m. Get in the spirit!
If you're not in the mood to party, but you want to nosh on some finger-lickin' good Cajun food to make it a really Fat Tuesday, there are some other good options in town, including Bab's French Quarter Kitchen on Willy, the Bourbon Street Grille in Monona, Louisianne's, Etc in Middleton, and New Orleans Take-Out East and New Orleans Take-Out West. And if food's your think, you can also salute the holiday a day later when the New Orleans-set finale of Top Chef Season 5 airs on Wednesday.