Mention the words Mardi Gras and immediately images of inebriated young adults roaming and searching for plastic beads are likely to fill your head. Thankfully for all of us, Dallas-area restaurants, cafes, and pastry shops serve Cajun food, beignets and King Cake to help us properly celebrate the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual of fasting begins.
NOLA Brasserie brings a bit of New Orleans' Bourbon Street to Dallas' Main Street. The upscale bistro tucked into the Westin's Downtown Dallas' hotel comes with a chef with 33 years of bayou country cooking experience. From handmade roux for the Etouffee and Gumbo, hand-breaded seafood like the Fried Catfish to handcrafted cocktails like NOLA Rum Punch, menu items are prepared from scratch. You will know how seriously these guys take Louisiana cuisine if you ask about the hair-splitting difference between Cajun and Creole food. The music is loud, the portions are big, and the bar is sizable making it a perfect dinner option for Fat Tuesday.
The Free Man
If you are craving a side of live music with your tried and true Cajun specialties, head to The Free Man. As a former musician, the owner opened his Deep Ellum restaurant in a space with enough room for a jazz band. Every night of the week guests can listen to live music while munching on the ever-popular hot Boudin Balls, fried oyster po' boy with a smoky remoulade or the rich and creamy Cajun Crawfish Pasta. Pro tip: beat the crowds and get here early! The restaurant is known to get quite busy on Fat Tuesday.
Aunt Irene's Kitchen
For hearty Cajun-Creole fare head to South Dallas. The mechanic-garage-turned-unfussy-restaurant serves some of the best Cajun-spiced seafood around. The most popular menu item is the "Black Box" - a black to-go container stuffed with perfectly-seasoned crab legs, shrimp, andouille sausage, corn on the cob and red potatoes. It is impossible to leave hungry.
Le Bon Temps
Dallas has plenty of bakeries that sell every type of sweet pastry under the sun, but in 2019 a cafe opened dedicated to nothing more than the bean-bag-sized pocket of sweet doughy goodness. Le Bon Temps on Main Street sells two types of beignets: the classic French Quarter variety and a French version with layers of butter that give it more of a croissant-like texture. French ice cream and coffee round out the menu, but they are just supporting characters to the main star: Le Beignet.
Bread Winners Cafe
Inwood Village, Uptown & NorthPark Center
One of the yummiest traditions of Mardi Gras is eating King Cake with friends and family on Fat Tuesday. A small plastic baby is baked into the oval-shaped colorful cake. The person who finds the baby in their slice will have a year of luck and prosperity. Bread Winners Cafe, a trendy cafe known for its weekend brunch, makes a mean King Cake. Make sure to order the purple, green and yellow cake early in order to beat the rush.
Haute Sweet Patisserie
The award-winning pastry chefs at this gourmet French pastry shop whip up an Instagram-worthy display case of colorful macarons, tart pastries and bite-sized cakes topped with fresh berries. But those are just your everyday pastries. To help celebrate Mardi Gras, pick up a box of beignets powered with fine sugar or traditional New Orleans Style King Cake. In addition to the traditional King Cake, the shop sells a Raspberry Jam filled King Cake and a Gluten Free King Cake. Pro tip: the best way to improve your chances of finding the plastic prosperity baby is to eat the whole cake yourself.
Header photo credit: The Free Man