The Scoop: Mardi Grapalypse
How to survive Carnival
A clear path through Mardi Gras takes a little planning.
CHERYL GERBER PHOTOGRAPH
Everybody has a Mardi Gras horror story. The friend from out of town whom NOPD apprehended micturating in public and had to face the dismal choice between turning his shirt into a wet-mop or spending a weekend in the clink. The younger sister who lost her cookies in the back of a cab. The entire clan of relatives who got lost trying to figure out the difference between Mid-City and Central City and showed up at the end of Endymion wondering when the floats would start. Hypothetically speaking.
But set bodily humors and stubborn relatives to one side – there’s only so much we can expect of ourselves, after all. There are a few simple rules to surviving Mardi Gras with your person, your memory and your dignity (and your court record) intact. First, find a restroom. Second, find a restroom. (No, really, find a restroom.) Third, find food. Fourth, know where you’re going, how to get there and (most importantly) how to get the hell out after everything is over with.
There are several hazily legal contrivances that can help you through steps 1 and 2, such as the “gotta go cup,” a particularly brilliant (and simple) improvised loo. Since we can’t really endorse it – we’re not sure just how valid its legality is – we’ll just say that it consists of a poncho, an extra-large go-cup and a good poker face. (It works best on rainy days.) It is a good idea to carry hand sanitizer, too, but let’s face it, if you’re resorting to this method, you probably haven’t planned ahead very well.
But if you plan on acting a little more civilized and, well, adult this Carnival season, there are plenty of pit stops – for food, beverages or relief – all along the Uptown parade route.
The corner of Napoleon and St. Charles avenues has long been a popular neutral-ground-side parade location. Adventurous souls have posted up at Fat Harry’s bar and, years ago, Copeland’s restaurant. The former Copeland’s has since reopened as Superior Seafood (4338 St. Charles Ave., 293-3474), a fishy cousin to Superior Grill. As is usual for the Mardi Gras season, Superior “will have a special Mardi Gras menu that will be scaled down some,” says partner Gabe Garza, but they “will also have balcony areas available.” The cub restaurant will also feature drink specials and happy hours, changing daily.
On the same corner, across St. Charles Avenue, the Academy of the Sacred Heart’s Mater Campus (4301 St. Charles Ave.) will also relieve and refuel the needy reveler. The Sacred Heart Fathers Club, a volunteer association of the student body’s dads, runs a self-contained, rotating Mardi Gras party every year on the campus. For $1 you can use a portable toilet once, or for $5 they’ll give you a wristband that gets you in and out all day. Public restrooms – especially portable ones – may seem like a sticky proposition during Mardi Gras, but Liz Manthey, a spokesperson for Sacred Heart, reassures us that volunteers clean the units every hour or so. “They go in pretty regularly,” she says; the toilets “are pretty popular, and they don’t want them to run out of paper.”
At the other end of the input-output equation, the Fathers Club also runs a cookout on the campus, serving red beans, hot dogs, soft drinks and beer. “It’s a family-oriented corner in a lot of ways,” says Manthey. “People are there with their children, family and friends. It’s a protected area.”
The added draw at Sacred Heart is their parking lot. $350 buys you guaranteed parking for the parade season. (Unfortunately, they’re sold out for this year, but it’s something to keep in mind for 2013.)
If seafood and suds aren’t quite your bag, The Delachaise (3442 St. Charles Ave., 895-0858) offers al fresco dining and drinking for the Carnival season. “During Mardi Gras we have a food menu that we can bring out in a paper cone – like fish and chips,” says bar manager Nicholas Halligan, “so it’s not crowded with plates that can get broken. And we have a lot of quick cocktails, and we’re well-equipped with go-cups.” The galley-shaped wine bar will continue to offer its rotating selections of $5 wines by the glass through the season. And as for the duck-fat-fried potatoes – will they still be available? “Oh, hell yeah.”
Just Uptown from The Delachaise, Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church boasts of having the “cleanest port-a-potties in the city.” According to administrator Shaun Darnell, their units are cleaned after each use by the church’s youth group. As with Sacred Heart, $1 buys you a single pass and $5 gets you in and out for an entire day.
Continuing the inexorable procession downtown, there’s a vortex of convenience at St. Charles and Louisiana avenues. The Rite Aid at that intersection features the most comprehensive selection of distilled spirits available on that section of the avenue, and it will once again sponsor a bank of portable toilets through Mardi Gras Day. Though there will be no swarms of dads or youth groups hovering with mops and paper, there is also no usage fee at this oasis.
Still further downtown is the Irish House (1432 St. Charles Ave., 595-6755), where chef and owner Matt Murphy and his wife (and co-owner) Alicia Murphy will offer a specially designed Mardi Gras buffet, and will also have a bank of pay-per-use … well, you know what we’re talking about by now. They will be in the parking lot.
Now, assuming you’ve planned properly, avoided the pitfalls of Carnival and remembered to take in enough real nutrition and water (bloody Marys and ice don’t count) to make it through the all-important second Saturday of parade season, you should be downtown – or at least on Canal Street in Mid-City – for the passing of Endymion, which is scheduled to roll from City Park at 4:15 p.m., buttonhooking down through the CBD and finishing at the Superdome. The worst-kept secret for watching Endymion is the neutral ground at Howard and Loyola avenues. If you happen to be a little dozy from a day of … er … walking (yeah, right), it’s a decent enough place to take a quick (or long) nap in the shade of Crescent City Towers while you wait for this super krewe to make it downtown, and it’s in walking distance of the New Orleans Passenger Terminal – and the facilities thereto attached.
Well, we’ve prepared you as best we can. See you “at St. Claude and Dumaine!”
“King for Life” and New Orleans Magazine Person to Watch (2011) Patrick van Hoorebeck leads the Krewe of Cork, celebrating “wine, food and fun,” along Bourbon and Royal streets between Iberville and St. Ann streets, with a detour to Chartres Street between St. Ann and St. Peter streets, on Feb. 10. Check out the Queen and Grand Marshal for 2012, Allyson Cabes and Jean-Noel Formeaux du Sartel, from Jackson Square as they make their side trip.
The Societé de Sainte Anne has been keeping the tradition of masqueing in the French Quarter alive since 1969 (see related story, page 80). They have one rule – everyone is a participant. On Mardi Gras Day, the krewe musters at a home in Bywater and then proceeds through the French Quarter – accompanied by the Storyville Stompers – to Canal Street, to await the arrival of Rex. Watch – or join – from any of the bars or coffee shops along Royal Street.
If you can drag yourself out of bed early enough on Mardi Gras Day, catch Pete Fountain’s Half-Fast Marching Club on St. Charles Avenue below Washington Avenue. Follow them into the French Quarter to see Ste. Anne and Rex.
The Krewe of Barkus paws its way across the French Quarter between South Rampart Street and the Cathedral on Feb. 12. Walk the doggies—or watch the insanity – from Jackson Square, or post up at The Boondock Saint (731 St. Peter St.) or the Gold Mine Saloon (701 Dauphine St.).
The Jefferson City Buzzards march from all the way Uptown to all the way downtown bright and early Mardi Gras Day. So if you happen to wake up disoriented in Audubon Park and decide to head downtown to catch Ste. Anne, Rex and the Half-Fast folks, you’ll be in good company the whole way.