When people think of Fat Tuesday, they think of the music, colors and food of New Orleans. What started as a way for people to have fun and indulge before Lent has turned into a celebration of life, happiness, food and everything Creole or Cajun.
Not everyone can go to The Big Easy to celebrate, so throwing a mini Mardi Gras celebration in your restaurant is a good way to attract more customers. If you aren’t sure what to serve, here are some Fat Tuesday menu ideas for your restaurant that are sure to draw a crowd.
Fat Tuesday Dinner Ideas
Many restaurant goers want to sit down and enjoy a full meal, especially dinner. If you need Fat Tuesday dinner ideas, these traditional New Orleans dishes would make perfect entrees.
- Red Beans and Rice – One of New Orleans’s most popular dishes. Red kidney beans, ham, andouille sausage, Holy Trinity vegetables (onions, celery and green bell pepper) and spices cooked until creamy and served over rice. A splash of apple cider vinegar is a secret ingredient that really takes this to the next level.
- Dirty Rice – White rice that looks “dirty” because it is cooked with small bits of meat, vegetables and spices. For an authentic taste, use chicken livers in addition to ground beef and pork.
- Crawfish (or Shrimp) Étouffée – “Étouffée” means “smothered” in French, and it’s the perfect way to describe this dish of shellfish that are simmered in a dark roux-thickened sauce and served over rice. Although the crawfish version is the most popular, shrimp may be used as well.
Jambalaya and Gumbo
- Jambalaya – Similar to paella, this dish consists of meat (usually a combination of chicken, sausage and shrimp) cooked together with Holy Trinity vegetables and rice. “Red Jambalaya,” made with tomatoes, is the Creole version, while “Brown Jambalaya,” made without tomatoes, is Cajun.
- Gumbo – Similar to Jambalaya, Gumbo is a meat and seafood stew served over rice. The stew is usually thickened with a dark roux, although okra and / or filé powder (ground sassafras leaves) may be used as well. Once again, the Creole version contains tomatoes while the Cajun version does not.
New Orleans Sandwiches
- Po’Boy Sandwich – According to NewOrleans.com, the “Po’Boy” is a type of submarine sandwich made with roast beef, fried shrimp or fried oysters. To make the sandwich “dressed,” complete it with lettuce, tomato, pickles, hot sauce, and mayo. Serve with French fries.
- Muffaletta (Muffuletta) Sandwich – Invented by Italian immigrants, a large, circular loaf of Sicilian bread of the same name is this sandwich’s starting point. It is then filled with Italian cold cuts and cheeses. Instead of mustard or mayo, an olive salad made by combining chopped olives and Italian giardiniera vegetables is the main condiment. The loaf is then cut into 4 or more slices before serving.
- Seafood Boil – For something a bit lighter, boil shrimp and / or crawfish with potatoes, corn, onions, lemon, garlic and spices. Some people add andouille sausage for extra richness and a smoky flavor, too. Served with hot sauce, cocktail sauce, melted butter or even ketchup, a seafood boil is a great way to feed a crowd.
- Gumbo Z’Herbes – This stew is made with a blend of green leafy vegetables such as collard, mustard, carrot, beet and turnip greens. The ingredients are a bit flexible–just make sure you follow tradition and use an odd number of greens. Leave out the meat, and you have a traditional Fat Tuesday dish that is both vegetarian and vegan.
Fat Tuesday Dessert Ideas
No list of Fat Tuesday menu ideas for your restaurant is complete without desserts. Some people have a sweet tooth, so definitely consider offering at least one of these treats:
- King Cake – Similar to French galette des rois, king cake consists of brioche dough twisted into a circle, filled with cinnamon, and then topped with either sugar or icing that is colored purple, green and gold. Traditionally, a small figurine representing baby Jesus was placed inside the cake: whoever received the figurine in his or her piece had to provide the cake for the next party.
- Beignets – A type of doughnut, beignets are rectangular pieces of choux pastry that are fried perfectly golden brown and then topped with a generous amount of powdered sugar. As popularized by Cafe du Monde in New Orleans’s French Quarter, beignets go great with a café au lait (coffee with milk).
- Bananas Foster – By cooking bananas in brown sugar, butter and rum and then serving them over vanilla ice cream, bananas foster is an easy, quick and delicious dessert. Bananas foster is usually flambéed (the alcohol is set on fire) tableside, so new customers are sure to remember your restaurant if you serve this.
Mardi Gras Drinks
Bar-lined Bourbon Street is one of New Orleans’s most famous areas, so be sure to put some New Orleans cocktails on your restaurant’s Fat Tuesday menu:
- Hurricane – Developed in the 1940’s, this fruity rum cocktail got its name because it was originally served in glasses that resembled hurricane lamps. Passion fruit syrup or fassionola, a red syrup flavored with passion fruit and other flavors, give this cocktail its fruity flavor.
- Sazerac – With no juice or soda mix-ins, the sazerac cocktail is strong. The main ingredient is sazerac cognac, manufactured by a Louisiana-based company of the same name. Bitters, absinthe and a single sugar cube complete the cocktail, but since absinthe was illegal until recently, Herbsaint is also commonly used in New Orleans.
- Grasshopper – This green drink is made with crème de cocoa, crème de mènthe and heavy cream. According to acouplecooks.com, it was invented by Philip Guichet in 1918 for a cocktail competition in New York. After taking second place, Guichet started serving the drink at his bar in New Orleans.
Fat Tuesday Menu Ideas Beyond New Orleans
People in North America usually associate Fat Tuesday with New Orleans, but people in other countries celebrate the same day differently. So, you might want to consider offering:
- Pączki – Originally from Poland, these circular, fruit-filled doughnuts are popular in Chicago, Detroit and other cities with large Polish communities. Interestingly, the dough contains a small amount of vodka that keeps the pastries from absorbing too much oil while frying. Once fried, they are covered in glaze or dusted with powdered sugar.
- Fastnachts – Similar to pączki, these German doughnuts are popular in Pennsylvania Dutch areas of eastern Pennsylvania. Usually rectangular or triangular, they can be plain or fruit-filled, glazed or dusted with powdered sugar. Some recipes even call for adding mashed potatoes to the dough.
- Pancakes – Although not as common in the United States, some people (especially in the United Kingdom and Ireland) celebrate Shrove Tuesday (the same day as Fat Tuesday, but without the New Orleans association) by making pancakes, giving the day the nickname “Pancake Day.” Instead of a Fat Tuesday dinner, maybe a Shrove Tuesday pancake breakfast would be a good idea for your restaurant.
Adding menu items to celebrate holidays is a good way to increase sales. Fat Tuesday is all about getting out and enjoying life, so holding a celebration at your restaurant is sure to attract a crowd. After reviewing these Fat Tuesday menu ideas for your restaurant, it’s clear that there are a lot of ways to incorporate Mardi Gras flavors into your menu.
If you have a sit down restaurant, a hearty dish with Creole or Cajun flavors such as gumbo is a good choice. On the other hand, if you own a lunch counter or a sandwich shop, selling muffalettas would be perfect. For something lighter, healthier, as well as vegan or vegetarian, make gumbo z’herbes without the meat.
Additionally, a slice of colorful king cake is a good way to end the meal, and serving a classic cocktail like the hurricane is a great way to liven up the mood. If all the restaurants in your area are serving New Orleans dishes, selling pączki or offering an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast would be good ways to stand out from the crowd.
As you can see, there are a lot of ways to add items to your menu just in time for Fat Tuesday so that you can attract new customers and increase sales.