New Orleans may be considered the Mardi Gras capital of the world, but did you know that the first Mardi Gras celebration actually happened right here in Alabama? In 1703, French pioneers at Twenty-Seven Mile Bluff, the first settlement of Mobile, threw the first official Carnival celebration. The Azalea City has been rocking and rolling with weeklong Mardi Gras celebrations ever since. If you can’t make it down for the parades and parties this year, don’t fret. Local businesses and restaurants all over the state let the good times roll all month long. Here are seven places in Alabama to visit when you’re ready for a little Cajun revelry.
This funky little po’boy shop in Birmingham’s charming Forest Park neighborhood will instantly transport you to the New Orleans French Quarter. Housed in a pastel pink clapboard house with Saints memorabilia covering the walls and beads strewn all over its wrought-iron fence, the vibes are like a little slice of the Big Easy. Order a roast beef debris po’boy or spring for the garlicky, gingery Viet Cajun Seafood po’boy with Breaux Bridge crawfish and Gulf shrimp on Leidenheimer bread. A rotating menu of frozen cocktails and daiquiris provide the perfect complement to your salty, hot sauce-laden sandwich.
Mo’bay Beignet Co. (Multiple locations)
Nothing says “Laissez bon temps rouler!” like a morsel of fried dough doused in powder sugar. If you can’t make it to Café Du Monde’s iconic patio, one of Mo’bay Beignets numerous Alabama locations (Tuscaloosa, Orange Beach, Auburn, Mobile, Saraland) should do the trick. The shop sells just two things: beignets and coffee. You can choose to have your joe as the traditional café au lait, in a coffee and chicory blend, or a pecan praline blend. Don’t forget a tiny cup of buttercream or cinnamon syrup to put your sweet treat that much more over the edge.
Mobile Carnival Museum (Mobile)
Mobile is teeming with places that are sure to put you in the Mardi Gras spirit. Just walking by the iconic fountain in Bienville Square or passing by the romantic Malaga Inn are enough to have you dreaming in gold, green, and purple. However, if you want to get to the heart of the party, a visit to the Mobile Carnival Museum is a must. The historic Bernstein-Bush house has been headquarters for Mobile’s Mardi Gras history since 2005. Inside you’ll find all the makings of Mardi Gras, from life-size floats and ornate gowns, robes, and crowns to sequined masks and beads in every shape, size, and color.
Mr. PoBoy (Gurley)
After 15 years working in notable New Orleans restaurants, then a stint in New York City working under Michelin-starred chef April Bloomfield, Paul Alford brought his talents to the Yellowhammer State by opening Mr. PoBoy in Gurley (located about 20 minutes from Huntsville). Pop into his cozy dining room and get ready for your taste buds to thank you. The menu features everything from a traditional blackened catfish po’boy to cheddar-jalapeno cornbread crusted Duroc pork loin with brown butter sweet potatoes and granny smith butter sauce. Be sure to save room for the restaurant’s signature bread pudding, too!
The Seafood Bistro (Montgomery)
Mobile natives Paul and Jessica Do bring a taste of their upbringings on the Alabama coast to Alabama’s capital at Seafood Bistro. Their popular restaurant started inside a gas station before expanding to a bigger location with a dining room. You might be tempted to order everything on the menu. We recommend starting with Jess’s NOLA Style BBQ Shrimp and Paul’s Cajun-ish Gumbo, then going all-in on the seafood, whether you prefer it stuffed into a po’boy, fried and crispy on a platter, or seasoned and spicy in a boil.
Tim’s Cajun Kitchen (Huntsville)
After three decades in the Rocket City, Tim’s Cajun Kitchen is as beloved as ever. The laidback eatery serves nearly every Cajun or Creole specialty imaginable. From gumbo and jambalaya to Cajun crab legs, deep-fried alligator, and boudin, you won’t leave wanting for anything. Inside the eclectic eatery, you’ll find a wood-paneled walls, garland and beads strung up year round, and plenty of homegrown character to keep you busy until the food arrives at your table.
Panini Pete’s Café & Market (Fairhope)
Pete Blohme is something of a celebrity around these parts. His four restaurant concepts in South Alabama are all wildly successful, with folks visiting from all over the country to try his unique takes on Cajun cuisine. At Panini Pete’s, sandwiches are the name of the game. The café’s muffuletta was named one of the 100 Things to Eat in Alabama Before You Die by the Alabama Tourism Department, but there’s plenty more where that came from. Don’t leave without ordering a basket of Pete’s special beignets—served with a squeeze of lemon. Trust us, it works!