Round up the crawdads and polish the gumbo pans: Mardi Gras comes early this year. Here's a peek at three spots to get your Cajun leading up to February 20:
At downtown stalwart Fat Fish Blue (21 Prospect Avenue), it'll be stilt walkers, fire dancers, jugglers, beads, and an all-you-can eat buffet, beginning at 11 a.m. Among the edibles, find jambalaya, gumbo, pecan chicken, boiled crawdads, alligator bites, cornbread, red beans and rice, beignets, and more. And for your foot-stompin' pleasure, check out Cats on Holiday (1 p.m.), Yankee Zydeco (5 p.m.), and the Swamp Boogie Band (8:30 p.m.). Cost is $12 per person before 5 p.m.; after 5, when a 21-and-over policy takes effect, the cover goes up to $16. Call 216-875-6000 for details.
At South Euclid's Battiste & Dupree (see review), the vibe may be mellow -- after all, how hard can you boogie in a five-table space? -- but the made-from-scratch food really is a party on a plate. The noon-to-midnight menu includes crawfish, chicken étoufée, po' boys, red beans and rice, King Cake, and pralines; cost is $45 per couple, and reservations, at 216-381-3341, are essential. And get a foretaste of the fun from 4 to 6 p.m. on February 19, when owner Junior Battiste marks the grill's second anniversary with complimentary Nawlins'-style apps.
Town Fryer (3859 Superior Avenue) fans will have a final chance to say goodbye beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, February 16, when the shuttered roadhouse reopens through February 20 for a Mardi Gras extravaganza. Roots music will be the main draw, but a limited menu will feature boiled crawdads and all the fixin's. Owner Susie Porter also is planning a "not so silent" auction of Fryer memorabilia on Monday night (February 19), and her new cookbook, Deepfried Philosophies of Life, and Recipes will be on sale throughout the gala. Call 216-426-9235 for details; for more on the Town Fryer read Around Hear.
At long last, lunch . . . Midday meals are now on the menu at Lola (2058 East Fourth Street). Among the edibles, find mac & cheese with roasted chicken ($14), chickpea salad with grilled hanger steak and salsa verde ($13), a pressed turkey club with bacon and smoked cheddar ($9), and fried bologna, with coleslaw, pickles, and a fried egg ($9). Lunch hours are 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; call 216-621-5652 for reservations.