Fat Tuesday's

American, Southern/Soul
$$$$ ($14 and under)

Editorial Review

Fat Tuesday's is a New Orleans bar trying to be a college bar that's trying to be a New Orleans bar. It caters to restaurant lovers who come to sample the fabulous hot and spicy Creole cuisine, at the same time as drunken frat boys are playing air guitar to the wails of local rock and blues bands 10 feet away. It's a mixture that always draws hordes to this schizophrenic little bar.

Nestled in a tiny corner of a strip mall across from George Mason University, Fat Tuesday's is the local favorite watering hole, packed with a diverse group of students and suburbanites alike. Thursday through Sunday, live local bands like Blue Miracle and the Danny Morris Band keep the crowds on the sunken dance floor packed tight and sweaty, usually to the tune of a $3-$5 cover charge. Visitors walk into the convenience store-size bar with a snap, crackle and pop: the floor is littered with discarded peanut shells. The interior is dark, dingy, smokey and has that flea market, hole-in-the-wall charm. A few Mardi Gras artifacts from beads to brassieres hang from the rafters. For the most part, every square inch of the walls is covered by you name it: discarded license plates, photographs of random folks in various stages of inebriation, GMU memorabilia and business cards tacked, taped and stapled to the wall. If you can bring it in, they'll probably hang it up.

Each night of the week offers a happy hour special, but the real draw comes on, you guessed it, Tuesday, for Raw Bar Night. Patrons cram shoulder-to-shoulder to gorge themselves on the half-priced seafood fest featuring oysters, clams and mussels ($1.50 for a half-dozen) served open on a platter with a tangy dipping sauce. But don't miss the must-have heavenly spiced shrimp ($1.95 for a quarter pound) that are so spicy the faint at heart should keep a tall cold one within arm's reach. Get there early: raw bar specials start at 4 p.m. but the seafood is frequently all but gone by 9 p.m.

The usual menu is strictly N'awlins favorites, featuring Fat's Hot Crab Dip for $5.95, Po Boys sandwich platters for about $6 and more extravagant Jambalaya and Crawfish Etouffee entrees for $8 and $9, respectively.

The restaurant also offers quality live music. Crowds pack the bar to hear local bands rock Wednesday-Saturday nights. Grab a Cajun Mary or Voodoo Lager, pull a chair up near the stage and you'll be singing the sounds of the Bayou. -Cesar G. Soriano