The New Orleans-themed Foggy Bottom restaurant and bar offers live music all day, starting with Cajun music by the Capitol Hillbillies on the front porch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The brass-fueled Torvi Band takes the stage from 5 to 8 p.m., followed by the funky Magnolia Blue from 9 p.m. to midnight. Admission is $25 after 5 p.m., which includes an all-you-can-eat buffet. 2519 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.
Both the Arlington and Capitol Hill branches of Bayou Bakery are hosting special events: The D.C. location has been festooned with purple and gold and is serving burgers and loaded baked potatoes inspired by the Crescent City's famous Port of Call bar. (Order a burger and you'll get a rum-heavy Monsoon cocktail for $5.) In Arlington, the restaurant celebrates the Clarendon Mardi Gras parade (see below) with a happy hour featuring $5 snacks, such as jambalaya, crawfish Monica and king cake, and $5 New Orleans beers and cocktails from 4 to 7 p.m. 901 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; 1515 N. Courthouse Rd., Arlington.
Don't like having to celebrate Mardi Gras on a school night? Black Jack starts its party on Saturday and keeps going all the way through Fat Tuesday. Saturday features drink specials from 3 p.m. until last call, including $2.50 Abita beers, $5 test tube and Jello shots, $8 Hurricanes and slushies, and $10 cocktails. Sunday brings an extended $65 all-you-can-eat-and-drink brunch from noon to 4 p.m. with live music by Black Masala. Monday and Tuesday both have all-night happy hours; Tuesday's attractions include an ice luge and live music by Swagfunk. 1612 14th St. NW.
Clarendon Mardi Gras Parade and Ball
The 18th annual Clarendon-Courthouse Mardi Gras Parade shuts down Wilson Boulevard from N. Barton Street to N. Irving Street — essentially between the Court House and Clarendon Metro stations. Beads are flung from floats sponsored by local businesses, marching bands perform, and revelers gather at bars along the route. The parade begins at 7 p.m., and once it's finished, everyone heads to the Clarendon Ballroom for a night of live music, gumbo, dancing and drinking during the Mardi Gras Ball. Admission to the ball is $25, which includes two tickets for food, beer or wine; the $50 VIP ticket includes unlimited food and drink and the chance to vote for the Mardi Gras King and Queen. New this year: the Jester Jaunt, a one-mile “fun run” along the parade route immediately before the parade begins. Costumes are encouraged; the $20 entry fee includes admission to the post-parade Ball.
Glen Echo Spanish Ballroom
Local zydeco enthusiasts Dancing By the Bayou bring Terry and the Zydeco Bad Boys from Duston, La., to the Glen Echo Spanish Ballroom for their Mardi Gras ball. The band performs from 8 to 11 p.m.; admission is $20. 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo.
Blues pianist and singer Marcia Ball — a member of both the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame — performs at the Hamilton with New Orleans' Beat Hotel at the Hamilton's Mardi Gras celebration. Fittingly, the club is removing tables to make room for a dance floor. General admission tickets are $35. 600 14th St. NW.
Hot and Juicy Crawfish
Have you ever contemplated how much crawfish you could eat in one sitting? Both the Woodley Park and Falls Church locations are hosting crawfish eating contests at 6:30 p.m., with hundreds of dollars in gift cards for the top three gluttons. If you're not into competitive eating, there are food and drink specials all day, including a free half-pound of shrimp for every pound purchased, and $1 beers for every pound of crawfish or shrimp. 2651 Connecticut Ave. NW.; 116 W. Broad St., Falls Church.
Ivy and Coney
There are, of course, ways to celebrate Fat Tuesday without beads and Hurricanes. The Polish tradition involves paczki, a pastry similar to a jelly-filled doughnut. Paczki are huge in Chicago, due to the city's strong Polish heritage, so the Chicago-themed bar Ivy and Coney hands out free paczki on Fat Tuesday. Because man cannot live on pastry alone, the kitchen will give out free pierogies, too, beginning at 4 p.m. 1537 Seventh St. NW.
The biggest party of Mardi Gras brings 20 restaurants and bars to Union Market's Dock 5, including Bayou Bakery, Buffalo and Bergen, Hank's Oyster Bar, Jack Rose, the Columbia Room, the Source, Good Stuff Eatery, PX and Archipelago. The $65 tickets include unlimited food and drink from 5 to 10 p.m., plus live music by Brass Connection, Dupont Brass and Laissez Foure, and entry into a Mardi Gras costume contest. (Full disclosure: I'm judging the Hurricane cocktail contest alongside Columbia Room's Derek Brown, PX's Todd Thrasher, and NBC 4 anchor Wendy Rieger.) Proceeds benefit D.C. Central Kitchen and New Orleans's St. Bernard Project. 1309 Fifth St. NE.