Carnival is a marathon, not a sprint and you’re going to need fuel.
Mardi Gras parade food needs to fit your schedule. The form should fit the function. Fried chicken is the undisputed champion of the route, but these places offer a little extra beyond the staple classics. They’ve got fried chicken, and then some.
Inside the JetGo gas station on Magazine, a few blocks upriver from Louisiana, Shawarma On-the-Go is conveniently positioned to fill you up after you’ve found a parking spot for the Uptown route. It has a rather extensive menu that includes plenty of the unexpected, like Philly Cheesesteaks and Fried Halloumi Cheese Wraps ($10.99). Its hummus and pita are perfect for sharing with any hungry friends who might want a dip. The Chicken Shawarma ($10.99) with hummus and salad would be my go-to parade food. Thinly sliced chicken together with a couple of fries wrapped in warm grilled pita — it’s perfect fuel for a night of catching bags or a nice pairing with a box of wine.
If you’re headed to a party in the Quarter or hitting one of the walking parades, Hooks Catching and Frying is one of the best places to get fried food of any kind. On the corner of North Galvez and St. Bernard, everything is fried to perfection. They have a special batter that comes out crisp and full of flavor. They’ll ask you if you want “seasoning,” this should not be confused with Brother’s Cajun option. Hooks puts on a dusting of their own special blend of salt-free seasoning that will have your tastebuds guessing the whole plate. All the chicken is fantastic (I’ve celebrated with a gizzard plate more than once). The shrimp plate ($8.99) comes with bread and fries. They have crazy fish options as well — if you want to show up to a party with a whole-fried snapper you now have a number to call.
Big Easy Fresh Market
A new face to the scene, Canal and Broad’s newest grocery store is bringing the heat on its hotline. They’ve always got a healthy supply of fresh fried chicken (4.99/lb) and fries as you might expect to see in New Orleans. The rest of their offerings should not go ignored either. They have some of the best tortillas in the city, so take a walk up and down the line and see what you’d want to wrap up in a fresh corn tortilla that’s as tender as their fried rib tips, or barbacoa. Don’t forget to ask for tortillas.
A staple among court and construction workers, WeGo Wings on Tulane between Broad and Jeff Davis is a great spot to grab wings if you’re headed downtown for the festivities. Their combos include a side and a drink ($7.29). They’ve got great treats to share as well—crab rangoons, cho-chos, and egg rolls. They give you the option of classic breaded double-wing (get it with the WeGo sauce) or glazed single-wings. Their lemon pepper is snappy, but the spicy garlic might be the number one showstopper. If you’re looking for something handheld they’ve got po-boys and banh mi’s. Fresh and flavorful, their chicken might be my sneaky choice for the best thing on this list.
All of these places are worth sewing into your plans this parade season, but it’s not an exhaustive list. It would serve anyone well to keep a few things in mind. If you’re listening to the bands roll by on St.Charles near Jackson, there are always Brother’s and several other reputable and reliable suppliers of parade flavors. All lines at street-side trailer grills can be trusted—smoked sausage on a roll is normally my craving when I get too close to their smoke. And food this time of year is always best shared, so bring enough for everyone and enjoy yourselves.