Big JonesPaul Fehribach, the Southern-food devotee at the helm here, is digging deep into Mardi Gras traditions, paying homage to the “Courir de Mardi Gras” (Fat Tuesday Run), in which partyers run from house to house demanding contributions to a communal gumbo pot. Fehribach is re-creating that pot, which will include chicken, sausage, ham, alligator, crawfish and who knows what else. It’s available alongside crawfish-and-pork boudin balls and King Cake as part of the Cajun County Ramble ca. 1955 Family Dinner, and no, you don’t have to run for it. 5347 N Clark St (773-275-5725). $25/person. Daily 5–9pm through Feb 26.
Cactus Bar & GrillHow many crawfish can one man or woman eat? Find out at the second annual crawfish-eating contest at Cactus, in which truly insane people will compete to see who can eat three pounds of crustaceans the fastest. A $25 entry fee for contestants benefits Habitat for Humanity of New Orleans: Reserve a spot at dontdrinkandtrade.com. Specials for spectators include $5 pints of Abita Purple Haze, $5 hurricanes, $10 shrimp po’ boys and $12 crawfish-boil platters. 404 S Wells St (312-922-3830). Free to attend. Tue 21 at 6pm.
CarnivaleNothing like stilt walkers to remind you how batshit crazy Bourbon Street is. Live music, samba dancing and a Mardi Gras–inspired menu complete the celebration. Just don’t take your cocktail out into the street; they arrest people for that here. 702 W Fulton Mkt (312-850-5005). Free to attend.
Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap Stop by Jake’s before Tue 21 and drop off your business card: On Fat Tuesday, the bar will draw a “King and Queen of Mardi Gras,” each of whom receives a $25 gift card. If all of this sounds too complicated, just go between Thu 16 and Tue 21 and eat beer-battered fish po’ boys and spicy jambalaya and throw back a few hurricanes ($5). 41 E Superior St (312-266-0400).
MoonshineChef Matt Wilde is ordering live crawfish from Louisiana to sate the desires of the Mardi Gras crowd at this raucous bar. The peel-and-eat crustaceans will be sold by the basket ($7/half-pound or $12/pound). Hurricanes ($6), cups of gumbo ($3) and Moonshine’s house-brewed beers will also be available, but it’s the restaurant’s notorious selection of hot sauces that will make the evening, um, hot? 1824 W Division St (773-862-8686). Tue 21, 5pm–2am.
SushiSamba RioBetween samba dancers, batucada drummers and a DJ spinning Brazilian music, SushiSamba is hoping to transport you to Rio de Janeiro—even if it means you have to settle for a live stream of the festivities in Brazil on a TV. Pull your eyes away from the screen and have a Carnaval Cocktail (Leblon cachaça, Domaine de Canton, fresh kiwi and Champagne; $12) or a Carnaval Roll (tuna, salmon, shrimp, yellow chimichurri sauce and Brazil nuts; $15). 504 N Wells St (312-595-2300). Tue 21.
Texas de BrazilWe like caipirinhas. We like mixology. Do we like to watch mixologists make caipirinhas? If they’re accomplished bartenders Josh Pearson of Sepia, Pete Gugni of the Bedford and Benjamin Newby of Underground, we’ll say yes. You can watch the friendly competition, too, by buying a ticket ($30), which includes a caipirinha sample from each bartender and hors d’oeuvres in a “Carnival” (read: drunken and colorful) atmosphere. 51 E Ohio St (312-670-1006). Tue 21, 6–8pm.
Toni PatisserieIf you find the baby trinket in your slice of King Cake from this bakery, you get good fortune for the next year. If you don’t, you get…a piece of cake without a tiny plastic baby in it. Two varieties—French style with puff pastry and almond filling ($17.95) and New Orleans–style with a powered-sugar glaze ($16.95–49.95)—are available through Tue 21. Chew carefully! 65 E Washington St (312-726-2020).