It may seem like we just celebrated the New Year in the Near West Suburbs, but February is officially here. And while everyone else is focused on cupids and candies, we’re here to tell you about one of the show's other stars — Mardi Gras. When it comes to Mardi Gras, feasting on delicious Cajun dishes is a great way to celebrate.
If you can’t make it to New Orleans for the celebration, we’ve got the next best thing. We’ve curated a guide to all the best restaurants in the area that offer mouthwatering Cajun dishes. From spicy gumbo to crispy catfish, we've got you covered. Get ready to satisfy your cravings and discover new hidden gems as we take you on a culinary journey through the world of Cajun food. So grab your beads and your bib, and let's dive in!
Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, is an annual celebration on the day before Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent. The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced back to ancient pagan celebrations heralding the arrival of Spring. In the Middle Ages, these celebrations were merged with Christian traditions, and today's Mardi Gras festivities were born.
In its modern form, Mardi Gras first began in New Orleans in the early 18th century. The first recorded Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans was in 1703, but the official organization of Mardi Gras parades did not begin until 1857. It quickly grew in popularity, and by the late 19th century, Mardi Gras had become a major cultural event in the city. Mardi Gras parades, balls, and parties have become an integral part of New Orleans culture, earning the city the title of "Mardi Gras Capital of the World."
The week-long Mardi Gras celebration is colorful and vibrant, featuring elaborate floats, costumes, and masks. The activities during Mardi Gras reflect the city's diverse cultural heritage and the traditions of its many communities. Today, Mardi Gras is celebrated across the U.S. and around the globe, remaining an essential cultural celebration that brings together people of all backgrounds.
One of the highlights of any Mardi Gras celebration is the delicious food. And since Mardi Gras is so deeply tied to New Orleans, many of the most delectable dishes are Cajun.
Cajun cuisine originated in the 18th century in the Acadiana region of Louisiana, located in the southern part of the state. The Cajun people, who were primarily of French-Canadian descent, settled in the area and brought their traditional French culinary techniques and recipes with them. Over time, they began incorporating local ingredients, such as seafood and game, into their cooking, creating a unique and distinct cuisine. Cajun cuisine also has a strong African-American and Native American influence, which adds to the complexity and diversity of the cuisine.
Cajun food is known for its bold and flavorful spices and seasonings, which include cayenne pepper, paprika, and garlic. The dishes are often cooked with a roux, a mixture of flour and fat used as a thickening agent, and are typically served with rice. Cajun cuisine also features a variety of seafood dishes, such as gumbo, jambalaya, and étouffée, which are made with a flavorful combination of meats, vegetables, and spices. Andouille sausage, a spicy, smoked pork sausage, is also a common ingredient in Cajun recipes, adding a smoky and spicy flavor to the dishes.
This casual dining spot offers a unique blend of fresh seafood boils and traditional southern comfort food. With the sounds of upbeat music playing and seafood shells being cracked, Cajun Boil & Bar provides the perfect atmosphere to enjoy their delicious and satisfying menu.
Their menu features dishes influenced by the flavors of Louisiana, with an emphasis on shared plates and bar favorites that encourage guests to get a little messy and have a good time. They pride themselves in their sauces that enhance the flavors of their dishes. You can enjoy their flavorful and mouth-watering food while catching up on your favorite sports or shows on their multiple TV screens.
Established in 1985, Poor Phil’s is a popular sports bar and restaurant in Oak Park. An authentic neighborhood pub, Poor Phil’s offers over 100 beers on tap and a delicious seafood-centric menu, making it an excellent option for the perfect night out with friends and family.
Poor Phil’s is a beloved local institution renowned for their mouthwatering seafood and American-Louisiana cuisine. With tasty menu options like lobster bites and jambalaya, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Although you wouldn’t typically expect to see a BBQ place on a list of cajun restaurants, we had to add Babygold because it's BBQ with a twist — a cajun twist.
The menu features classic American Barbecue with a touch of inspiration from the Cajun musical heritage of Fitzgeralds — a historic Chicagoland music venue. They take pride in their brisket and ribs and offer rotating specials such as beef ribs cooked on our outdoor "stick burner."
Additionally, they offer cajun specials like authentic po' boys and chargrilled oysters and a selection of lighter options like BBQ spiced cauliflower, smoked shrimp, and a delicious kale Caesar salad.
NOLA Louisiana Kitchen is a family-owned restaurant founded with a passion for New Orleans-style food. For Mardi Gras this year, they invite everyone to indulge in the best Cajun fare, wash it down with an ABITA beer, and finish it off with a delicious serving of beignets. You will surely get an unforgettable Cajun taste experience when celebrating Mardi Gras at NOLA Louisiana Kitchen.
Shanahan's was originally founded in New Orleans, but in the 1970s, the restaurant moved to Forest Park. It has since become the Chicago area's most authentic Creole restaurant. After 30 years in business, Shanahan’s takes pride in serving a variety of American and Creole specialties, including delicious menu items such as seafood gumbo, crawfish etouffee, and shrimp Pontchartrain.
With a commitment to authenticity and flavor, Shanahan's is a must-visit destination for anyone craving a taste of New Orleans in Chicago.
At Peking Cajun Seafood, customers will find a unique blend of Chinese food and Cajun seafood. The menu features favorites such as crawfish, blue crab, and lobster tails. The restaurant has a passion for serving incredible cuisine made from homemade ingredients. The quality meats are marinated and cooked on-site, as well as the sauces, ensuring the best quality cuisine for customers. Peking Cajun Seafood is dedicated to providing a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and a whole lot of delicious food for an exceptional dining experience.
Surf's Up is a no-frills restaurant focused on providing incredible food, with a particular emphasis on Cajun-style meals. The menu features a variety of southern-inspired dishes, including fried green tomatoes, southern fried catfish, cheesy garlic cornbread muffins, and shrimp by the pound.
In addition to these Cajun specialties, the restaurant offers some Chicago favorites, including what they claim to be the best wings in the city. With a commitment to quality ingredients and delicious flavors, Surf's Up is the perfect destination for anyone craving a taste of the south in Chicago.
Crab Du Jour is the perfect destination for home-style seafood with generous portions in a fun, communal atmosphere, perfect for friends and family. The Cajun-inspired eatery is known for its fresh seafood boils (made for sharing) and an array of signature house-blended sauces that enhance the experience.
The menu features a variety of delicious starters, including wings, po-boys, and chicken tenders, as well as seafood favorites such as fried fish, shrimp, crab, and oysters. Crab Du Jour is sure to please you if you're in the mood for a casual meal with friends or a special occasion with family.