Unsurprisingly, Mardi Gras won’t be the same this year at Courthouse’s Bayou Bakery.
But that doesn’t mean that the decade-old, New Orleans-inspired eatery is out of fresh ideas for Tuesday’s festivities.
This year, the restaurant is offering a take-home “Mardi Gras in a Box,” which includes a king cake with a do-it-yourself decorating kit, beads, masks, a murder mystery party game, and Pat O’Brien’s signature Hurricane mix.
The party in a box is intended for six to eight people and costs $135.
“Knowing that really no one is going to large events or celebrating Mardi Gras anywhere, what we did is brought a kit… so that basically the party comes to you,” says David Guas, chef and owner of Bayou Bakery.
The restaurant is also selling individual king cakes, king crown cookies, and Mardi Gras pralines, as well as offering catering and its lunch and breakfast menus.
While business has continued to be steady, Guas says that king cake sales are way down this year.
“What’s obviously different than last year is that we don’t have our corporate clients that are buying 25, 30 king cakes all in one swoop,” says Guas.
Last year, he tells ARLnow, they sold about 1,500 king cakes. This year, he expects to sell fewer than a thousand. This despite the fact that they have now partnered with the online ordering platform Toast in order to sell cakes around the clock.
Guas is still keeping busy, despite the more subdued Mardi Gras this year.
Last March, 24 hours after schools shut down, the chef began serving red beans and rice from outside of the bakery to anyone in need. That evolved into a partnership with Real Food for Kids for an initiative called Chefs Feeding Families, which provided free, plant-based meals to local families, students, frontline workers, hospitals, and shelters.
That initiative continues, says Guas, with a recent partnership with Arlington County that sends 150 to 200 meals a week to Virginia Hospital Center. In total, the initiative is still providing about 300 meals a week; funds come from grants, private donations, and community support.
That isn’t all, though. Guas also helped to feed the National Guard while they protected the Capitol throughout January, dropping off hundreds of sandwiches to the troops. He’s currently in the midst of co-organizing Bean-efit, a joint effort with 25 other local restaurants to provide a free meal of beans to anyone in the hospitality industry on Mardi Gras (Tuesday, Feb. 16) from 4-6 p.m.
“Any industry employee who’s been furloughed, now part time, or lost hours, doesn’t matter, gets a free meal,” he says. “We’re not going to ask questions. We’re not taking names. We’re not vetting at all.”
While Guas and the Bayou Bakery team have continuously been cooking, baking, and working over the last year, business remains down. The care-free boozy brunches of the before-times, after all, were more lucrative than take-out sandwiches and coffee.
The restaurant, meanwhile, has taken on plenty of additional expense and effort to continue operating during the pandemic, from constant cleanings to a kitchen remodel to a new ventilation system.
“It sucks. There’s nothing positive about it,” Guas says.
He remains optimistic, however, that Bayou Bakery will make it to the other side of the pandemic.
“I’ve got no other choice but to make it work. That’s why I’m in the restaurant six days a week… and I have a mask on for 12 hours a day,” he says. “I got no plans to go anywhere.”
Photos courtesy of Bayou Bakery
Mardi Gras is cancelled for Clarendon — again — and it seems increasingly likely that cancellation is permanent.
The tempestuous February weather takes some of the blame. Crocker said the parade has been frequently cancelled or postponed because of bad weather, and the organization lost money it had spent. Given this year’s damp winter, unfavorable conditions seem likely to repeat.
While the parade is cancelled, Green Pig Bistro in Clarendon (1025 N. Fillmore Street) is still planning a Fat Tuesday celebration at 5 p.m.
Clarendon residents will go without any sort of local Mardi Gras celebration this year, but there are still plenty of ways to mark Fat Tuesday around Arlington.
The Clarendon Alliance, which normally puts on an annual parade and ball to celebrate the impending start of Lent, says it has no plans for the annual event this year.
The business booster group has gone through a bit of a transition recently, just tabbing a new executive director. Elizabeth Crocker is stepping in for Matt Husmann, the alliance’s longtime leader who retired from the post last year (and accepted a new position as the new manager of the Arlington County Fair).
Crocker urges residents to “stay tuned for information about new events and happenings, coming soon,” but apologized for not being able to put on the events this time around. The alliance even had trouble with Mardi Gras last year, cancelling the annual ball and “jester jaunt” in the face of stiff competition from events elsewhere in D.C.
However, Bayou Bakery will once again be offering its signature king cakes for sale on its website — the Courthouse eatery is also inviting Arlingtonians to a party at The Showroom on 14th Street in D.C.
According to StayArlington, the Heidelburg Pastry Shoppe on Lee Highway is also selling king cake, while Sugar Shack is offering up king cake donuts for a limited time.
The Chasin’ Tails Crawfish restaurant in East Falls Church (2200 N. Westmoreland Street) will also offer food and drink specials for Mardi Gras, including deals on raw oysters.
The Arlington Jaycees, an organization that organizes events for young people aiming for “personal and professional growth, community involvement and social engagement,” is also hosting a Mardi Gras happy hour at the G.O.A.T. in Clarendon.
Despite the cancellation of the Mardi Gras Ball and the Jester Jaunt, Clarendon let the good times roll and carried on with the annual Mardi Gras parade.
One resident told ARLnow.com that the parade seemed to have far fewer attendees than last year’s parade, despite last year’s rain storm.
Costumed revelers glittered down Wilson Boulevard, trumpets blaring. Few families and groups watching the parade seemed to mind the lack of fireworks and marketing that The Clarendon Alliance’s executive director Matt Hussman cited as the reason that many were flocking to Washington’s southwest wharf for that neighborhood’s Mardi Gras festivities.
Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like to see your event featured, fill out the event submission form.
Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.
Tuesday, Feb. 13
Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper
St. John’s Episcopal Church (415 S. Lexington Street)
Time: 6-7:30 p.m.
Join the Shrove Tuesday celebration with the traditional pancake feasting prior to the Lenten fasting. Adults pay $5 each and $3 each for kids 6-12. Younger children are free.
Clarendon Mardi Gras Parade
Wilson Boulevard from Barton to Irving Streets
Time: 7-11 p.m.
A family-friendly parade with marchers, bands, and the occasional dressed up dog or pony. Expect lots of costumes and beads thrown from parade floats.
Wednesday, Feb. 14
St. Agnes Ash Wednesday Mass
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 6:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Worshipers can attend Ash Wednesday Masses throughout the day, from early morning until mid-evening, to celebrate the beginning of Lent and receive their ashes.
Thursday, Feb. 15
Archives of American Gardens: Capturing Garden History
Little Falls Presbyterian Church (6025 Little Falls Road)
Time: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
The Smithsonian Gardens’ horticulture collections manager, Cindy Brown, will discuss American garden history conservation with photographs and documents. An optional lunch is $5.
Friday, Feb. 16
Creative Coffee: Mark Making
Connection: Crystal City (2100 Crystal Drive)
Time: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
A casual weekly creative meet-up for artists to experiment and improve their work in a social setting. Bring your own materials to this adult-friendly gathering.
Sound Check: Music Bingo
Mister Days Sports Rock Cafe (3100 Clarendon Blvd)
Time: 6 – 8 p.m.
Test your musical trivia knowledge with an aurally-inspired bingo game. You’ll have 30 seconds to figure out a song and match it to your bingo card. Prizes after every round and happy hour pricing.
Chinese New Year Celebration
Long Branch Nature Center (625 S Carlin Springs Road)
Time: 6 – 7:30 p.m.
Celebrate the Chinese New Year with the naturalists at Long Branch Nature Center. There will be live animals, dragon crafts, and a short hike holiday-themed hike.
St. Agnes Soup Supper
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
The church will offer meatless soups and a noodle dish, and more every Friday during the Lenten holiday. Guests are invited to stay for confession and the stations of the cross afterwards.
Sarah Colonna Live
Arlington Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike)
Time: 10 p.m.
Comedian, author, and Chelsea Lately roundtable regular Sarah Colonna performs at the Arlington Drafthouse with three performances over two nights,
Saturday, Feb. 17
USA-Russia Olympic Hockey Watch Party Brunch
Quinn’s On The Corner (1776 Wilson Boulevard)
Time: 6:45 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The Courthouse sports bar is opening very early for an Olympic USA versus Russia hockey watch party, with $1 champagne flutes and brunch until 5 p.m.
Hamiltunes: An American Singalong
Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street)
Time: 12 – 4 p.m.
Sing along to the music of “Hamilton: An American Musical.” Revolutionary War-era costumes encouraged and appreciated. A costume contest will be held during intermission.
Studio Xfinity’s Lunar New Year
Studio Xfinity (3601 Fairfax Drive)
Time: 1 – 5 p.m.
A free celebration at Studio Xfinity for the Year of the Dog, with dragon dancers, calligraphy, a fortune cookie bar, and more activities.
Conversation: Poets Jodie Hollander and Robert Mezey
One More Page Books (2200 N. Westmoreland Street)
Time: 6 – 7 p.m.
Poets Jodie Hollander and Robert Mezey will read from their works. Hollander will share from her collection, My Dark Horses. Poet and critic Mezey will share from his award-winning body of work.
Sunday, Feb. 18
President’s Day Celebration at Market Common
The Loop at Market Common (2800 Clarendon Boulevard)
Time: 12:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Don’t want to race yourself? Watch the Washington Nationals’ Presidents race around the Loop. Free Nicecream hot cocoa provided, and there will be a photo booth and prize wheel.
Update on 2/6/18: The Clarendon Alliance has issued an update to their plans. Citing “a large Mardi Gras ball with major sponsors” in Union Market and a Mardi Gras parade planned for the same time at Washington’s District Wharf development, the Mardi Gras Ball and the Jester Jaunt have been cancelled. The parade will still go on as scheduled.
“They’ve got marketing dollars and fireworks,” said Matt Hussman, The Clarendon Alliance’s executive director. “It’s a different market than it used to be. But I wish the Wharf and Union Market the best of luck [with their own Mardi Gras activities].”
According to Hussman, approximately 60% of previous years’ Mardi Gras Ball tickets were sold either the day before or day of the event. He cited the difficulty in prepaying for beer and food expenses without knowing the exact number of participants as a major consideration in the decision. Another factor was the quantity of ball attendees: Hussman noted that the vast majority of ball ticket holders were Batalá Washington performers or Louisiana State University alumni. Both groups, he said, would be parading at the Wharf instead of in Clarendon.
Currently there are approximately 20 registered parade floats or groups, and registration is still open for additional marchers.
Earlier: Clarendon’s annual Mardi Gras procession of dressed-up dogs, cyclists, floats, and revelers is quickly approaching, and registration for several events has opened.
The festivities will kick off on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 13, at 7 p.m. on Wilson Boulevard at N. Barton Street, following along Wilson Boulevard before ending at by The Liberty Tavern at N. Irving Street.
Parade registration fees range from $50 for a nonprofit or community organization to $250 for a business outside of the Clarendon-Courthouse corridor. Revelers can also preorder a box of 720 beaded necklaces for $75.
Though few want it to rain on their parade, last year’s Mardi Gras procession went on despite the downpour.
The following street closures have been reported for the parade and fun run:
- Wilson Boulevard, from Veitch Street to Barton Street, will be closed from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
- Adams Street and Wayne Street, between Clarendon Boulevard and Wilson Boulevard, will be closed from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
- Wilson Boulevard, from Barton Street to Irving Street, will be closed from 6:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Photos (as marked) courtesy of Jason Dixson Photography
(Updated at 5:45 p.m.) Organizers are hoping for a Mardi Gras miracle, but it looks like tonight’s parade in Clarendon will be a soggy one.
The 18th annual Clarendon-Courthouse Mardi Gras Parade is slated to kick off at 7 p.m., making its way up Wilson Boulevard from N. Barton Street to N. Irving Street.
An hourly forecast suggests rain may begin shortly before the parade begins, but Matt Hussmann, executive director of the Clarendon Alliance, says it will go on rain or shine — unless there is lightning in the area.
“We’re going forward and hoping the weather holds off,” said Hussmann. “The Mardi Gras Ball will go on irrespective.”
The annual parade has not had the best luck with weather. It was postponed in 2010, postponed and then cancelled in 2014, and postponed again in 2015 — all due to snow. It rained during the rescheduled 2015 parade.
Screen capture (top) via Weather.com. Photo (bottom) courtesy Jason Dixson Photography.
Though Mardi Gras is still more than a month away, Clarendon is already gearing up for its yearly festivities.
The 18th Annual Clarendon-Courthouse Mardi Gras Parade is slated to kick off on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. on Wilson Boulevard, organizers have announced. During the parade, revelers will make their way from N. Barton Street to N. Irving Street.
Previous years have brought masked characters, dogs in costumes, marching bands and other performers to the neighborhood.
After the parade, partiers looking for more fun can head to the second-ever Clarendon Mardi Gras Ball at the Clarendon Ballroom (3185 Wilson Blvd.) The party is scheduled to run from 7 to 11 p.m.
“There will be plenty of music, great food in the Fat Tuesday tradition, and beer, wine and punch,” an organizer wrote of the Mardi Gras party. Tickets for the ball are scheduled to go on sale soon.
The parade isn’t the only way Arlington residents and businesses are getting ready for the holiday. Bayou Bakery in Courthouse is currently taking orders for frosted king cakes.
One king cake costs $39.95, and a limited number of king cakes will be sold in stores each day. Customers can also order the cakes and pick them up 48 hours later.
Photo by John Williams
Masked characters, dogs in costumes, marching bands and other Mardi Gras partiers are set to make their way through Clarendon tonight.
After dodging the threat of snow following two years of weather delays and cancellations, the 17th Annual Clarendon-Courthouse Mardi Gras Parade is slated to kick off at 7 p.m. on Wilson Boulevard, making its way from N. Barton Street to N. Irving Street.
After the parade, revelers then can head to the first-ever Clarendon Mardi Gras Ball at the Clarendon Ballroom (3185 Wilson Blvd.) The party is scheduled to run from 7 to 11 p.m.
More than 30 groups are expected to march in the parade, which is organized by the Clarendon Alliance. The non-profit organization has billed the parade as a “family-friendly event” that is “big fun.”
“Participating in the parade is a great way to have fun — participants can wear masks, dress completely inappropriately, and throw stuff at people,” the Clarendon Alliance says on its website. “What’s not to like?”
Except maybe traffic.
Some roads will shut down starting at 4:30 p.m. due to the parade. According to the Arlington County Police Department, the street closures include:
- Wilson Blvd from Veitch Street to Barton Street will be closed from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.
- Adams Street and Wayne Street, between Clarendon Blvd and Wilson Blvd, will be closed from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.
- Wilson Blvd from Barton Street to Irving Street will be closed from 6:45 to 9:30 p.m.
Ball guests under the age of 21 are welcome to attend, but must have a parent or guardian with them. Tickets to the party cost $20 online and $25 at the door.
Photo courtesy Jason Dixson Photography
Pending good weather, floats, bands, horses and “critters in costumes” will march down Wilson Blvd during the 17th Annual Clarendon-Courthouse Mardi Gras Parade, scheduled for early February.
This year’s parade is planned for Fat Tuesday, which falls on Feb. 9. It will start at 7 p.m., traveling along Wilson from N. Barton Street to N. Irving Street. The deadline to register to participate is Feb. 1, and bead orders must be submitted by Jan. 25.
Snow has forced the family-friendly parade to be postponed to mid-March the last two years in a row, but this year the organizers — the non-profit Clarendon Alliance — have planned an additional event that’s not weather-dependent on the evening of the parade.
The first-ever Clarendon Mardi Gras Ball will be held from 7-11 p.m. at the Clarendon Ballroom at 3185 Wilson Blvd. The ball will have live performances from jazz ensembles the Yamomanem Jazz Band and the 8 Ohms Jazz Band. A ball king and queen will be announced between the bands’ sets.
Traditional Louisiana food will be served alongside wine, beer and punch. Ticket holders will get one free ticket upon entry. All other food and beverage sales will be cash only or from additionally purchased food and drink tickets.
Ball guests under the age of 21 are welcome to attend but must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Tickets to the ball are now for sale online for $20 per person, and parade participants can get their tickets at a discounted rate. Proceeds from the tickets — beyond parade expenses — will benefit St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church.
The Clarendon Alliance, which organizes the parade, announced this morning that it will not be held tomorrow night, on Fat Tuesday, as scheduled. Instead, the parade is being rescheduled for St. Patrick’s Day (March 17).
Six to ten inches of snow are expected to fall overnight.