Old Bay brings taste of New Orleans culture to Rutgers for Mardi Gras
On Fat Tuesday, Old Bay Restaurant brought a taste of a traditional New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration to the Banks. Live jazz music electrified the bar and seating areas that were caked in gold, green and purple decorations and the smell of authentic Louisiana-style food wafted through the air in a party that seemed to never end.
The celebration rung out until about 2 in the morning the following day in a manner of true indulgence on par with the holiday’s tradition.
With a full Cajun-Creole inspired buffet with chicken and shrimp jambalayas, which are staples of the holiday, and drink specials to last the whole night, the crowd was primed for the evening of dancing and jamming that followed in the latter hours with music from the New Brunswick Jazz Project and the Old No. 7 Band.
Historically, Mardi Gras, a French phrase for Fat Tuesday, has been a celebration of the luxuries of life before Lent begins on the following Wednesday, a Christian period of penance prior to Easter Sunday.
In the States, the holiday most famously comes to life in the streets of Louisiana’s largest city, where it is a two-week-long event. The city comes to a halt at the helm of parades, people dress up in costumes, and there are traditions for every activity such as bead throwing, mask wearing and “drinking and flashing.”
But in New Jersey, it is Old Bay’s signature event.
Everything about Old Bay is inspired by New Orleans, from the menu to its regular live music events, but on Fat Tuesday it takes on a life of its own for the Central Jersey community.
The highlight of the night was the greatly anticipated performance from Old No. 7 Band, a seven-piece band from the Jersey Shore. The ON7 Band’s bluegrass style transported guests to the cobblestoned streets of New Orleans.
As the members strummed their strings, blew into their trumpets and hit their tambourines and cowbells, guests from the balcony above threw down their beaded necklaces on dancing audience members in the packed space in front of the stage below.
The synthesis of music, food and good spirits that made an effort to stay authentic to the holiday’s traditions could make anyone feel like they were parading down Bourbon Street.
Tommy Brennan, a manager at Old Bay, said to MyCentralJersey, "You can celebrate that culture at the Old Bay without overpaying for a flight — you can do it all right here."