Food Column: Pittsburgh goes a little Big Easy

Pittsburgh might be far from Bourbon Street, but there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate Mardi Gras this year.

A Polish cultural group holds an annual feast and festival to celebrate the Polish variation of Mardi Gras. North Side eateries have banded together to offer various specials and musical entertainment for a couple weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, culminating in a “Crowning of the Mardi Gras King” party on Fat Tuesday, which is Feb. 28. The Epilepsy Foundation of Western and Central Pennsylvania has held a perennially successful Mardi Gras-themed fundraiser for 23 years. And several bars and restaurants also have planned special menus and other attractions.

Mardi Gras fundraisers

Come Together: Ostatki 2017: Believe it or not, it’s a Polish Mardi Gras party — but it’s a few days before Fat Tuesday. The Ostatki Carnival, the equivalent of Mardi Gras in Poland, starts right after Christmas and celebrates life before Lent. Festivities at the Pittsburgh iteration will include a Polish culinary table, vodka tastings, silent auction and live music.

Maria Staszkiewicz, executive director of the Polish Cultural Council, says there will be a “great variety of food on the gourmet side of Polish cuisine,” including stuffed pork tenderloin, mini open-faced sandwiches, traditional smoked sausages, pork shoulder, salads and signature drinks.

“You don’t have to be Polish to enjoy it,” she said.

The party will be held from 7 to 11:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Shadyside. Tickets are $95 per person before Saturday or $110 thereafter, and proceeds help to fund the organization’s cultural programming throughout the year, including concerts, film screenings and language classes.

Mardi Gras on the North Side: More than 30 North Side restaurants, pubs and businesses are offering live music and other Mardi Gras-inspired food and drink specials today through Fat Tuesday. For a complete list of performers and activities, go to

The culminating event is a Mardi Gras party at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Allegheny Elks Lodge on the North Side. Dixie Doc and the Dixieland All-Stars will play, and the Mardi Gras king crown will pass from last year’s honoree, WQED-TV’s Rick Sebak, to this year’s, Randy Gilson, creator of the North Side’s colorful Randyland.

Legends of the North Shore and James Street Gastropub will sell authentic Louisiana cuisine. There also will be Louisiana’s famed king cake, dancing, beads and prizes. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door. Proceeds will raise money for the Deutschtown Music Festival.

Updates are available on the “Northside Mardi Gras” Facebook page.

Epilepsy Foundation Mardi Gras Gala: About 750 attendees are expected at the annual Mardi Gras Gala at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Westin Convention Center, Downtown.

Colleen Fulkerson, special events coordinator for the Epilepsy Foundation of Western and Central Pennsylvania, says the Westin will be “transformed into New Orleans. We have purple and green and gold everywhere, and beads and masks.” A Dixieland band will perform, and guests will enjoy a Cajun-inspired dinner menu.

The black-tie event honors a local corporate leader as “Mardi Gras king or queen” each year. This year it’s Jerry MacCleary, North America president of Covestro (formerly Bayer MaterialScience).

The event is sold out, but the foundation is always looking for corporate sponsorships for future years’ events. 412-322-5880 or

BarkHappy Mardi Gras Pawty: This party will actually be held the weekend before Mardi Gras as a fundraiser for the Animal Rescue League. Organizers are billing it as an event full of “barks, beers and beads and New Orleans-style fun.” All ticket holders will get coupons, giveaways, doggy snack packs and more. Bring your pup for a treat-eating contest. Dogs or humans in Mardi Gras attire will get extra raffle tickets, and drink specials will be available. 4 to 6 p.m. Feb. 25 at GristHouse Brewery in Millvale; ages 21 and up only. Tickets are $12 per person and are available only in advance at (search on “BarkHappy”).

More Mardi Gras

Hartwood Restaurant: A Fat Tuesday Beer Dinner at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Indiana Township restaurant features a four-course Creole menu paired with beers from Goose Island Brewery in Chicago. The menu includes shrimp creole empanadas, tasso carpaccio, Creole porchetta and bourbon sweet potato pie. Cost is $55 per person, and reservations are required. 412-767-3500.

NOLA on the Square: Live jazz, usually on weekends, makes a weeknight appearance for Fat Tuesday. Rachel B will perform starting at 8 p.m. Feb. 28, at the Market Square jazz brasserie. There also will be face painting, a king cake, prizes, gift cards and a special New Orleans-inspired food menu. 412-471-9100;

Reclamation Brewing: The five-course Fat Tuesday Feast features Boudin balls, field greens salad, andouille sausage gumbo with sauteed shrimp and dirty rice, sour cream beignets and one alcoholic beverage. 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 28 at Reclamation Brewing in Butler. $25 per person. (search on "Fat Tuesday Feast").

Other food events

If Mardi Gras isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of other stuff to do this week on the Pittsburgh food scene.

eat.drink.PITTSBURGH: Food and beverages from local restaurants, plus live music. 6:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday at Rivers Casino, North Shore. $40; $70 for VIPs (includes pre-reception); ages 21 and up only.

Tropical Forest Congo Festival: African-inspired food samples from Cafe Phipps, family-friendly activities, live entertainment and crafts. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Oakland. Free with conservatory admission.

Sweet Horror: Sweet Alchemy Bake Shop pop-up event featuring sweet vegan treats and horror-inspired art. 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at East End Brewery, Larimer. Free admission.

St. Malachy Winter Wine Festival: Samples from Pennsylvania wineries, live music, hors d’oeuvres, raffle baskets, door prizes. 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday at St. Malachy Catholic Church, Kennedy. $20 online; $25 at the door. (search on “St. Malachy”).

Maple Syrup Breakfast & Open House: Live maple sugaring demonstrations, maple tasting, bonfire, scavenger hunt, and breakfast of pancakes, omelets, home fries, bacon, sausage and maple syrup. 9 a.m. to noon Saturday and Sunday, and, Feb. 25-26, at Oak Lodge in Stahlstown, Westmoreland County. $12; $8 for children. (search on “Maple Syrup Breakfast”).

Soup Tasting: Samples of three soups and bread for $6 admission; takeout soups also available. Noon Sunday at Olympia Hall in East Pittsburgh. 412-373-1270.

Franktuary Fallon Travel Fund Fundraiser: Enjoy a hot dog and a cocktail, and mention the Point Park University Fallon Travel Fund. 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at Franktuary in Market Square. The Fund will receive a portion of proceeds to benefit students traveling to Ireland and Iceland in May.

Spanish Wine Dinner: Authentic Spanish five-course meal with paired wines. 6 p.m. Feb. 23 at Ditka’s, Pine. $75. Reservations: 724-934-3660.

Rebecca Sodergren: or on Twitter @pgfoodevents.


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