Reviews with food porn. And money shots.

Cincinnati Bites
Basil Noodles from Ruthai's Thai Kitchen

Posted Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Mardis Gras on Madison, located in East Walnut Hills, is a queer restaurant anomoly in Cincinnati. It's closed more often than not. In fact, the owners don't consider it a restaurant at all: they've coined it a "homearaunt" or a "pop-up style" restaurant. As they see it, this gives them license to keep their hours and inventory in a constant state of flux. To patrons, the homearaunt setup can evoke a lot of frustration --you can never reliably count on it being open and must religiously check their Facebook page in order to discover the one short window in which they are available. And even if you do manage to get your foot in the door, there's no guarantee the menu item you want won't be sold out.

Why would anyone put themselves through such torment? It's simple: Mardis Gras on Madison offers the best Cajun and Creole food in Cincinnati, hands down. So buck up, fellow diners, and get in line.

Owners LaToya and Randy Foster-Filson began their restaurant venture more than a decade ago with their first shop, New Orleans to Go, in Springdale. Their hours there were more stable, though it did sometimes close while they visited their native Algiers Point, Louisiana. Years later, they closed their brick-and-mortar business to be one of the first "pioneers" in the local food truck scene. Bolstered by their roving New Orleans to Go venture, which remains active, the couple returned to the brick-and-mortar concept with Mardis Gras.

The menu at Mardis Gras on Madison is as fluid and unpredictable as the restaurant's hours, displayed on a chalk board near the bar. There typically is at least one type of Po'boy available and it's usually either the shrimp or catfish variety. Sometimes you'll see an étouffée, shrimp and grits or a seafood gumbo. Rarely, and only in season, will you be lucky enough to stumble upon their oyster Po'boy. They also offer several sides like red beans and rice, dirty rice, green beans, sweet potato casserole and Zapp's kettle chips, a Louisiana favorite.

The colorful, quirky interior offers upscale furniture amid colorful, mustard-yellow walls flecked with purple and green and adorned with beads, street art and other Mardis Gras-related paraphernalia.

My girlfriend and I were fortunate enough to land a coveted seat one Friday night. We arrived early, well ahead of the dinner rush. On the menu were shrimp and catfish Po'boys, dirty rice with red beans, green beans and sweet potato casserole. I ordered the catfish platter, which came with two breaded catfish fillets and two sides (the dirty rice and green beans). My girlfriend opted for the shrimp Po'boy and a bag of Zapp's "Spicy Cajun Crawtators" kettle chips.

Catfish platter Catfish w/dirty rice and beans
shrimp poboy Shrimp Po'boy w/chips

The food arrived at the table in Styrofoam take-out containers. This isn't always the case: sometimes it's served in dishes, though it depends on how long the "homeaurant" staff expect to remain open on a given day. This left us unfazed --what we always focus on upon receiving our meals is the sheer, overwhelming volume of food presented before us. For less than $25, we easily got our money's worth.

Though I don't profess to being a catfish fan, the wonderfully mouth-watering breading easily makes Mardis Gras' variant my favorite. The fish was flaky and moist inside the crispy, spicy, peppery outer core. Their dirty rice with red beans is unlike anything you may have had at a Popeye's or Bojangles: it's heartier, meatier and more abundantly seasoned.

My girlfriend's Po'boy was so inundated with heaping mounds of fried shrimp that it was all she could do to keep them secure in her sandwich as she took a bite. The unique, sweet and spicy glaze added a perfect combination of heat and savoriness to the mouthful of french bread.

Even if you're not a foodie masochist, routinely tortured by the restaurant's unpredictable hours, you'll find that Mardis Gras on Madison is well worth a little pain.

Mardi Gras on Madison Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mardi Gras on Madison

Price: Moderately Expensive ($11 - $16 per person)
Service: Good
Rating: 3.5 out of 43.5 stars






Other Recent Reviews

  1. Mediterranean Musings at Milya Cafe
    -posted Sunday, July 16, 2017
  2. Pastrami Impressions: Shapiro's Delicatessen
    -posted Wednesday, July 5, 2017
  3. Chinese Impressions: Fortune Noodle House
    -posted Saturday, June 10, 2017
  4. A Pleasant Ridge: Grand Central Delicatessen
    -posted Monday, May 29, 2017
  5. A Lobster Oasis: Court Street Lobster Bar
    -posted Sunday, May 7, 2017
Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
  • From Tabitha about Tickle Pickle:
    Haha, love your comment: " If you were deemed "different" in high school, dressed "weird" or regularly got beat up only to go on to have a decidedly higher net worth and confidence level than the rest of your abusive, judgmental peers, Northside is your home away from home." I know I saw a Groupon for Tickle Pickle recently - might have to check if that's still available!
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:33 PM
  • From Tabitha about Chilango Fresh Mexican:
    This is definitely going on the list. Thanks for posting. Do they also have margaritas?
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:23 PM
  • From holly may about Urban Grill on Main:
    This is Israeli couscous, the super tiny stuff is Moroccan. I personally prefer the Israeli (also known as "pearl".)
    posted: Fri., Mar 24th, 2017 @ 4:28 AM
  • From Sommer about Chilango Fresh Mexican:
    We really love having Chilango so close to us in the Kings area!!! We have gone a few times and you are right - the Chicken Tinga is the best chicken taco you can get in Cincinnati!!! Thanks for reviewing this little neighborhood gem!
    posted: Tue., Mar 21st, 2017 @ 9:12 AM
  • From Tabitha about Lalo:
    But...do they have margaritas?
    posted: Thu., Jan 12th, 2017 @ 12:32 PM
  • From Cincinnati Bites about Swad Indian:
    @MJ: I heard family members of those who'd run Dusmesh now work out of the former Amol India in Clifton. It's called, Grill of India (http://grillofindiaoh.com/).
    posted: Thu., Dec 29th, 2016 @ 11:45 PM
  • From mj about Swad Indian:
    It seems Swad has changed hands. Have not see the former Dusmesh owners in my last visit (10/1/2016) and the food is just ok. Wonder where they went this time?
    posted: Wed., Dec 28th, 2016 @ 8:22 AM
  • From Rachel about Bamboo Kitchen:
    Hey there,
    I would recommend Basil Thai and Bangkok Terrace. They have wonderful Thai foods there :)
    posted: Sat., Nov 19th, 2016 @ 11:28 AM
  • From Tabitha about Maplewood Kitchen and Bar:
    Looks good - I definitely have been wanting to try this place!
    posted: Wed., Nov 9th, 2016 @ 2:55 PM
  • From Georgia about Maplewood Kitchen and Bar:
    So you order and pay at the counter before you get your food and they expect you to tip? That's not right.
    posted: Tue., Oct 25th, 2016 @ 10:19 AM
Where The Locals Eat featured blog
Cincinnati Web Design | Cincinnati Mobile Web Design