Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler!

Emily Thompson

Start your splurge with a paczki (pronounced PUNCH-key) from Buckeye Donuts. "They're more sweet and more of an enriched doughnut, and we cut them thicker [than regular doughnuts]," owner Jimmy Barouxis says of the traditional Polish pastries that are available only the day before and on Fat Tuesday and come with blueberry, strawberry or lemon custard filling.

Head to Da Levee for all-day Mardi Gras specials, including $5 red beans and rice, $5 hurricanes and free pieces of king cake from Short North Piece of Cake while supplies last, along with the usual New Orleans-inspired fare like jambalaya and gumbo.

LaChatelaineFrenchBakery&Bistro's king cakes serve six to eight people and have a surprise porcelain charm inside (like baby Jesus or one of the three kings). "It's traditional in France to have the charm," owner Val Wielezynski says of the almond paste and puff pastry treat they make from early January to Mardi Gras each year. "Whoever finds the charm becomes the king or queen for the day." Pair it with tea-Wielezynski recommends Earl Gray or jasmine-for a mid-afternoon treat.

Explorers Club features a themed menu each month, and March's fare is inspired by the former Harold's Cajun Glory Cafe, with Buttermilk Fried Frog Legs, Duck and Andouille Gumbo, Creole Veggies and more.

Once the food has settled, head to Dick's Den for "sousaphone-powered party music" by Columbus-based New Basics Brass Band, starting around 9:30 p.m. The seven-piece jazz band will set the New Orleans scene with beads and songs like "Mardi Gras Mambo" and "Carnival Time," says sousaphone player Rob Maccabee.