bar les frères in clayton photo by jonathan gayman

5 St. Louis bars to celebrate Mardi Gras that aren't in Soulard

Editor's note: Graham’s Grill & Bayou Bar and The Library Annex have closed.

It’s hard to imagine Mardi Gras anywhere besides Soulard. Between the grand parade and the throngs of revelers, options that don’t involve horrendous parking, overpriced beer and endless bathroom lines are easily overlooked. Had your fill of house parties, packed pubs and overflowing beer tents? Here are a handful of alternative destinations for the annual feast of debauchery.

Bar Les Frères

Soulard may be the epicenter of St. Louis carnival, but Bar Les Frères stirs up the most authentic French cocktails in town. This upscale new drinkery is ideal for those looking to indulge in classy, Old World debauchery. Though the lines quickly build at this elegant little saloon, it does little to affect the precision of the bar staff, who turn out high-end renditions of the French 75, Sidecar, Sazerac and St. Germaine Cocktail. Dining options are likewise exquisite: Trade that stale hot dog you enjoyed in Mardi Gras past for one of Les Frères’ house-made Toulouse sausages with red cabbage and potato pancakes.

Bar Les Frères, 7637 Wydown Blvd., Clayton, 314.725.8880,

head to the crawfish boil at graham's grill & bayou bar on fat tuesday // photo by jonathan gayman

Graham’s Grill & Bayou Bar
This year marks the 17th annual Mardi Gras celebration at Graham’s Grill & Bayou Bar, a tropical getaway near downtown Kirkwood. Proclaiming it “the biggest and the best Mardi Gras in the county,” owner Dan Graham offers the flavor of New Orleans minus the hassle of a 10-hour drive. Various Cajun food and drink specials are offered throughout the week, including parade day, when Graham hosts a massive crawfish boil at 2 p.m., followed by Dixieland and Cajun bands in Graham’s grill room. Crawfish are sold by the pound, half pound or as a full dinner, complete with andouille sausage, corn and boiled potatoes. Weather permitting, the crowd boozes up on tables outside or heads indoors to the palm tree-lined Bayou Bar for cheap beer, mixed drink specials (like the massive $6 Hurricanes), and NOLA-inspired eats: $1 oysters on the half shell, fresh peel-and-eat shrimp, and vodka-infused oyster shooters. The party culminates on Fat Tuesday with another crawfish boil, live entertainment and a house recipe rum punch that will improve any wind chill.
Graham’s Grill & Bayou Bar, 612 W. Woodbine Ave., Kirkwood, 314.965.2003

white chocolate bread pudding at ragin cajun piano bar // photo by laura miller

Ragin Cajun Piano Bar
Over the Clark Bridge, in that little river city to our north, the good folks of Alton, Ill., protect a patch of little known drinking and eating houses where a serious Mardi Gras crowd does serious damage to its liver and waistline. Standing out from the rest is the Ragin Cajun Piano Bar, which keeps Mardi Gras alive year-round, serving up frosty beers and from-scratch Creole dishes to the steady hum of live zydeco and blues tunes. A kitschy Cajun alligator theme infuses this authentic dive bar, which transforms into a lively piano bar on Friday and Saturday nights. It may not be the side bar at Patty O’s in the French Quarter, but the well mixed Hurricanes, boiled crawfish and incredible house-made white-chocolate bread pudding are enough to make you forget you’re in Illinois for a while.
Ragin Cajun Piano Bar, 210 W. Third St., Alton, Ill., 618.433.9119

Bones French Quarter Bar and Grill
Unbeknownst to non-locals, West County has a staple in its nightlife scene that has been keeping Mardi Gras alive all day everyday for over 30 years. Perched in a weathered strip mall, Bones French Quarter Bar and Grill has proven the ruin of many a poor, thirsty soul looking for fun at jaw-dropping prices. On Tuesdays, this place is home to the $2 pitcher, $2 wings, $2 well drinks, $2 burgers and $2 beers. On parade day, Bones serves as the go-to West County Mardi Gras outpost. Those looking to avoid the designated driver route can take advantage of the bar’s $30 bus tickets, which, along with a ride back and forth from Soulard, includes an eyes-wide-open breakfast buffet complete with all-you-can-drink bloody marys and Screwdrivers. But the real party commences when the sun sets, as the Soulard survivors congregate in rowdy madness with the less inebriated crowd of regulars who clamber in to enjoy a late-night DJ and $12 buckets, along with shot deals and Hurricane drink specials. Looking to hang with some boozed-up townies who refuse to let go of their 20s? This is your place.
Bones French Quarter Bar and Grill, 14766 Manchester Road, Ballwin, 636.391.8293,

boasting an array of flat screens, shuffleboard and billiard tables, and an enormous ipod-shaped jukebox exploding with familiar bar favorites, the library annex is a frat boy’s dream // photo by ashley gieseking

The Library Annex
What’s a Mardi Gras party without a bunch of smashed college-aged kids looking to make bad decisions and overcharge their parents’ debit cards? Let the insanity begin. Midtown’s Library Annex throws opens its doors at 8 a.m., on parade day and parties hard until 3 a.m., the next. A complimentary shuttle to the Soulard festivities is available between 9 a.m. and noon for those who purchase a ticket to the breakfast buffet or an early morning adult beverage. But the real entertainment at the Annex kicks off after dark. While Hurricanes on parade day may seem obligatory, sharing one of the Annex’s signature Billy Buckets – a 128-ounce blue concoction of liquored-up bliss (five different types of alcohol) – is a great way to make some friends. Grab one of those around 8 p.m., as the Soulard folks finish stumbling off the bus to attend the Midtown Mardi Gras bash inside the Annex, which features drink specials such as $5 Hurricanes, along with random contests, giveaways and local DJs who keep spinning way past your bedtime.
The Library Annex, 3693 Forest Park Ave., St. Louis, 314.652.8484