Family Gras is a self-contained, kid-friendly, carnival-themed kingdom, and this kingdom has a court. That would be the Flambeaux Court, the food concessions area where a handful of vendors sell food to the Family Gras crowd. A few are familiar names from the Metairie restaurant scene — like Andrea's Restaurant (3100 19th St., 834-8583; www.andreasrestaurant.com), which will be serving seafood ravioli and char-broiled oysters, among other items — while others specialize in the festival-style fare of midways everywhere – like the vendor Deep Fried What?!, which answers its own question with deep-fried Oreos and Twinkies (or deep fried bananas and pickles for fruit and vegetable types).
But we know that food cravings recognize no boundaries, and while Family Gras doesn't allow outside food or beverages at its free-admission event, the party happens within easy walking distance of one of the area's most diverse and densely packed collections of casual eateries.
Fat City and the immediate area orbiting the Lakeside Shopping Center are both bursting with restaurants, many of which offer quick and relatively inexpensive eats perfect for the brood heading to or from the Family Gras grounds.
For instance, you can get fish tacos and Mexican pizzas at Taqueria Corona (3535 Severn Ave., 885-5088; www.- taqueriacorona.com), or, if you're keen to get an early start on the big day, hearty breakfasts of crab cakes Benedict and crawfish omelets set the stage at Riccobono's Peppermill (3524 Severn Ave., 455-2266; www.-riccobonos.com), where parents can wash them down with Irish coffee.
Barbecue is enjoying a resurgence in Fat City, with two new purveyors marking their first Mardi Gras in business this year. Saucy's BBQ Grill (3244 Severn Ave., 322-2544; www.saucysbbqgrill.com), adds boudin, chaurice and jerk pork to its meat selection while Smokin' Buddha BBQieux (3206 N. Arnoult St., 304-6602; www.smokinbuddhabbqieux.com) has been doing some impressive work with specialties like Cajun pastrami, brisket-covered nachos and pulled pork meat pies. For something a little more exotic, there's Korean barbecue at Korea House (3547 18th St., 888-0654), where table-mounted grills to cook your own supper prove a reliably fascinating diversion for curious kids.
Nearby options cover a variety of other Asian cuisines, from Japanese at Kanno California Sushi Bar (3205 Edenborn Ave., Metairie, 455-5730) to Thai at Cafe Equator (2920 Severn Ave., 888-4772; www.-cafeequator.com) to Chinese at China Rose (3501 N. Arnoult St., 887-3295), which has both Chinese-American standards and a so-called "Chinese menu" of more authentic dishes (at the very least, try the potstickers from this special menu).
For more New Orleans-centric fare, there are po-boys, seafood platters and such at Jaguar's Food and Spirits (3555 18th St., 888-4940;www.-jaguarsfoodandspirits.com) and Mr. Roo's Deli (3501 Severn Ave., 885-4010; www.mrroosdeli.com), while for a deli experience of a different sort, try Kosher Cajun New York Deli & Grocery (3519 N. Hullen St., 888-2010; www.koshercajun.com) for Reubens, Rachels and latkes (just remember, like any proper Kosher deli, this one is closed Saturday). For Kosher food with North African flavor, there's also Casablanca (3030 Severn Ave., 888-2209; www.kosherneworleans.com), specializing in Middle Eastern pita sandwiches and aromatically spiced Moroccan entrees.
The area around Family Gras is also rich in both burgers and oysters. Bud's Broiler (2929 N. Causeway Blvd. 833-3770; www.budsbroiler.com) and Lee's Hamburgers (3516 Veterans Memorial Blvd., 885-4291; www.leesburgers.com) each serve similarly modest and widely-loved burgers topped with shredded cheddar. Burgers of a different stature are on tap at Phil's Grill (3020 Severn Ave., 324-9080; www.phils-grill.com), with its build-your-own format and turkey, veggie, bison and slider options.
For oysters, of course there's Drago's (3232 N. Arnoult St., 888-9254; www.dragosrestaurant.com), where reefs and reefs worth of raw and charbroiled versions are served each day. Cross the Causeway Boulevard underpass and you'll find the Metairie outpost of Acme Oyster House (3000 Veterans Memorial Blvd., 309-4056; www.acmeoyster.com) along the main drag, or, a bit tucked away, Bozo's Restaurant (3117 21st St., 831-8666; www.bozosrestaurant.com), which has an old-school oyster bar and a specialty in fried catfish.
The sweet tooth will find satisfaction at Sucre (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., 834-2277; www.shopsucre.com), the upscale dessert shop by the Lakeside Shopping Center. Meanwhile, cafe au lait and beignets await at Morning Call (3325 Severn Ave., 885-4068; www.morningcallcoffeestand.com), the old French Market classic transplanted to this suburban shopping paradise, and there are French-style pastries and more coffee drinks at the nearby branch of La Madeleine (3300 Severn Ave., 456-1624; www.lamadeleine.com).
Of course, if none of this does the trick, the Oreos and Twinkies will be hitting the fryer at Family Gras all day.