Heaven’s the place for Abita and Mardi Grad madness
BY MICHAEL AUSTIN February 5, 2013 10:34AM
Seven on Rush
600 N. Michigan (second floor)
Heaven on Seven
224 S. Main St., Naperville
Updated: March 7, 2013 6:07AM
Let the good times roll, y’all — it’s Mardi Gras again. Bring on the Abita beers at Heaven on Seven.
Tuesday — Fat Tuesday in our native language — will be the day that Christians eat and drink to excess in preparation for the 40-day lenten season of temperance, fasting and reflection. That reality hits hard the next day, Ash Wednesday, and leads up to Easter. If you ask me, anyone who begins Lent without even a slight hangover is missing out on a great opportunity.
A hangover reminds us that we are human. It reminds us, in many ways, of our limitations. It gives us pause. There may not be a more fitting state of mind for that solemn walk the next day, up the aisle of a church to feel that ash-dipped thumb pressed to your forehead and hear those words, delivered year after year, dispassionately: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Even if you are not of the faith you can still think of Fat Tuesday as a chance to get out and celebrate the most storied annual tradition of one of our country’s coolest cities, New Orleans. And how lucky are we to have a restaurant, Heaven on Seven on Rush, devoted to that tradition? And how much further lucky are we that this particular restaurant carries a nice supply of Abita, the beer of Louisiana? Yes, very lucky.
To go along with the eminently satisfying, heat-tinged Cajun and Creole comfort food of Chef Jimmy Bannos, there is nothing better than delicious, cold beer. On Fat Tuesday, drink Abita. Start with a refreshing bottle of Purple Haze, a wheat lager that is light in alcohol and fruity because it is brewed with raspberries. It also has a slight purple tinge, which will get you even more in the Mardi Gras mood. Pair it with light fare or sip it on its own, just to get your hips loose.
Next, have an Abita Amber (another lager, but this one is more malty, more caramely) with a bowl of gumbo. You should never go to Heaven on Seven without having at least a cup of gumbo (you also could have a bowl) and you certainly should not skip this New Orleans staple on the most New Orleans night of all. An Amber also would pair well with the sweet and tangy tomato sauce of shrimp Creole.
Now you’re hitting your stride. Order some big-flavored food, like a Cajun cheeseburger or a chicken fried steak, and match it with a Turbodog, Abita’s brown ale. Turbodog will give you hints of chocolate and toffee and a little bitterness, a perfect complement to meats and rich cheeses.
Heaven on Seven keeps things fresh, rotating its Abita beers on tap and offering whatever seasonal bottled Abita is still available.
Let those offerings also be part of your Fat Tuesday romp. Remember that you can split a bottle of beer with someone if you want to try a bunch of different ones. It is such an easy concept but so many people forget to do it. We share food — why not drinks? Sample, sample, sample — get fat for one night on many small tastes, not two or three big ones.
Mardi Gras parties are loud and bright. Do not expect candlelight or quiet conversation at Heaven on Seven. To do it right, propose toasts. Reach across the table for that last fried oyster or leftover bit of crab cake that you just have to have. Sip whatever anyone hands you. Wear the beads you found waiting on your table and then wear them home to let the world know you just rocked Mardi Gras in proper fashion. Let the world see your humanness.
All you need is a krewe, just like in NOLA. Lead your krewe to the intersection of Rush and Ohio (the entrance to the restaurant, despite the Michigan Avenue address). Let that moving staircase lift you up to Heaven, awash in purple, green and gold (for justice, faith and power), and pulsing with the brassy street-beat funk of the Crescent City. You can jive in your seat all night but when the band starts its walking you might find yourself fighting the urge to pop up, fall in line and march right behind them, straight to glory.
Michael Austin is a Chicago free-lance writer. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.