Traditionally, the Friday before Mardi Gras (or Friday Gras) is a day for families and friends to get together for a (very) long lunch. Locals make reservations at classic French Quarter dining spots months in advance. Restaurant tables become a sort of base camp — patrons can step outside to visit the lunacy of Bourbon and Canal streets as revelers get throttled up for the wildest weekend on the Crescent City calendar, and then duck back in to the relative safety of a decadent lunch and cocktails.
On Friday, Feb. 24, Katy Casbarian of Arnaud’s Restaurant
hopes to pass on the invigoration of Friday Gras to others who need it. Casbarian has teamed up with fellow business owners Allison and Julie Hoffman of Native Polish
and Evie Poitevent of Feet First
to present their inaugural “Give a Pair, Get a Pair” event. Ladies attending Friday Gras lunch at Arnaud’s are asked to bring a pair of gently used women’s shoes, which will be collected for a donation to Eden House, a nonprofit that provides long-term housing and care for survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
In exchange for the donation, patrons will receive a coupon for 20 percent off their next purchase at a Feet First store. And for a little lagniappe, the ladies at Native Polish will give away a set of nail polishes to one lucky lady at each table. The set includes one bottle of “Ladies Who Lunch,” a pale pink from Native’s 2017 Mardi Gras line, and “Hotter Sauce,” a fiery red. You don’t have to win to go Native, though. The entire collection is available for purchase on Native's website, and there are lots of local retailers that carry the line, including all Feet First locations and even a few French Quarter spots such as Salon D NOLA
, Sweet Pea and Tulip
Native Polish debuted their 2017 Mardi Gras polish colors, "Krewe of Native '17," "Ladies Who Lunch" and "Spicy Or Mild?" in January.
While Arnaud’s is fully booked during the event, anyone can participate in “Give a Pair, Get a Pair.” Arnaud’s French 75 Bar will be open to the public, and there’s no rule that says you can’t drink without dining (although that’s not a good long-term Friday Gras strategy — eat something somewhere, please), and staffers will be on hand to take care of donations. Feet First representatives also will distribute coupons.
If avoiding downtown at all costs is your plan for the weekend, Feet First stores citywide will be accepting shoe donations and giving out coupons to say thank you. The discount cards are good Feb. 24 through March 15. All kinds of shoes are needed, from flip flops to high heels.
Feet First stores feature clothing and accessories by local designers, like this sweatshirt from Citizen NOLA.
Allison Hoffman hopes the “Give a Pair, Get a Pair” project will collect enough ladies' footwear to make an impact on the lives of the women and children at Eden House, and will inspire local women to get out and enjoy their city during this festive season.
“It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day,” she says. “This time of year is a great opportunity to get out and go native and shop local, and remind ourselves of what a gem of a city we live in. I hope encouraging one group of women in New Orleans to get out and go native and put themselves first will empower another group of women to do the same.”