Welcome to Le Mardi Gras, the oldest, finest and last cocktail lounge in Pittsburgh. Established 1954, the legendary Mardi Gras has served four generations of patrons in the Shadyside community.
First time visiting? Located near the corner of Walnut and Copeland, we are famous for generous pours and a smoke friendly environment. Serving classic cocktails with fresh squeeze juice and an old school jukebox, Mardi Gras takes you right back to the swinging 60’s! We are cash only, so bring some bills, grab a cigar and try our legendary Greyhound cocktail. Always open till 2AM, the night is never over until a stop at Le Mardi Gras!
Mon – Thurs 4PM-2AM
Although infamous for the potency of our cocktails as well as our fresh squeezed citrus juice, the true vigor and zest of the establishment is our sense of welcome and respect. Le Mardi Gras is a cocktail lounge like no other, and here is our story.
The History of Le Mardi Gras
1954 – The Beginning
Founded by Oscar Gendelberg and Benny Parker, the original Mardi Gras opened its doors in 1954 at 742 Bellefonte St, just a block away from where it is now. Only a few years later, the two business partners decided to focus on their other ventures and sell the cocktail lounge. In 1960, ownership changed hands when a young Italian immigrant with a fondness for cigars named Joe Costanzo purchased the establishment. Thus begins the rich and storied history of Le Mardis Gras.
1960 – The “Papa Joe” Era
Joe Costanzo, affectionately known to guests and friends as “Papa Joe”, immediately made a name for the club as a place where people from all walks of life could come to cut loose, enjoy a strong drink and fine conversation – the evening scored by live music and choice tunes. Cigar in mouth, Papa Joe ran the show behind the bar, making the cocktails just as he enjoyed them – strong! When the atmosphere dipped, Joe would announce his rallying call “Musica, Musica!” to strike up the band or rouse the jukebox. Known for his quick wit, kindness and generosity, Joe sculpted a niche in the burgeoning Pittsburgh nightlife scene. Mardi Gras was quickly becoming a confluence of characters, where serendipitous encounters were celebrated by a toast and a cheer in the shadows of the bar. Maybe it was the boozy drinks, perhaps the dim lights or the cozy booths, but anyone could find a comfy spot at Le Mardi Gras.
When the last call of the night came to its crescendo, Joe would bellow out to his crowd, “Everybody outta the pool!” and most (but not all…) of the guests would begin shuffling toward the exit. Papa Joe would sometimes extend a special invitation to friends and regulars to enjoy a few more stories and a few more drinks, often into the wild hours. Soon, Mardi Gras would become a private after hours club to those in the know. For these special guests it was Papa Joe’s particular insights and casual wisdom that kept them staying late and coming back for more.
In 1993, with great somber, Papa Joe’s beautiful musica came to a close. But not without a standing ovation from his audience. – so great was Joe’s impact in the community that the Pittsburgh Post Gazette featured an article titled “Lifting a Glass to the World’s Greatest Bartender”. Although his piece in the performance is complete, Papa Joe is enshrined both in the culture he began at Le Mardi Gras as well as in portraiture; for 30 years Joe has had a spot at the end of the bar, cigar in mouth, framed in filigree gold and bathed in a gentle light which never goes out.
1993 – The “Uncle Richie” Era
After the passing of Joe, Le Mardis Gras would once again change hands to another well known and beloved bartender – Joe’s son Richie. As the newest caretaker of Mardi Gras, “Uncle Richie” as he is lovingly known, gladly took up the task of entertaining guests with late night tales from bartending alongside his father, being a friend and advisor to his patrons and always ready to deliver a stiff drink and a dirty joke.
In the late 90’s, due to structural concerns in the old building, the decision was made to relocate the establishment. While this presented an option to move to a different neighborhood, or change the design of the lounge – Richie was determined to retain the authentic spirit of Le Mardi Gras and remain close to the community he helped build.
Working alongside architect Harry Levine, Richie painstakingly replicated the original lounge in all its glory, bringing over furniture, chandeliers, artwork, recreating almost every exacting detail. Innovative and business savvy, Richie would install enhancements throughout the bar, including a state of the art ventilation system, a wider selection of beverages, arcade games and a new CD Jukebox. In 2002 Le Mardis Gras opened its doors at its current home of 731 Copeland St and a new era for the club began.
To manage the new and improved lounge, Richie recruited East End legend Jimmy Brose, a surly jokester and no nonsense barkeep. Brose’s part in these early days at the new location could have its own chapter, the man is as iconic as our famous Greyhound. With tales of travel across the world on his bicycle, and a devastatingly dark sense of humor, Brose’s unique style has earned its place in the pantheon of Pittsburgh bartenders. With Brose’s help, Richie established teams of talented and like minded bartenders to take on the growing popularity of the club and guide it into a new millennium. Though Richie himself rarely bartends these days, you may find him sitting at the top of the steps, always ready with a pleasant smile and a welcome greeting for a good time at the bar. The tradition of hospitality and comfort at Le Mardi Gras continues.
The Story Continues
Today the spirit of Le Mardi Gras is as potent as ever. Throughout its storied history, Mardi Gras has played host and home to people of all walks of life. A place for differing opinions to give way to celebratory cheers. For the young at heart and the wise beyond their years. Regal regulars, noble newcomers. Ladies, gentlemen and everyone in between and at the margins. An oasis, where everyone is welcome.
Take a walk up the steps to the lounge, and you know you’ve been transported to some place very special, where crystal chandeliers and Baroque print carpeting sit alongside a classic arcade game and a kitschy jukebox. Where the fragrance of fresh squeeze grapefruit perfumes the air alongside swirling tobacco smoke. A place where contrasts coalesce, even for a moment.
Whether you’re looking for a wild night out on the weekend, or a relaxed and intimate afternoon drink; you are always welcomed at Le Mardis Gras. A truly one-of-a-kind fine diving experience, you’ve got to try at least a sip!