Saturday, February 12, 2011


Café Du Monde, $2.10/3

One of my fondest memories of a childhood trip to New Orleans involves eating beignets from Café Du Monde--but not at Café Du Monde. My parents and I picked up a couple of orders of the deep-fried square doughnuts on our way to the airport. Our flight home was delayed on the runway, and we were stuck in our seats for several hours while our plane went nowhere. How to pass the time? Break out the grease-stained paper bags! As a rule fried foods don't travel very well, but those beignets were one of the best picnics I've ever enjoyed--although, of course, they never made it off the ground.

Beignet derives from an old Celtic word meaning "to raise", and the pastries are made from a yeasted dough that turns to a golden pillow when dropped in hot oil. Beignets probably arrived in Louisiana by way of France, possibly introduced by Acadians expelled from Canada in the mid-18th century or by Ursuline nuns who arrived in New Orleans in 1727. While French versions were generally filled with fruit, the American beignet is pure dough, served in a thick drift of snowy confectioner's sugar and usually paired with milky, chicory-tinged café au lait.

Café Du Monde opened in the open-air French Market in 1862, rival beignet stand Morning Call in 1870. When Morning Call moved to the suburbs a century later, Café Du Monde became a quintessential experience for French Quarter tourists. Franchises began to appear in the 1980s and they now include more than 50 locations in Japan alone.

The original French Market location is open 24 days a year, every day but Christmas--and, as their website notes, "...on the day an occasional Hurricane passes too close to New Orleans." Café Du Monde closed during Hurricane Katrina and reopened two months later, having undergone renovations rather than repairs.

Café Du Monde
French Market
800 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA

A newer player on the beignet scene, Café Beignet has two French Quarter locations. One is attached to the "Musical Legends Park" and boasts everything you'd expect from a Bourbon Street address--live music, late hours, and strong cocktails--plus fresh beignets ($2.95/3). On more sedate Royal Street there's a tiny full-service cafe; at a lacy cast-iron table on the patio it shares with the neighboring police station, you can enjoy an order of light, airy beignets and share your pound of excess powdered sugar with some very jazzed birds.

334-B Royal St
New Orleans, Louisiana

1 comment:

nikita said...

Café Beignet was good....
I like the live music, late hours, and strong cocktails, fresh beignets...

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