No trip to New Orleans is complete without a stop for beignets at Cafe du Monde
Every city has that “one thing” that you must eat, see, and do. New Orleans has the eat covered by a lot of different places, but the most famous and popular is Cafe du Monde. It’s listed near the top of nearly every “Top Things to Do in New Orleans” list. It’s popular because of the beignets of course, but it was also listed as the #1 most Instagrammed place in New Orleans. And celebrities eat there when they’re in town.
The original Cafe du Monde opened in 1862 in the French Market, and there are now 8 other locations. The gift shop is also at the original location, as well as 2 other places. At the gift shop, and also online, you can buy both the coffee and the beignet mix.
I was in New Orleans in December for the Sugar Bowl, and was so jealous of my friends posting pictures of their visits to Cafe du Monde while I was still in Stillwater. I told my parents numerous times that Cafe du Monde would be my first stop for breakfast. There was just no way around it. We had arrived in New Orleans on Wednesday in time for lunch. Since I knew how long the lines would be, and also because beignets are a snack and not a meal, we did lunch at Oceana Grill instead.
Of course I had to go to the original location. It’s open 24/7, except for Christmas Day. I’ve seen pictures of the line wrapped halfway around the block, but I had already told myself there was no way I would wait in a long line for fried dough. So I woke up early Thursday morning, went for a run around the French Quarter, and stopped at Cafe du Monde on my way back. I arrived about 8am, which was later than I had originally planned, and thankfully there was no line. The restaurant has a large covered outdoor patio, as well as inside dining. They make use of every square inch of space, as the patio is full of tables, and inside are tables and bar seating looking out the windows. The servers all wear white paper hats, starched white shirts, bow ties, and black pants. I’m guessing it’s been the same since the beginning. There are black/white pictures on the walls of the Cafe du Monde building and staff over the years. It’s really kind of like a step back in time.
As I walked through the inside looking for a place to sit, I saw my friend Sam. He was by himself, and invited me to sit with him. As I was looking at the menu, I got to the bottom where it says “cash only”. BIG problem, since all I had with me was a credit card. The beignet Gods must have been smiling down on me for me to see Sam, because I would have been out of luck. Thankfully, Sam generously offered to pay for my meal.
The menu is simple…beignets, coffee, water, and sodas. Once you order, the server basically goes through a production line to get your order. Their personal service is very brisk and efficient. Some might say it’s a little brusque, but they are all about turnover. I got an order of beignets and a cafe au lait
When I first looked at this picture, my initial thought was that I should have centered the beignets more. Then, on second thought, this picture pretty much captures everything Cafe du Monde offers…well, except for sodas.
The beignets were amazing. They were hot, fresh, light and flaky, and drowning in powdered sugar. Sam and I joked that they must own stock in a powdered sugar factory. The cafe au lait was just okay, maybe because it wasn’t screaming hot. In hindsight, I should have gotten regular coffee. Lesson learned.
We also joked about that fact that I stopped for deep-fried dough covered in powdered sugar after going running . But when in you’re in New Orleans, that is socially acceptable!
At Cafe du Monde you seat yourself. The good thing is that there is very consistent turnover, as people order, eat, and leave. That’s part of the beauty of having such a small menu. The challenge, though, is the line, when there is one. As we were walking out there was a good-sized line that had formed at the entrance to the patio. The thing is, there were 4 empty tables inside. I’m not sure if people didn’t look or if they wanted to sit outside, but it doesn’t seem like the best system. We told a couple of OSU fans at the front of the line about the empty seats inside. But unless everyone does that as they’re leaving, those tables will sit unused.
Will I go back? Well, of course I will. Obviously I wouldn’t eat there daily, and it’s a huge tourist trap. But it’s definitely a once-a-trip treat.