Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:This place serves only one food item: the beignet. It's often described as a French style doughnut, but that description is inadequate. For those who know zeppoles or frybread, it's also kind of like that, but that's not quite it, either.
Café du Monde
813 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA
Review by SuSu, MaceVindaloo
The yeast-risen dough is fried hard and crispy, with a bubbly, soft interior. When its taken out of the hot oil, powdered sugar is dumped on it, making some of it stick to the hot oil on the surface of the beignet. No, "sprinkled" and "dusted" are not adequate terms. And these treats come with a mountain of powdered sugar on only one of the confection. We do mean "dumped."
Thus, a cafe au lait, which is 50/50 hot milk and coffee, is a great combination. The rich milk tempers the bitterness, leaving a dept of rich flavor. But it also keeps the coffee NASA-hot for a long, long time. So beware when sipping.
During the day, there are Vietnamese women who seem like waitresses, but in reality this business is modeled on a concession. You sit and give your order to the waiter or waitress, and they go and get your food and beverage on a line. They get to the cash register and put out their own money for your order. They bring it to your table, and collect money from you, which represents a small mark-up for themselves. You are free to leave a tip or not. It's best to pay immediately, or they get antsy.
The mark-up is small. On an average large coffee and beignet order, they make less than a dollar. Thus they prefer the place be crowded and that you order quickly and often.
At night, the waiters are a mix of races and genders, and they give you ceramic coffee cups with saucers so that you are less likely to burn your mouth on the NASA-hot brew.
The original stand was opened in 1862 and is open 24/7, closing only on Christmas day (after all, they are across Jackson Park from the St. Louis basilica), and when hurricanes "pass by too close to the city." It's a New Orleans institution, and does what it does with its very limited menu, very well.
You can sit inside, as this is now more than a coffee stand. But there is a larger outdoor area which in the cooler weather is tented to keep the worst of the weather out. And sitting out there means maybe you don't burn your lips on the coffee too often. Smoking is allowed in the outside patio, by the way, if that sort of thing is important to you.
You can buy the coffee in cans or bricks, and a mix to make up to four dozen beignets per box. They also sell coffee mugs, t-shirts, aprons, hats, bags, and gift bags. They have several store outlets and there are plenty of places selling the coffee and mix all around New Orleans. If you are really addicted, the website is really an outlet to sell more coffee and beignet mix.
It's the best beignet -- by far -- in New Orleans. It's actually better than any zeppole, funnel cake, or other fried dough confection. We've tried beignets at Cafe Beignet, and it seems that their dough is fried twice, maybe, or is frozen before frying. So we do have a comparison (the two shops are across Decatur from each other), and Cafe du Monde is far and away the better product.
Be careful of the flying powdered sugar! You get it on yourself, on the table, in your coffee, and there is plenty on the floor. People like to bring their kids and the place has plenty of tourists. It's near where the Gray Line and mule-drawn carriage tours start. The tradition is apparently to blow powdered sugar on any first-time visitors to Cafe du Monde. Don't wear black.
We loved it so much that we have the coffee and beignets as breakfast or dessert, post-dinner elsewhere. Having bookended our days in New Orleans with beignets, we can say that there is such a thing as too much food, but not too many beignets. We'll be more judicious next time!
Disclaimer: The opinions and observations noted are the property of the author. Neither Wookieehut nor any associates makes any claims or lucre from the posting of this report or review. This webpage is presented by Wookieehut.com. Enjoy!