A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

It turns out beignets are not for us.

New Orleans is famous many dishes, with savory and sweet, but among the latter beignets reign supreme – at least, among tourists. I can only imagine that it’s the fun of eating a pastry that is guaranteed to cover you and everything around you with powdered sugar that makes them so appealing. And fun they are, even if they otherwise were rather disappointing.

Among the establishments serving beignets in the French Quarter, the two most prominent ones are Cafe du Monde, which has been selling beignets since 1862, and Café Beignet, a mere 30 year old restaurant which makes up for its youth by having actually four different branches in the city. We visited the one on Decatur St. for breakfast our first morning in New Orleans, though we twice stopped at the one on Bourbon Street to rest our feet and listen to some live Jazz. The garden at the latter site is glorious.

The Café Beignet branch on Decatur Street has a fun dining room, somewhat evocative of la Belle  Époque. The wooden bar is beautiful. Outdoors, there are only a couple of tables on the sidewalk by the restaurant. It’s not particularly picturesque, but it allows you to people watch as you eat.

You order at the counter, and food is brought to your table. The menu consists of omelettes, sandwiches, breakfast items and Creole specialties like jambalaya and crawfish etouffee. And, of course, beignets and other pastries. They have a bunch of coffee dishes, but not fresh orange juice.

I’m not a breakfast eater myself, so I ordered the beignets ($4.50 for 3). These were relatively large squares of fried dough covered with powdered sugar. As the powdered sugar is the same everywhere, it was all about the fried dough. And this fried dough was not great. It was dense and chewy and not particularly flavorful on its own (thus the need for powdered sugar). Basically, they were heavy – and the last thing you want in the morning is a heavy piece of fried dough. I ate a beignet and sort of nibbled on the second one. Mike took a bite, and was done.

Apparently, the problem with New Orleans beignets is that they are made from a leavened dough instead of the choux pastry used in France. The latter makes them far lighter and enjoyable.

Mike ordered the Andouille sausage omelette ($12), which came with grits and a slice of French bread. Miked liked it. The sausage was very tasty, spicy and flavorful, and it was well mixed with the omelette. The omelette was on the small side, but it wasn’t very expensive. The grits and herbed toasted bread was a disconcerting choice – Mike would have preferred a biscuit.

Café Beignet
600 Decatur Street
New Orleans, Louisiana
M-Th 8am-6pm
F-Su 8am-8pm

New Orleans Food Tour

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