I’m not a Southerner, and I won’t claim to be an expert on Southern food.
So I can’t tell you how the beignets at Café du Monde measure up to what a Southerner expects from a beignet.
But if the beignets at Café du Monde are representative of the Southern ideal (and, judging by their popularity among visitors and locals alike), then I’d say that they like them hefty, thick, and buried beneath an avalanche of powdered sugar.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you like your beignets hefty, thick, and buried beneath an avalanche of powdered sugar.
Truth is, I’m not particularly keen on fried doughstuff. I can take it or leave it. But if I take it, it had better be good.
The beignets at Café du Monde are not particularly good.
They can be good (though, I admit I prefer beignets that are a little lighter).
But the problem is that they’re inconsistent.
In January, I visited Café du Monde (the Decatur Street location at Jackson Square) once for the beignets (a couple of times for the coffee) and was disappointed. The beignets I had were dense – beyond their normal heft – chewy, and not properly cooked in the middle.
On this last trip to New Orleans, I went back to that same Jackson Square location twice. The results were better, but not great. Rectangular, the beignets came in all sizes. Large ones were undercooked in the middle, the small ones were over-cooked, a little chewy.
I got one that had folded over and stuck to itself – it was crispy on the outside, almost batter-like within.
Three to an order ($2.65), usually, there was only one Goldilocks on the plate – not too big, not too chewy, just right.
If you like your coffee on the lighter, more acidic side, you will like the local, chicory-infused coffee at Café du Monde. I happen to like my coffee dark, rich, and bitter (always black, no cream or sugar). I really didn’t care for the coffee here on my first trip.
Add milk, my friends urged.
So, on this latest trip, I added milk (ordered the cafe au lait). Much, much, much better. The fat in the (whole) milk helped round out the flavor and bring out the roasty, toasty quality of the chicory and coffee. I liked it.
Café du Monde: tourist trap or beignet mecca? I’m not sure it’s either, really.
There is a factory feel to the one at Jackson Square. It’s open 24 hours a day, except Christmas and they pack’em in and get’em out. Service is slap-dash and indifferent.
But it has a vintage, albeit, campy, charm to it that I find endearing (with its corps bow-tied and capped servers, you could almost believe you were in a Disney park). And for the good beignets among the lot and that aromatic, cafe au lait, it makes for a comforting, breakfast.
A few things you should know about Café du Monde:
1. There are tables outside (under a canopy) and inside. If you sit, you’ll get table service. Beignets will come to you on a plate and coffee will come in a cup with saucer. There’s also a walk-up window where you can order (beignets, beignet mix, coffee, and canned coffee) to go (the beignets will be sacked, and truly buried in powdered sugar).
2. Café du Monde is cash-only.
3. Grease. Powdered sugar. The floors here can be slick. Be careful.